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Three-Play Thursday: Best Bets for December 30

Sometimes, you just get one of those days where everything falls into place for you, and Wednesday was one of those days, as we pulled off a perfect 5-0 showing where most of the plays were never really in doubt. The only one that was even close to going the wrong way was Kentucky, and that only because the Wildcats were giving 20.5 to Missouri and toyed with the Tigers before finishing the job.

It also emphasized why it’s so helpful to get to know those small-conference basketball teams, as knowing that Eastern Illinois can’t score and Western Illinois can’t play defense is both helpful and uncommon knowledge that turned both of those total plays into winners. With so many bigger schools postponing games, knowing your small schools is more important than ever. Here are my best plays for December 30.


Sam Howell could have opted out of this game, but he’s going to put on his Carolina blues one more time, and that likely means the Tar Heels are going to let it rip in this one. North Carolina has put up video game numbers at times this year, and the SEC has gotten the snot kicked out of it in bowl season. I can’t see South Carolina slowing down Howell and friends.

I can see Rutgers slowing down Maine, though, as the Black Bears are simply pathetic on offense. I faded Eastern Illinois yesterday, but Maine is even worse, failing to top 50 in five of seven games and putting up an anemic 39 against Bradley. Finally, Purdue should be vulnerable on defense without George Karlaftis, which should mean points. The line is at 66, but as part of a parlay, I can tease it down a couple points for a slightly lower payout.


Whenever the Big Sky plays on Thursdays, there will be a Big Sky parlay, because this is my league. But outside the parlay, I’m betting Montana on its own, because this line is a gift. First, I was there the last time Idaho State beat Montana, and I haven’t covered the Bengals since 2011, as Idaho State has lost 21 in a row to the Grizzlies. Second, the Bengals aren’t even competitive in Missoula, having lost nine of their past 10 trips to Dahlberg Arena by double digits. And I only have to lay 10? Yes, please.

Elsewhere, Weber State has struggled to defend the 3 and Montana State can stroke it pretty well from deep, so the Bobcats hold plenty of appeal at home. Portland State has one win over a Division I team all year, and it was over Idaho State. Eastern Washington shouldn’t have nearly as many problems with the Vikings as it did with Texas Tech, so I like the Eagles to come out of Portland with a victory.


With no Kenny Pickett and no Kenneth Walker, there’s probably not going to be much in the way of fireworks in this one. I’m teasing this up a little just in case, but I don’t expect points to happen from these teams’ reserve players. Nor do I expect Wisconsin to have problems with Arizona State. The line seems a little high for me to risk, so I’m going to play it safer and just back the Badgers on the moneyline. Finally, Utah is 8-0 when it holds a team under 70 and 0-4 when it doesn’t, and scoring has never been what Oregon State does well. Look for a defensive struggle on the Pac-12 Network.

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