I guess you have to lose once in a while. We have been steaming hot to start out the season with nearly 65% winners, but yesterday we came up a bit short when we backed the St. John’s Red Storm against the BYU Cougars. St. John’s is flawed, but they have been playing hard and were overachieving. Whereas BYU was coming off of a blowout loss to the hands of the USC Trojans the night before, and I expected them to come out a bit flat in what was going to be a competitive game.
The Cougars took a first-half lead and managed to hang onto it for much of the game. With less than a minute left to play, St. John’s tightened the game up at 70-66, and with our point and a half, all we needed was a close loss, not the full comeback victory. But sadly, for us, the Cougars made their free throws down the stretch, and we couldn’t sneak in the back-door cover.
COUGS WIN!! pic.twitter.com/BGzdRLboWT
— BYU Basketball (@BYUbasketball) December 3, 2020
Looking back on how the game played out, the Johnnies forced 19-turnovers, which I expected, but they just couldn’t score efficiently enough to hang with BYU. The Cougars nailed 10 three-pointers, and that ended up being the difference as St. John’s was an abysmal 4-21 from beyond the arc.
Losses happen, they are part of the game, but I feel like we were on the right side in a game that could have gone either way. For today’s free daily betting pick, we will head to Cedar City, Utah, for a Big Sky league game between Southern Utah and Montana!
- Montana Grizzlies (0-1) at Southern Utah Thunderbirds (1-1)
- America First Arena, Cedar City
- 6:00 PM PST
- TV: N/A
The Southern Utah Thunderbirds host the Montana Grizzlies tonight in a Big Sky Conference game. The way the Big Sky is scheduling games this season is going to be very unique, as they have decided to play all of their league play games as back to backs, to be played on the same floor to limit travel. That means these teams will play both of their scheduled games this season at Southern Utah, with one game today and another game on Saturday.
⚡️ GAMEDAY ⚡️
* @BigSkyMBB has entered the chat *
— SUU Men's Basketball (@SUUBasketball) December 3, 2020
The Thunderbirds are hoping that the homecourt advantage will kick in, and they can pick up a sweep over the Grizzlies, as both teams are expected to compete for the Big Sky regular season title this year. For Montana, they are looking to knock off the Thunderbirds on their home floor, and a sweep over Southern Utah would be a great start as they look to chase down conference favorites Eastern Washington.
Montana Grizzlies (0-1)
The Montana Grizzlies didn’t get the start to their season that they had hoped for, as they got roughed up by the USC Trojans in their lone game this year. Against USC, they were physically outmatched, and it led them to shooting poorly from the field at just 34% and getting crushed on the glass, losing the rebounding battle by a margin of 43-29. But losing to a power conference team like USC doesn’t really have much impact on the Grizzlies’ ability to win in the Big Sky this season.
Montana has one of the better rosters in the Big Sky, and they are expected to finish in the top-2 of the league with Eastern Washington. Montana had made the NCAA tournament in back-to-back seasons before having a down year last year, and they look ready to get back to the Big Dance this season. The Grizzlies brought in San Jose State transfer Michael Steadman to help lead the team, and while he did not play well against USC, he is one of the more talented players in the league this year.
Southern Utah Thunderbirds (1-1)
Todd Simon has taken his time building this program at Southern Utah, but he looks to finally be nearing the end of this long rebuild, as this team has a lot of talent. The Thunderbirds actually had a talented team last year, but they were ravaged by injuries, which led to them having a losing record in league play.
But this year, Simon showed that he can attract real talent to Cedar City, as he brought in transfers from LSU and Illinois. It is rare to see power-5 talent playing in the Big Sky, and the additions immediately make the Thunderbirds a contender in the league.
One of those guys, Illinois transfer Tevian Jones, has hit the ground running for Southern Utah, as he is their leading scorer at 19.5 points per game. Jones is shooting a smoldering hot 60% from deep in two games, and his 54% shooting from the field is elite for a jump-shooting guard. Jones could barely make the floor playing for the Illini, but could end up being the Big Sky player of the year if he keeps up this level of production.
Who Do I Like?
The Thunderbirds caught a huge break with the way the Big Sky scheduled this season. The fact that they get to play both of these games against Montana at home gives them a chance to sweep the Grizzlies. With the Big Sky crowded at the top, with Eastern Washington, Montana, Southern Utah, and Northern Colorado all competing for the title, the Thunderbirds get to play four of those six games at home.
We have seen that homecourt advantage isn’t as strong as it has been in the past this year without fans in the stands, but to be able to get a home team as an underdog in league play, is always a great spot, and I won’t pass up on it today.
This line opened up with Southern Utah laying -1-point. Kenpom has the Thunderbirds winning by one point as well, so that number was a sharp one. But since then, the action has come in heavily on Montana, moving the line towards the Grizzlies, to where it stands now, at Montana -1.5-points.
I love nothing more than to fade the public, and that is what I am going to do today. I sure wish there were fans packed in the stands tonight in Cedar City, as I would absolutely love my play then, but alas, there isn’t, and I will have to rely upon the fact that road games in league play are always tougher than they seem.
This is going to be a hard-fought game, but at the end of the day, I just can’t pass up on Southern Utah as home dogs. Last year, these teams played twice, and in the first game, the game went to SUU by two points, and in the second game, the Grizzlies won in overtime. So, these teams are used to playing tight games. Expect another tight one tonight, where the Thunderbirds eke out a close one at home!