Yesterday was a fairly mellow day for NCAA Men’s College Basketball. There weren’t a ton of games on the schedule, and none of the power conferences were in action. But on a day where we didn’t see any ranked teams play, it allowed us to focus in on a couple of under the radar teams that I think are pretty good. These are the types of teams that bust your bracket in March, and you need to get them on your radar now.
The Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky picked up their 8th win of the season with a hard-fought victory at Charlotte. Western Kentucky is my pick to win Conference USA this season, and they already have 3 top-100 wins with victories over Memphis, Rhode Island, and Alabama. The only losses so far for the Hilltoppers came at Louisville, and on a neutral floor against West Virginia, with neither loss being a bad one.
— WKU Hilltopper Basketball (@WKUBasketball) January 1, 2021
Wright State is the class of the Horizon League this year, and they are showing it as they won their 7th straight game last night, on the road at Oakland. The Raiders are 5-0 in league play to start out the season and are ranked 100 spots higher on Kenpom than any other team in the conference. Wright State dominated the Horizon last season with a 15-3 league play record, and they might not lose a single game in conference play this season.
The last team that has impressed me yesterday was Lipscomb. The Bison’s held off conference kingpin Liberty yesterday at home and host them again tonight in a back-to-back. Liberty has won 29 and 30 games in the last two seasons, respectively, and were expected to run through the ASUN with little resistance.
The only team that was expected to give them any trouble at all was Lipscomb, and if the Bison’s can win again tonight at home, they are going to be in great shape to take home the regular-season league title. For today’s free daily betting pick, we will shift from the small conference schools to the big boys as we head to the Big 12 for a game between Oklahoma and West Virginia.
- West Virginia Mountaineers (8-2) at Oklahoma Sooners (5-2)
- Lloyd Noble Center, Norman
- 1:00 PM PST
- TV: ESPN2
The West Virginia Mountaineers head to Norman, Oklahoma, Saturday for a showdown with the Oklahoma Sooners. The Big 12 is absolutely loaded this year, and the Mountaineers and Sooners are both expected to be dancing in March. Oklahoma is hoping to rebound after losing their league play home opener in their last game to Texas Tech and get back to above .500 on the year in conference play, after beating TCU earlier this season.
— WVU Men's Basketball (@WVUhoops) January 2, 2021
For West Virginia, the Mountaineers are ranked in the top-10 nationally and have played one of the toughest schedules in the country this year. Despite the brutal schedule, the Mountaineers still have an elite record at 8-2, and their only losses came to Gonzaga and Kansas, teams that are both ranked in the top-3 in the latest AP Poll. West Virginia is seeking their 6th win over the top-100 today on the road.
West Virginia Mountaineers (8-2)
Bob Huggins isn’t afraid to play anybody. He and his Mountaineers are always down for a scrap with the best teams in the nation, and I am not sure that the Mountaineer’s most impressive performance didn’t come in a loss. While the wins over South Dakota State, VCU, Western Kentucky, Richmond, Iowa State, Georgetown, and North Texas are all quality ones, their tight loss to Gonzaga showed me that this team can play with anybody.
The Zags have had a historic start to their season and have blown out every team on their schedule, with the exception of West Virginia. The Mountaineers gave the Zags all that they can handle and held the Bulldogs to their lowest point total of the season. As is nearly always the case for a Bob Huggin’s coached team, Press Virginia prides themselves on defense, and they are the 13th ranked defensive unit in the country despite playing a really tough schedule.
Oklahoma Sooners (5-2)
While West Virginia has been out there taking on all comers, Oklahoma has played a soft schedule so far. The Sooner’s only top-100 win came over TCU, a team that won’t be dancing in March. None of their other 4 victories came against teams ranked inside the top-180. It hasn’t been all soft matchups for the Sooners, though, as they did play against Xavier and Texas Tech, but they lost both of those games.
We are going to find out exactly what this Oklahoma team is made of in the next couple of weeks, though, as they play a particularly nasty stretch of games. They just played Texas Tech, now they play West Virginia, and after that, they play both Baylor and Kansas on the road. The Big 12 is an unforgiving conference, and if the Sooners can’t find a way to win at least one of these games, they are going to slip to the wrong side of the bubble.
Who Do I Like?
The Big 12 is super top-heavy this year. The top of the league is better than any other conference in the country, with Texas Tech, Baylor, Kansas, West Virginia, and Texas all looking like potential Final Four teams. But after that elite group, there are question marks in the Big 12. Oklahoma State, TCU, and Oklahoma represent the middle of the pack in the league, with Iowa State and Kansas State bringing up the rear.
In any other year, I would tell you that Oklahoma is going to be a tournament-level team with their current roster. Lon Kruger is a heck of a basketball coach, and he has a roster that should keep his Sooners competitive. But I just don’t see the Sooners being able to beat many of these top teams in the league.
They didn’t have a strong non-conference, they aren’t going to be able to beat the likes of Kansas and Baylor, even at home, and wins over TCU, OK State, K-State, and Iowa State just aren’t going to be good enough to punch their dance card. They have to be able to win against the best the league has to offer if they want to go dancing.
Every year, we see good teams in power conferences that get left out of the Big Dance, and this year, that team in the Big 12 is Oklahoma. That starts today, as I see them losing at home to West Virginia. Oklahoma swept West Virginia last season, and the Mountaineers are sure to remember it, and they are going to be looking for revenge today. And I think that they get it.
In the Sooner’s last game, they hosted a Texas Tech Red Raiders team that looks an awful lot like this West Virginia team. Tech plays a swarming defense, and they held the Sooners to their lowest shooting percentage and point total of the year and beat them on their home floor. That is what I see happening tonight for West Virginia.
The Mountaineer’s press defense is going to be too much for Oklahoma to handle, and the Sooners just haven’t shown me that they can beat elite teams this season. They aren’t going to lay down on their home floor by any means, but being able to get West Virginia +2.5 points is outrageously high value. I’ll snatch up the points just in case the ball doesn’t bounce our way late, but I fully expect Huggy Bear and his Mountaineers to leave Norman with the win today. Give me the West Virginia Mountaineers today on the road, getting +2.5 points at Oklahoma!