The beauty of college basketball is that you can find games on the schedule basically every day, where the books and the public just don’t know much about the matchup. That never happens in pro sports like the NBA, NFL, and MLB as there is a wealth of information out there about those leagues. But in college hoops, you can find matchups, where if you know anything at all about the game, you likely know as much as the books.
That was the case last night in the Big Sky Conference game between the Southern Utah Thunderbirds and the Montana Grizzlies. By most accounts, the Grizzlies are the better overall team, at least on paper, but I have had my eye on Southern Utah in the last couple of years, and this is the best team that they have had in Cedar City in quite some time. They brought in some big-time transfers from power conference schools like Illinois and LSU, and I see the Thunderbirds as a legit threat in the Big Sky this season.
T-Birds Defeat Montana At Home For First Time Since 1999
— SUU Men's Basketball (@SUUBasketball) December 4, 2020
I have been fading the public nearly all season long, and yesterday the public action flipped this number from having the Thunderbirds as favorites to have Montana laying a point and a half. Kenpom had Southern Utah winning the game by a point, and that two-and-a-half-point gap between the data and the public driven line was where I found my value. I fired on the Thunderbirds and expected a hard-fought and competitive game, where Southern Utah found a way to gut out the win.
And that is exactly what happened. The game was a tight one throughout and came down to the final few possessions. Southern Utah leaned on their senior leader, John Knight III, who led the team in points (21), rebounds (9), assists (3), and steals (3). The Thunderbirds gutted out a 64-63 victory, and we cashed our ticket. For today’s free daily betting pick, we will take a look at another team that not many people know much about as the North Texas Mean Green head to Starkville to play the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
- North Texas Mean Green (1-1) at Mississippi State Bulldogs (1-2)
- Humphrey Coliseum, Starkville
- 5:00 PM PST
- TV: ESPN+
After dropping each of their first two games of the season, the Mississippi State Bulldogs picked up their first win of the year in their last game against Texas State. The Bulldogs are hoping to make that two wins in a row tonight as they host the Mean Green of North Texas in a non-conference game. The Bulldogs are rebuilding this year and are expected to finish near the bottom of the SEC standings.
GAMEDAY at The Hump!
— Mississippi State MBK (@HailStateMBK) December 4, 2020
For North Texas, the Mean Green hammered Mississippi Valley State by neatly 6-points in their season opener but followed it up with a disappointing performance against Arkansas, losing to the Razorbacks by 15-points. The Mean Green are expected to finish in the top half of Conference USA this season but are currently ranked outside of the top-100 nationally right now and would love to add a power conference victory to their March Madness resume tonight against Mississippi State.
North Texas Mean Green (1-1)
Last year, the Mean Green of North Texas surprised a lot of people when they ran up an impressive 14-4 record in Conference USA, taking home the regular-season league title. This year they aren’t surprising anybody, as they return a lot of the core of that team and have a starting five that is all upperclassmen. Conference USA isn’t the MEAC or the Southland, but they aren’t the SEC or the ACC either, and in a smaller league, having juniors and seniors on the floor is a major advantage.
Javion Hamlet returns as the reigning Conference USA player of the year, but he hasn’t played well so far this season in two games. Hamlet averaged nearly 15 points, 3 boards, and 5 assists a game last season, and this year he is averaging just 9 points and 2.5 rebounds a game. In their loss to Arkansas, Hamlet was a complete no-show, scoring just 5-points in 30-minutes of play. If North Texas wants to repeat as league champs this year, they need their best player to get going.
Mississippi State Bulldogs (1-2)
The Mississippi State Bulldogs were right on the bubble last year at the end of the season. I think that they were probably going to be on the outside looking in, but they were right there with 20 wins and an 11-7 record in SEC play. But Ben Howland lost a lot from last year’s team, and this is going to be a rebuilding year in Starkville.
The upside for Mississippi State is with Louisiana transfer Jalen Johnson and top recruit Deivon Smith. Neither guy has played very well this season yet, though. Johnson is averaging just 6-points a game despite taking four three-pointers per contest. Smith has looked better than his stats might show and has been solid on D and is playing nearly 30-minutes per game. Getting both of those guys playing at a high level could be enough for the Bulldogs to play themselves onto the bubble by season’s end.
Who Do I Like?
This line opened with the Bulldogs laying -3-points. If you look at kenpom, their data will tell you that Mississippi State was being slightly undervalued, as they have the Bulldogs winning by 4-points. But the public didn’t feel that way, as they have taken North Texas, moving the line towards the Mean Green to where it stands now at Mississippi State -2-points.
I mean, I guess I kind of get it. You have a returning league champion from a decent conference playing against a team that could finish dead last in the SEC. That one level deep thinking is standard public betting theory, and I understand why they like North Texas. The public likes North Texas because the books want them to.
I will jump on the other side of this game and remind myself that in most years, the worst team in the SEC is usually still better than the best team in Conference USA. The Bulldogs are down, but they will still have the more talented team on the floor tonight.
Home court advantage isn’t what it has been in year’s past with no fans in the stands, but I just don’t see North Texas going into Starkville and knocking off Mississippi State on their home floor, no matter who is in the stands.
This is going to be a lower-scoring and ugly game, but when the smoke clears, Mississippi State will win this game. We are going to have to sweat that number most of the evening, as I don’t see this game as a blowout, but I am confident we are on the right side. Give me the Mississippi State Bulldogs tonight, at home, laying -2-points against North Texas.