The Louisville Cardinals return to the court for the first time in more than a week, as they prepare to host the Cincinnati Bearcats Thursday night. Sportsbooks have set a high number, but we are still willing to back the favorite with our NCAA Basketball picks tonight.

Let’s take a closer look at the NCAA basketball odds in this American Athletic Conference matchup at the KFC Yum! Center, with the opening tip scheduled for 7:00 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Streaking

Cincinnati has won 12 games in a row, including a 80-76 victory over the Temple Owls as 7.5-point road favorites Sunday, while going UNDER the betting total of 138.

The Bearcats are 8-0 in league play for the first time since 2001-02, but had their streak of holding 27 consecutive opponents under 70 points snapped last time out.

Over the last two-plus seasons, the program is 9-13 SU and 12-10 ATS as underdogs, with the UNDER going 12-10 in that situation. 

Long layoff

Louisville hasn’t had a layoff of 7 or more days since at least the 2010-11 campaign, as it looks to win its fifth game in a row—holding opponents to 35 percent shooting over their previous four affairs. 

The Cardinals are third nationally in steals and turnover margin, which are two important categories to handicap in this matchup, as they forced the Bearcats to turn the ball over a season-high 21 times in last year’s 67-51 win in this series. 

College basketball handicappers will find that the team is 7-2 SU and 6-3 ATS as home favorites of 9.5 to 12 points the last two-plus seasons. 

Scholarship players

The Bearcats will play this game with just eight scholarship players if forward Justin Jackson is unable to go, as he’s listed as a game-time decision with an ankle injury that was suffered against the Owls.

Cincinnati needs his presence in the paint—ranking among the national leaders in blocks and leading the team in rebounds and steals per game. 

Getting after it defensively 

The Cardinals still rely heavily on their defense to come away with victories, which is demonstrated in their opponents collectively shooting 49.4 percent from the field in their three losses, while holding foes to 37.2 percent from the floor in their 17 victories. 

Louisville causes its opponents to turn the ball over on 24.9 percent of its offensive possessions, which leads to fast-break opportunities on offense.

Read our Thursday NCAA Basketball Picks for more free plays.

Prediction 

I’m going to recommend that readers back the Cardinals with their NCAA Basketball picks, as they’ve held Bearcats leading scorer Sean Kilpatrick to 32.5 percent shooting in his four career games in the series. 

College Basketball Pick:  Louisville Cardinals -9.5