It's hard to stay No. 1 in men's college basketball for too long once conference play starts.
For the power-conference teams, just about everyone is capable of winning at home, even against elite teams. Purdue was upset at home by Rutgers on Monday, and the losing streak could reach two if they're not careful.
Purdue, ranked No. 1 in the polls this week (but sure to drop when the new one is released next Monday), is at No. 24 Ohio State on Thursday. Ohio State is a 1.5-point favorite at BetMGM. The top-ranked team in the sport, which started the season 13-0, could go 0-2 in a four-day stretch if the point spread holds up.
Purdue got to No. 1 with a fantastic start. The Boilermakers had quality wins over Marquette, West Virginia, Gonzaga and Duke. Center Zach Edey, a force at 7-foot-4, became the frontrunner for national player of the year. Some key freshmen stepped right in to solidify the backcourt. It's a well-coached team that is efficient on offense and good on defense. They'll be a factor all season, even if they're about to drop from that top spot.
It's just hard to win them all in college basketball. Losing to Rutgers was a shock, mostly because it was in West Lafayette. Purdue was an 8.5-point favorite. But Rutgers is a good team and so is Ohio State. The Buckeyes don't have a star like Edey but it's a deep, balanced team that is No. 12 in the KenPom rankings.
Purdue is capable of beating Ohio State, but it won't be easy. Life is difficult on the road in most college basketball conferences. Monday's loss was a surprise, but it wouldn't even be an upset to see Purdue go down again.
Here's a first look at the sports betting slate for Thursday:
More college hoops
It's going to be weird not having football on Thursday for the first time since summer. At least there's some good basketball on.
In the college game, there are seven top-25 teams in action. No. 2 Houston will probably be the next No. 1 if it survives the week, and that starts with what should be an easy win over SMU. Houston is favored by 20.5. The best game that isn't Purdue-Ohio State on Thursday is also in the Big Ten. Iowa is a 1.5-point home favorite over No. 15 Indiana. Again, it's hard to win on the road in that sport.
A good NBA on TNT doubleheader
There are only four NBA games on Thursday but TNT has two good ones.
It kicks off with the Boston Celtics as a 2.5-point favorite at the Dallas Mavericks. Luka Doncic is making his push for NBA MVP lately. He has been on fire and will certainly want to shine against a marquee opponent on Thursday night, though the Celtics are good enough defensively to at least challenge him.
In the second game, the Los Angeles Clippers are at the Denver Nuggets. Denver is a 5.5-point favorite, which seems a bit high even with reigning MVP Nikola Jokic playing superb basketball lately. The Nuggets and Memphis Grizzlies are tied for the best record in the Western Conference.
10 games on the ice
The NHL has a 10-game slate on Thursday. The two best games might both happen on the west coast. The Pittsburgh Penguins are at the Vegas Golden Knights (-120), and the Los Angeles Kings are the next team to try to cool down the 29-4-4 Boston Bruins (-160).
What's the best bet?
Purdue is a very good team, but one of the easiest ways to bet in sports is backing quality home teams in college basketball. Ohio State is only laying 1.5 points, and I'll take the Buckeyes.