Our winning streak for college hoops is now at seven games after St. Louis went on the road and took care of the Butler Bulldogs last night on ESPN. St. Louis has been unranked all year, but surely that will finally change now that they are 21-5 and in first place in the Atlantic 10; ahead of Butler and VCU who are both ranked and whom the Billikens are a combined 3-0 against. Coach Jim Crews deserves serious Coach of the Year consideration after stepping in after the unfortunate death of Rick Majerus. The award is Jim Laranaga’s (Miami) to lose, but if I had a ballot, easy call – Jim Crews of St. Louis.
Today, like most Saturdays, is full of college hoops action, so let’s dig right in with three more free picks.
Oklahoma State Cowboys -3 at West Virginia Mountaineers
The Cowboys are fresh off an emotional double overtime loss to Kansas that put a severe dent in their Big 12 Championship dreams. However, this is still the 14th ranked team in the country with a 19-6 record and 9-4 mark in conference. West Virginia is steadily improving but this is a team with a losing record and little to no chance of playing beyond the conference tournament loss (likely in the first round).
West Virginia is 5-5 over their last ten games, but the wins are all over pedestrian teams and the losses are to every good team they’ve faced. Their best win during that stretch was over Texas, the rest over Texas Tech and TCU’s.
I like the Cowboys to shed the hangover of the tough loss to Kansas and to avoid “letting Kansas beat them twice.” Meaning – they are a better team than West Virginia. As long as they play well, they should win on the road today.
Free Pick: Oklahoma State -3
New Mexico Lobos at Colorado State Rams -6
What a job Larry Eustachy has done in his first year in Colorado Springs. His Rams have an opportunity to get right back in the thick of a very good and deep Mountain West Conference today with a win over Steve Alford’s Lobos. They enter today a game behind New Mexico at 8-3, but have won eight of their last ten. Their only two losses are @ UNLV 61-59 earlier this week, and an earlier loss at New Mexico 66-61. At home, they a perfect 14-0 this season.
However, New Mexico is a pretty legit opponent and hasn’t missed too many key opportunities this season. They’ve captured big out-of-conference wins beating Cincinnati, UConn, Indiana State and USC all on the road or on a neutral floor. They have the one conference stink-bomb, the 55-34 loss at San Diego State, but other than that, this team has some to play every time they take the floor.
Colorado State is a great story and an absolute tourney lock, but I like New Mexico today to cover the six point spread. That’s a lot to lay playing the best team in the conference. I know I’ve given you a few road underdog straight-up winners (St. Louis, Cal) this week, but I’m not quite ready to go that far on this game, but I do like the Lobos and six.
Free Pick: New Mexico Lobos +6
Missouri Tigers at Kentucky Wildcats -2
I know it is a broken record at this point, but it is also a PROFITABLE record; until Kentucky shows me they are a competent team without Nerlens Noels, I refuse to lay points on them. Missouri is a good team. Kentucky was an average team, and since they’ve lost Noel they’ve been beaten by 30 by Tennessee and struggled to a four-point home win against Vandy. I can’t see anyway laying two against the Missouri Tigers seems like a good idea.
Maybe UK finally puts it together. Maybe they make a valiant last stand in what will be their final regular season opportunity to get a win against Top 50 opponent and make a case for being IN the tournament. Yes I realize they get a trip to Gainesville at the end of the year… but that only promises humiliation, not “opportunity.” Really, tonight is IT. Last chance Wildcats. So maybe…. Maybe they pull it all together???
Come on, we’ve (the collective college basketball fandom) have been doing this ALL SEASON; waiting, expecting, assuming that at some point this collection of talent figures it out.
It probably ain’t gonna be tonight. I know Mizzou has been awful on the road, but Kentucky, frankly, has been awful everywhere at times.
Free Pick: Missouri Tigers +2