NCAAM Pick January 21, 2021 – Utah Utes at Washington State Cougars

While there are only 35 games on the schedule today for NCAA Men’s College Basketball, there are several games that could have major NCAA tournament implications. The PAC-12 has a full slate of action on tap as USC and Stanford play with both teams trying to solidify their position as tournament teams. UCLA is looking to stay undefeated in PAC-12 play, as they play at Cal. Arizona and Arizona State square off in Tempe, with bragging rights on the line in one of the fiercest rivalries in the league. The late game out west comes to us from Pullman, as Washington State hosts Utah.

The Big 10 has a couple of games for us today as well, as 4th ranked Iowa plays host to Indiana, and Penn State and Rutgers play in a loser leaves town matchup between two struggling teams. Other games with potential NCAA tournament implications include Wichita State playing at Memphis, St. Mary’s playing at Loyola Marymount, Portland against BYU, and Colorado State trying to upset Utah State on the road.

After seeing a slew of games canceled yesterday due to Corona virus-related concerns, only three games are going to be postponed today. Games that we won’t get to see today are St. Francis and LIU Brooklyn, Southern Illinois and Missouri State, and we won’t get to see if Drake can keep their undefeated season alive, as their game against Northern Iowa will have to wait. For our free daily betting pick, we will head to the PAC-12 for the game between Washington State and Utah.

Today’s Game

  • Utah Utes (5-6) at Washington State Cougars (9-4)
  • Friel Court, Pullman
  • 7:00 PM PST
  • TV: PACN

The Washington State Cougars are looking to get their season back on track tonight, as they host the Utah Utes in PAC-12 action. After winning their first eight games of the year, WAZZU has lost four out of their last games, all coming in league play, and they are badly in need of a win tonight at home. The Cougs are 8-1 this season at home, and a win tonight over Utah would keep Washington States in the middle of the pack in the PAC-12 and keep the door cracked for a late-season run to the NCAA tournament if they can get hot.

For Utah, the Utes have really struggled in conference play, losing five out of their last six games, including three losses at home. Their last game was the low point of the season for Utah, as they allowed 146th ranked Cal to beat them on their home court by 9-points. Utah did manage to upset Stanford a week ago and would love to add another conference win to their resume tonight on the road.

Spread:

  • Utah Utes (-3.5)
  • Washington State Cougars (+3.5)
Money line:

  • Utah Utes (-140)
  • Washington State Cougars (+125)
Total Points:

  • Over 135.5 (-110)
  • Under 135.5 (-110)

Washington State Cougars (9-4)

When you look at Washington State’s 8-0 start to the season, it’s hard to be overly impressed by it. Yeah, wins are wins, but the Cougars non-conference SOS was ranked an embarrassing 315th in the nation, and all eight of those games came at home. None of those wins came over teams ranked in the top-100, and the best win of the non-conference for WSU came over 134th ranked Eastern Washington.

It looked like WAZZU was going to be able to ride that hot start to some wins in the PAC-12 as they nearly knocked off Arizona, losing to the Wildcats in double-overtime, and then won on the road at Cal. But since that great start, the Cougars haven’t played well, losing three straight games. None of the three losses were bad ones as they lost all three games on the road at UCLA, USC, and Stanford, but it showed that the ceiling for WSU wasn’t very high in the league.

Utah Utes (5-6)

A lot of people saw Utah as a fringe contender in the PAC-12 this season. They came into the year ranked 56th on Kenpom, suggesting that this could be an NCAA tournament-level team. They, too, played a joke of a non-conference schedule, ranked 306th, and managed to win four out of those five games, with none of those wins coming against the top-100. But things have gone downhill in a hurry here in PAC-12 play for the Utes, as they started their league play season out by losing their first four games.

The home loss to Cal was especially troubling for the Utes, as Cal has been basically incapable of winning on the road in conference play over the course of the last several seasons. The Utes were -11.5-point favorites in that game and, after taking a 12-point lead into halftime, completely fell apart in the second half.

Timmy Allen continues to be a star for Utah, and he is making a case for All-PAC-12 honors, but teams have found out that you don’t have to slow him down to beat the Utes. Against Cal, Allen had a season-high 26 points and added in 6 rebounds and 5 assists, but it wasn’t enough to lead his team to victory.

Who Do I Like?

Washington State stinks. Let’s just get that out of the way right now. This Cougars team would need a miracle to sneak into the NCAA tournament despite their respectable record. But, there are teams that should be laying wood on the road in conference play, and there are teams that shouldn’t. Utah is solidly in the category of teams that shouldn’t. Even against a limited Washington State team, it makes absolutely no sense that the Utes would be favorites in this game, let alone more than a full possession’s worth of points favorites.

Let’s take a quick look at how Utah has played on the road this season. They played at BYU and lost. They played at UCLA and lost. They played at USC and lost. That’s it. Now, I am not going to try and pretend that Washington State is as good as UCLA or USC, or even as good as a sneaky good BYU team, but winning on the road in league play is the hardest thing to do in college hoops, and I am not confident that Utah is going to be able to do it tonight in Pullman.

The Bet

Washington State is going to win this game. The Cougars only home loss came to Arizona in double overtime, and I am not going to act like losing on the road at USC, UCLA, and Stanford is going to be the same as losing at home to a bad Utah team. The PAC-12 has been a very home dominated league in the last couple of seasons, and I expect that trend to continue tonight. Last year, 70% of the time home teams won outright in PAC-12 play. This year, home teams are winning at a 63% clip, one of the highest in the nation for a major conference.

Even bad teams like Cal, Oregon State, and WSU have managed to win their home games recently. Timmy Allen scares me a little bit, as the kid is playing really well right now, but we have seen that he can go off, and it doesn’t seem to equate to wins for Utah.

While I fully expect the upset and for WSU to win this game outright, being able to snatch up +3.5-points is just far too much value to pass up on. I’ll likely make a big play on the spread and a small play on the money line and expect to scoop both bets. Give me the Washington State Cougars tonight at home, getting +3.5-points, against a flawed Utah team.

The Bet: Washington State Cougars +3.5

My Pick
Washington State Cougars +3.5
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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

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