Thursday NCAAB Picks

Our team of writers and handicappers hand out their College Basketball picks and predictions for Thursday, January 29.

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Michigan State at Iowa, 7:05PM ET

If Michigan State can hold on to first place in the Big Ten and win its first conference championship in eight years, coach Tom Izzo thinks his team's comeback victory over the weekend could be the defining moment of that title run.

Iowa coach Todd Lickliter hopes his team's performance in its last game isn't representative of the Hawkeyes' season as a whole.

The ninth-ranked Spartans look to build on a come-from-behind win and extend the longest season-opening conference road win streak in school history Thursday night when they meet the Hawkeyes, who are hoping to bounce back from a demoralizing defeat.

Michigan State (16-3, 6-1) had its 28-game home winning streak snapped with a stunning 70-63 loss to Northwestern on Jan. 21 and appeared to be in jeopardy of suffering consecutive defeats when it fell behind by 13 points early at Ohio State on Sunday.

The Spartans, though, scored 52 second-half points and outrebounded the Buckeyes 35-19 to earn a 78-67 victory, one that Izzo thinks could propel his team to a strong finish.

NCAA Free Pick: Michigan State  View Game Matchup | Best Line: -6

Clemson at Virginia Tech, 7:00PM ET

Clemson has improved at the free-throw line after last season's dismal performance. The Tigers, though, made a couple of shots from the charity stripe last year when it mattered most against Virginia Tech.

With these teams playing close games in recent years, the 12th-ranked Tigers look to keep focused at the line when they visit the upset-minded Hokies in an ACC matchup Thursday night.

Clemson (17-2, 3-2) is making 67.7 percent of its fouls shots, including 74.2 percent (23-for-31) in a 73-59 win over Georgia Tech on Sunday night.

The Tigers are on pace to finish with their best free-throw percentage in eight years. Last season, Clemson shot an ACC-worst 62.3 percent.

Last March 9 against the Hokies (14-5, 4-1), however, the Tigers got a clutch performance from Demontez Stitt. Stitt, then a freshman, made two free throws with 3.8 seconds left and Clemson down by one to give the Tigers a 70-69 win.

Clemson has won three straight versus Virginia Tech, with each of the last two being decided by one point. Five of the last six contests have been decided by two points or fewer, and this could be another tight contest with both teams playing strong defense and battling for position in the conference.

The Tigers lost two straight to top 5 teams before bouncing back against Georgia Tech. The Hokies, meanwhile, beat then-No. 1 Wake Forest on the road Jan. 21 before an 88-83 overtime victory over Miami four days later.

A matchup with the Yellow Jackets, the only team still winless in ACC play, gave the Tigers an excellent opportunity to get back on track. They routed Georgia Tech despite shooting 37.5 percent from the floor, getting by with a strong game at the line.

Clemson's 23 free throws were its second-highest of the season after making 25 in a season-opening 98-69 win over Hofstra Nov. 14.

NCAA Free Pick: VA Tech View Game Matchup | Best Line: -2

Washington at Arizona, 8:30PM ET

Washington has missed the last two NCAA tournaments and a slow start this season didn't bode well for a return to glory this March.

Those struggles, however, are a distant memory after the Huskies extended their hot streak with a win over the reigning Pac-10 champs.

After taking over first place in the Pac-10 with their first victory over a ranked team, the No. 23 Huskies look to match their conference win total from last season as they visit Arizona on Thursday night.

Washington (15-4, 6-1) lost three of its first five games, including consecutive defeats against then-No. 22 Kansas and then-No. 17 Florida on Nov. 24 and 25.

Since then, however, the Huskies have won 13 of 14 with their lone defeat in that stretch coming in triple-overtime against a California team that's 5-2 in Pac-10 play.

Washington's most impressive victory during its hot streak came Saturday, when it outscored UCLA 19-9 in the final 5:42 of an 86-75 upset of the then-No. 11 Bruins, winners of the last three regular-season Pac-10 titles.

The win gave the Huskies their third 6-1 conference start in 25 years and put them in sole possession of the Pac-10 lead for the first time since January 2005.

NCAA Free Pick: Arizona View Game Matchup | Best Line: PK

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Posted: 1/29/09 12:34PM ET

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