NCAAB Yesterday: 3-1, (75.00%) +1.9 Units
NCAAB Season: 40-34-1, (54.05%) +2.6 Units
A solid 3-1 showing last night which is always nice after taking a few days off as I did on Sunday and Monday. Now slightly back over 54% for the season and will look to get it keeping here tonight. This is what I’ve got…
Illinois State (-3): I’ll take a shot with Illinois State here in what is mostly just a fade of Bradley. The Braves check into this one with a 13-6 record but they’ve done it against a pretty weak schedule and are only 1-5 on the road. That one road win came against lowly SE Missouri State and outside of that you’ve got the 5 losses, 4 of which came in blowout fashion. Bradley has decent enough defensive numbers but the issue with this is on offense. As a team they are 239th in offensive efficiency and most concerning is that they are 318th in turnover rate. One of the few things they do well is shoot it at 38.8% from 3 point land but unfortunately for them defending the 3 point line is something Illinois State does well allowing only 32.3% from deep. Led by the trio of Yarbrough, Fayne and Evans that combine for over 50 points per game it’s pretty clear the Redbirds have more firepower than Bradley should be able to keep up with. Yarbrough is likely the most talented player on the floor tonight and he’s one of the more unique players in the country. This is a guy who literally logs minutes at all 5 positions. He can play down low, can play on the wing, and spends a bunch of time at the point. He gets to the rim a lot, gets to the FT a line a ton, shoots it 77% once he’s there and overall just fills up the stat sheet across the board. I’m not really sure how Wardle is going to have his squad try and handle him but he’s a handful. There have been some bumps in the road so far this season for ISU but wins over South Carolina and Ole Miss show that the talent is there and they are more than capable of handling a team like Bradley. At the end of the day I think I’ve got the more explosive team with Illinois State and I’ll expect them to take care of business at home tonight.
Saint Louis (-6): I’ve picked on Duquesne a few times in recent weeks and I’m going to do so again tonight. The Dukes are 13-5 but as I’ve mentioned in previous write ups they’ve done it against what is still the easiest schedule in the nation. 351st out of 351. We’re now into mid January and they still haven’t played a team ranked inside the Ken Pom top 115 so if ever there’s a record to take with a grain of salt this would be it. To make matters worse for them is the tricky situational spot they come into this game in. Saturday they won a 3 OT battle at home against LaSalle and now have to follow it up with what’s only their 3rd road game all season. The test here will be to not only letdown mentally after an emotional 3 OT win, but also you’ve got to wonder how much gas is left in the tank physically after such a game. On the other end we have a Saint Louis team that I’ll admit is nothing special but at least they’ve challenged themselves. To this point they’ve already played 7 games against teams in the Ken Pom top 70, included in which is a win against Virginia Tech. Offensively SLU is shaky and there’s no point denying that. This will likely be a pretty ugly game as the total being only 129 indicates. The Billikens will have a size advantage pretty much across the board tonight and overall I feel they are the more talented and athletic team. Goodwin, Roby and Bess in particular all have match ups against smaller players that they should be able to exploit. Ultimately however this is a fade of Duquesne more than it is anything else. I already mentioned the easiest schedule in the nation and now only their 3rd road game all year. This is the kind of game that should be ugly enough to make your eyes bleed but when the dust settles I think we’re looking at a double digit Saint Louis win.
Texas (+3.5): This will be a tough test for Texas Tech tonight coming off that big win over West Virginia on Saturday. First things first, this is a very good Red Raiders team and there’s no point in trying to say otherwise. As we saw yet again last night with Kansas State knocking off Oklahoma though there are going to be no easy road wins in the Big 12 this year. Beard and company are known more than anything else for their suffocating defense which is now ranked 3rd in the nation in efficiency. Shaka and his squad at Texas aren’t exactly defensive slouches either though as currently the Horns check in at 7th in the nation in defensive efficiency in their own right. The magnitude of this game shouldn’t bother them a bit as they’ve already beaten Butler and TCU this year while also taking Duke and Gonzaga to OT. This figures to be a slow it down grind it out game where points will be tough to come by for both teams. I think where the Horns should have an edge tonight is down low with Osetkowski and Bamba. Both tend to drift a little and frankly shoot more 3’s than either of them should be bothering with. That said Osetkowski is a tricky match up in that he’s a crafty player with good size and a well rounded offensive game. Bamba’s real value is that he’s one of the best shot blockers in the nation. This kid is a nightmare in the paint as he blocks 4.4 shots per game and alters many others even if he can’t block them. I see this as a hard fought game that probably comes down to the final few minutes and in such a game having the home team and 3.5 points in my back pocket is plenty good enough for me.
San Diego State (-7.5): Going to roll with SDSU tonight at home against Fresno State. The Aztecs aren’t what they’ve been in previous years but outside of Nevada you could still pretty easily argue this is the best team in the Mountain West. Saturday they lost a hard fought battle by 3 at Boise where Hutchison played out of his mind. Guy was making everything including banking in contested 3’s and I feel there was a little bit of luck involved with that Boise win. Over the years SDSU has been very good at home and outside of laying an egg against Cal that’s held true this year. Most impressively was a home win over Gonzaga and generally when at home they take care of business pretty comfortably. With Dutcher at the helm this year the Aztecs have really turned up the tempo. Their defense is still well above average and on the end they still force opponents into long drawn out possessions but offensively the Aztecs are playing at the 42nd fastest tempo in the nation. That’s a number that under Fisher would have been unheard of. For the first time in a few years they actually have a true PG in Watson who has already emerged as the leader of this team. Perhaps the best player however is McDaniels who has really opened some eyes as an impact Freshman. McDaniels is an elite athlete who is all over the floor chasing down rebounds and doing damage in the paint. With Seniors like Pope and Kell still around I truly believe that outside of Nevada this is the best team in the Mountain West. Fresno State is decent enough but realistically they are just a fringe top 100 team that has some real issues on the defensive end. Tonight I think they are in over their heads a bit and probably lose by double digits.
Utah State (+10): A very tricky sandwich spot game for Boise State tonight. This game against Utah State is sandwiched between what are probably the two best teams in the MWC with SDSU and Nevada. They are off a huge win on national TV against the Aztecs on Saturday and now have to deal with the relatively lowly Aggies with Nevada waiting on deck this Saturday. This play isn’t as much about the X’s and O’s as it is the spot itself. To follow up a big win with a big game on deck is about as tricky as spots get for college kids. The Broncos were very fired up for that game against SDSU as Rice was pushing fans to show up and get that game sold out in a big way. Now as mentioned on deck is the battle at Nevada who has clearly established themselves as the class of the MWC this year. It’s easy to get his kids fired up for the Aztecs and will be easy to get them fired up again for the Wolfpack this weekend. Can Rice get his kids to care about a mid week game against Utah State though? I’m not so sure. Talent wise there’s no question Boise is the better team, if they are mentally where they need to be this is a game they could win by 20 points. However I think there’s the real risk they kind of sleepwalk tonight and end up with a game far closer than it otherwise would be. For as solid as Boise State is their offense is still only 99th in the nation in terms of efficiency and it basically took Hutchison selling his soul to the devil for them to escape the Aztecs on Saturday. You’ve gotta expect he’ll come back to earth a bit and overall this just really feels like a spot where you get a flat Boise State team. If they prove me wrong and come out where they need to be mentally then I’ll just take my loss. I’ll need to see it to believe it though.
Have a few more but unfortunately out of time for write ups. Here’s the rest of the card…