NCAAM Pick December 9, 2020 – Southern Utah Thunderbirds at Utah Valley Wolverines

We picked up an easy winner last night when we backed the Iowa Hawkeyes laying -3-points against the North Carolina Tar Heels. In my pick I mentioned that while on paper this was a blockbuster matchup, that in reality, I saw the Hawkeyes on a much higher level than the Heels. I noted that while Luka Garza gets all of the headlines, and deservedly so, as he is an absolute monster and an early-season lock for national player of the year, that Iowa had four guys averaging double digits scoring, and that they can absolutely shoot the lights out from deep.

In my opinion, the Tar Heels weren’t going to be able to slow down the Hawkeyes on defense, and if they got into a shootout with Iowa, that they would get blown out. The Tar Heels had to choose between letting Garza destroy them in the paint or letting guys like Jordan Bohannon, CJ Fredrick, and Joe Wieskamp take pot shots from deep and hope that they didn’t go in. Roy Williams decided that he wasn’t going to let Garza beat him and allowed the Iowa sharpshooters to get good looks all night long, and that strategy backfired in a big way.

How did that trio of shooters end up last night? Well, all they did was nail a whopping 17 3-pointers on the night! The Hawkeyes blitzed the Tar Heels, jumping out to a big lead early on, and took a 12-point lead into the half. The Tar Heels are too well-coached to just get blown completely out, and they did make a game of it, actually taking the lead at one point, before the Iowa onslaught again became too much, and Iowa stretched the lead back out to double digits.

When all the smoke cleared, the Hawkeyes coasted to the win and the cover and reminded people that they are one of the best teams in the nation. How good has Luka Garza been this year? Well, he went for 16-points, 14 rebounds, and 4 blocks, and that was an off game for the big man. For today’s free daily betting pick, we will switch gears from big-time college hoops to small conference action when we head to Orem, Utah, home to the Utah Valley Wolverines, as they host their in-state rivals, Southern Utah.

Today’s Game

  • Southern Utah Thunderbirds (3-1) at Utah Valley Wolverines (2-1)
  • Events Center, Orem
  • 5:00 PM PST
  • TV: N/A

The Utah Valley Wolverines host the Southern Utah Thunderbirds tonight in a non-conference battle. The Wolverines are 2-1 to start out the season, but neither of those wins came against division-1 teams, so a win tonight over Southern Utah would be the best win of the year for Utah valley. The Wolverines are just two years removed from a 25-win season, but lost 19-games last year, and are in full rebuild mode this year, in head coach Mark Madsen’s second year running the program.

For Southern Utah, the Thunderbirds picked up two huge wins over Montana already this year to position themselves well in the Big Sky Conference and are hoping to keep up that momentum tonight against Utah Valley. The T-Birds have reeled off three straight wins after a season-opening loss to Loyola Marymount.


  • Southern Utah Thunderbirds (-2)
  • Utah Valley Wolverines (+2)
Money line:

  • Southern Utah Thunderbirds (-140)
  • Utah Valley Wolverines (+120)
Total Points:

  • Over 143.5 (-110)
  • Under 143.5 (-110)

Southern Utah Thunderbirds (3-1)

If you have been reading my daily picks this year, you will know how I feel about this Southern Utah Thunderbirds team. I really like them. Head coach Todd Simon is one of the more underrated coaches in the country, and after struggling last season with a host of injuries to key players, the T-Birds are healthy and ready to challenge EWU and Montana for the Big Sky Conference title, and the auto-bid into the NCAA tournament that goes with it.

The T-Birds use a very balanced attack as they have four players averaging double-digits scoring. They also rebound as a team has five different players average at least three boards a game. Tevian Jones was a transfer from Illinois and is a talent level that they rarely get in the Big Sky. While he has been inconsistent at times, he has also shown the explosiveness they expected when they brought him to the program. Jones leads the team in scoring at 15-points a game and will be the best player on the floor tonight for either team.

Utah Valley Wolverines (2-1)

Utah Valley was emerging as a force in the WAC under head coach Mark Pope. Pope led the team to relevance, winning 23 and 25 games in his final two seasons in Orem. But Pope was snatched away by nearby BYU, and while Pope has continued his success coaching, the Wolverines have struggled without him. Mark Madsen had little success in his first year with Utah Valley, losing 19-games and going 5-10 in league play.

This year looks to be even tougher on Madsen and his Wolverines as all five of his starters from a year ago are gone. Really only Trey Woodbury returns this year as a key contributor from last year, as it is a total rehaul for Utah Valley. The Wolverines picked up a couple of victories over Westminster and Adams State but got roughed up by former head coach Mark Pope and his BYU Cougars, losing by 22-points in what had to feel like a gut punch to Wolverine fans.

Who Do I Like?

I am shocked at this line. Utah Valley is not a good basketball team. In fact, they might just be a really bad basketball team. Even when you take into account that teams from the WAC are never very good, this team still rates out as pretty bad. The Wolverines are currently ranked at 292nd on kenpom. They shouldn’t be expected to beat any quality team.

And believe it or not, I feel that this Southern Utah team is just that, a quality team. No, they aren’t going to get an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament, and even if they win the Big Sky Conference, which I think that they will, they likely aren’t winning a game in the tournament.

But that doesn’t mean that this isn’t a quality small conference basketball team that should be heavily favored over a bad team like Utah Valley. The T-Birds are ranked more than a hundred spots higher on kenpom, coming in at 185th.

The Bet

This one is a layup. Madsen’s team is going to lose 20+ games this year, and this is one of them. The Wolverines barely handled Westminster at home, sneaking past them by single digits. Road games don’t scare me nearly as much as they did back when we had fans in the stands, and I think Southern Utah wins this game, and likely fairly easily.

Not all small schools are alike, and there is going to be a significant talent gap between these two teams tonight, and I see Southern Utah winning this game easily. Give me the Southern Utah Thunderbirds tonight on the road, laying -2-points against an overmatched Utah Valley team. I’ll call it an 81-69 final score!

The Bet: Southern Utah Thunderbirds -2

My Pick
Southern Utah Thunderbirds -2
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