NCAAM Pick December 14, 2020 – Nevada Wolfpack at San Diego Toreros

Sometimes you just absolutely nail a pick. That was the case yesterday when we backed the Penn State Nittany Lions against the Michigan Wolverines. I felt that these two teams were very evenly matched, and without fans packing the Crisler Center to cheer on Big Blue, I didn’t think homecourt advantage was going to be a major factor.

We were able to back the Nittany Lions getting +8-points, and with an inflated number like that, all we needed was for Penn State not to get blown out to cash our ticket. So, I backed the Nittany Lions and expected the game to be a one or two-possession game throughout, where Penn State covered without much sweat.

And that is exactly what happened. The Wolverines took an early lead in the first half, but Penn State tightened things up in the second half, and this game was all tied up at 58-points apiece with just over a minute left to play in the game. The Wolverines managed to hold onto the victory late, with two free throws from Isiah Livers with 5-seconds left on the clock, icing it for Michigan.

In my pick yesterday, I mentioned how dominant home teams were in Big 10 play last season. Backing home teams in Big 10 league play was basically free money, but I am not so sure that is going to be the case this year without fans in the stands. These early-season league play matchups are going to go a long way into dictating home much emphasis I put on homecourt advantage this season. For today’s free daily betting pick, we will head to sunny San Diego, where the Toreros host the Nevada Wolfpack.

Today’s Game

  • Nevada Wolfpack (4-2) at San Diego Toreros (0-1)
  • Jenny Craig Pavilion, San Diego
  • 6:00 PM PST
  • TV: N/A

After COVID-19 disrupted the start of their season, the San Diego Toreros will get to play just their second game of the year tonight as they play their home opener against the Wolfpack of Nevada. San Diego paused basketball activities for two weeks with a Corona Virus outbreak in November and then saw their game earlier this week against Cal-State Fullerton get canceled due to more COVID-19 related concerns. The Toreros did manage to get one game in so far this season, and they got blown out by UCLA.

For Nevada, the Wolfpack are in full rebuild mode this season, but they have played well to start out their schedule, with a solid 4-2 record. The Wolf Pack has yet to pick up a top-100 win this season, with their best win of the year coming against 115th ranked Nebraska. Nevada will look to rebound after losing their last game to Grand Canyon.

Spread:

  • Nevada Wolfpack (-3.5)
  • San Diego Toreros (+3.5)
Money line:

  • Nevada Wolfpack (-175)
  • San Diego Toreros (+143)
Total Points:

  • Over 140.5 (-110)
  • Under 140.5 (-110)

Nevada Wolfpack (4-2)

Steve Alford is a really good basketball coach. Alford has taken four different teams to the NCAA tournament in his over twenty years of coaching and has managed to win at least one game in the madness with each one of those four programs. Alford has shown the ability to turn around programs no matter where he is coaching. That being said, he has a tough job ahead of him at Nevada.

Eric Musselman built this Wolf Pack program into an MWC juggernaut, but when he left, so did a lot of the talent on the Nevada roster. Alford did a respectable job of keeping Nevada relevant last year, with a 19-11 record, 12-6 in league play, but they weren’t going to make the NCAA tournament after hearing their names called on Selection Sunday in each of the past three seasons under Musselman. This year, more talent left Reno, as Jalen Harris, the Wolf Pack’s leader last season, left to play pro ball.

The departure of Harris leaves this Nevada team looking like they are going to finish in the bottom half of the Mountain West standings this season. With San Diego State looking impressive in early season action and the rest of the league looking down, the MWC is likely a one-bid league in 2020-21. That means that Nevada must take care of business in these seemingly winnable non-conference games if they want any shot at playing themselves onto the bubble this year.

San Diego Toreros (0-1)

After a successful first season in San Diego, where he led the Toreros to 21-wins and a trip to the NIT, Sam Scholl bottomed out last year. In 2019-20, the Toreros were awful, losing 23-games, including a putrid 2-14 record in the WCC. The WCC was better last year than probably ever, as they were going to get three teams into the NCAA tournament, so the league play record was expected to be bad, but it is hard to find anything good about a team that lost 15 out of their last 17 games, with both wins coming against a last-place Portland team that finished the season ranked 286th on Kenpom.

This year, the Toreros bring back several key pieces from last year’s team, so they are going to be a bit more experienced, but I am not sure they are going to be much better at winning basketball games. They are going to be better, but they didn’t have a single top-100 win last year, and 7 of their 9 wins came against teams ranked outside of the top-200.

So, will they be better as in they are going to lose by fewer points? Or are they actually going to be able to compete and win some of these games? Their one game this year against UCLA, where they got destroyed by nearly 30-points, tells me that wins are going to be hard to come by in San Diego this season.

Who Do I Like?

This line opened up with Nevada laying -6-points, and that was undeniably an inflated number. I guess the books were relying on the Nevada name recognition bias to drive action towards Reno? Well, it didn’t work, as the sharps hammered San Diego, and have moved this line sharply towards the Toreros. But after a two-and-a-half-point line move, I wonder if this number has moved too far? I mean, this is San Diego we are talking about here.

I am going to jump on the other side of the line move and back Nevada. I completely acknowledge the fact that this line is probably still a point or two too high and that the public probably doesn’t realize that Nevada isn’t very good this year. But San Diego is going to be bad this year. Really bad. Like lose 25+ games bad. They don’t have much talent on the roster, and with so many Corona Virus related delays, this team hasn’t even been able to practice. They are going to look rusty tonight in their home opener.

The Bet

Even if San Diego had a full offseason and didn’t get their practice schedule torn apart by COVID-19 delays, they would likely lose this game at home to a very mediocre Nevada team. But if you take into account that this team has played just once this year, I just don’t see any way that they look sharp tonight. Nevada doesn’t have the horses they are used to having in Reno, but they won’t need elite players tonight to knock off San Diego.

Steve Alford is a good enough coach to win this one on the road, with C level talent, against a San Diego team that has basically no division one level talent. Expect the Toreros to come out fired up, but likely too fired up, after all of the delays. That emotion is going to get the best of them, and I see this game getting away from them. Reno wins this one, and it might not even be all that competitive. Give me the Nevada Wolfpack laying -3.5-points tonight on the road, I’ll call it a 74-64 final score.

The Bet: Nevada Wolfpack -3.5

My Pick
Nevada Wolfpack -3.5
Jason Gray / Author

Jason is a true Las Vegas insider as he has called the sports betting capital of the world his home for sixteen years. Jason started out his career in gaming by running the biggest poker tournaments in the world and managing some of the biggest sportsbooks on the strip. Jason has transitioned out of casino operations and has been covering sports betting for the sports geek for just over two years. His main focus is on baseball, college basketball, and the NFL