One of the first of a bevy of college hoops “pre-season tourneys” tips off this morning in Puerto Rico with an interesting game between Dayton and Texas A&M and a nice early nationally televised chance for Archie Miller’s Flyers to show that last year’s Elite Eight run was more than a fluky two weeks. The overall field in Puerto Rico isn’t as good as in some recent years, but with New Mexico, West Virginia, and UConn there are some power conference teams worth getting an early glimpse in action.
Speaking of action, no team has been more impressive than Gonzaga so far this young season. Yes, Kentucky’s blistering of Kansas was awe-inspiring, but if you mix in the underwhelming first half against Buffalo, I’ll take the Zags wins over SMU and St. Joe’s by a combined 78 points. St. Joe’s is probably not a tourney team this year, but they are an upper-middle of the pack team in a good and deep Atlantic 10. The Zags beat the 94-42 last night. It’ll be interesting to see how they handle remaining non-con games against Arizona and UCLA. If they can beat the Bruins (I think they should) and play close at Arizona, you could be looking at a #1 seed come March.
There’s a ton of action today, so let’s highlight a few faves. We took a tough loss last night with Creighton coming back to upset Oklahoma, but still sit at a nice 6-2 ATS on the college season. Let’s add a few more winners tonight.
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Today’s Free Picks:
Texas Longhorns -6 vs. Iowa Hawkeyes — @ Madison Square Garden
The Big Ten is wide open this year. We know Wisconsin is good (last night’s 24 point win over Green Bay will wind up looking better at the end of the year when the Phoenix are in contention for an NCAA bid). But aside from the Badgers, it’s a lot of question marks. Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State all look considerably different this year. Minnesota and Illinois are so-so, and Nebraska is a sneaky sleeper contender. But don’t forget about Fran McCaffery and the Hawkeyes.
Iowa lost Roy Devean-Marble to the NBA, but return starters Jared Utoff, Anthony Clemmons and Aaron White. Iowa is a Big Ten team in the Wisconsin mold, physical with big post guys who step out and shoot. They have good balance and depth, though they lack a little of the athleticism of Texas.
Texas is also a balanced ballclub, but expect freshman Myles Turner to emerge as the team’s best player. A lot of people are big on Texas making a huge leap this season, and their preseason top ten ranking is evidence of that confidence. Turner gives them the missing dimension from last year, a dominant post presence to complement the emergent leadership of Isaiah Taylor at the point. Add Jonathan Holmes and Cam Ridley on the interior, and this front court is reminiscent of past Texas post stables with LaMarcus Alderidge and Tristan Thompson.
Iowa has a nice balanced ball club, but they are going to struggle with hyper-athletic frontcourts. That would be Texas’s forte. I like the Longhorns to handle their business tonight in MSG.
SMU Mustangs -3 at Indiana Hoosiers
It’s easy to focus on the negatives in Bloomington; Tom Crean is on the hot seat after another subpar season and a ton of dismissals and discipline issues. However, they do have some talent on the roster, get three of their suspended players back tonight, and are playing in front of the home folks as Assembly Hall.
The key matchup tonight is Yogi Ferrel and Nic Moore. The matchup is made especially juicy by the fact that Nic Moore was an Indiana high school kid who was so lightly recruited he signed with Illinois State. He eventually followed his head coach down to SMU and has emerged as a Wooden Watchlist player in 2014. He will be really amped up tonight to show the Hoosiers they passed on a gem.
SMU entered the season ranked, but with the suspension of Kennedy for the first semester (not to mention the loss of Mudiay to China) I’m not so sure this is really a top 25 team. They are three point favorites tonight in Vegas, but if you look at KenPom tempo-free adjusted ratings, it has IU as a five point favorite with a 71% win probability. I’ll take the Hoosiers at home with the points, and if you can get a money line slight bump it might be worth it.