Friday’s schedule was mostly dominated by the small conferences yesterday, as most of the power conferences will be in action later today. And despite the lack of star power, we did get to see some teams play that are going to challenge for NCAA tournament births in March. One of those teams was the Mountaineers of Appalachian State.
The Mountaineers picked up a huge win over Georgia State in Sunbelt Conference action. The win was their 5th conference victory this year, the most of any team in the league. Most people expected Georgia State to be the class of the Sunbelt this season, but after last night’s loss, they dropped to 2-2 in league play, trailing first-place Texas State and second place Appalachian State. With many conferences considering canceling their conference tournaments this season, winning the regular-season league titles are going to be that much more important, particularly in one bid leagues like the Sunbelt.
— Jackrabbit Basketball (@GoJacksMBB) January 23, 2021
In the Summit League, the Coyotes of South Dakota State remained undefeated in conference play with a win over Western Illinois on the road. The Coyotes weren’t expected to win the Summit League this year, but after a 5-0 start, they are looking like real contenders.
The Coyotes archrivals, the Jackrabbits of South Dakota, also picked up a win last night to keep their unbeaten streak to start league play alive. South Dakota beat North Dakota to run their Summit League record to 3-0. The Jackrabbits missed some action due to Corona Virus concerns but are the consensus top pick in the Summit League this season.
The Jackrabbits host the Coyotes in early February for back-to-back games, with the Summit League title likely hanging in the balance. For today’s free betting pick, we will change gears from the small schools to the big boys as we head to Stillwater, Oklahoma, for a Big 12 matchup between Baylor and Oklahoma State.
- Baylor Bears (13-0) at Oklahoma State Cowboys (9-3)
- Gallagher-Iba Arena, Stillwater
- 11:00 AM PST
- TV: CBS
The 2nd ranked Baylor Bears will look to win their 14th consecutive game this season, as they put their undefeated record on the line today against Oklahoma State in Big 12 action. The Bears are 6-0 in Big 12 play, and they are coming off of back-to-back wins over Texas Tech and Kansas. A win over upstart Oklahoma State would keep the Bears in first place in the Big 12, with the Texas Longhorns breathing down their necks just a game back.
The 'Boys against the Bears. Let's do this.
— OSU Cowboy Basketball (@OSUMBB) January 23, 2021
For Oklahoma State, the Cowboys have surprised a lot of people this season as they are playing quality basketball and are quickly emerging as a legit threat in the Big 12. The Cowboys are coming off of their biggest win of the season, over the Kansas Jayhawks, and are seeking their 5th win over the national top-100 tonight and their 3rd win over teams in the top-25. The Cowboys are appealing their postseason ban, and if the NCAA doesn’t get around to hearing their appeal, they will get to play in the NCAA tournament. That means we need to keep a close eye on the Cowboys as they could be a bracket buster in March.
Oklahoma State Cowboys (9-3)
There aren’t many teams that can say that they beat Texas Tech and Kansas this year. It just so happens that Baylor and Oklahoma State both hold that distinction, and that tells me that both of these teams are very good and can beat any team in the nation. We all knew that OK-State super freshman Cade Cunningham was going to be one of the best players in the Big 12, but I am not so sure that anybody saw the rest of this Cowboys team playing so well around him.
Cunningham matches up in the backcourt with fellow guard Isaac Likekele to give the Cowboys an elite guard tandem. Cunningham gets all of the national media attention, which is certainly understanding considering he is nearly a lock to be the first player taken in next year’s NBAS draft, but I’m not sure if it isn’t the play of Likekele that has driven a lot of the success for Oklahoma State.
Likekele is averaging 12 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists a game. He shoots a blistering hot 58% from the field, and with Cunningham drawing away a lot of the defensive pressure, it leaves Likekele open for a lot of good looks, and he can knock them down. Likekele has a big body at 6’5″ and 215 pounds, and when combined with Cunningham’s 6’8″ 220-pound frame, the Cowboys have more size in the backcourt than any team in the nation.
Baylor Bears (13-0)
At this point, the question for Baylor is, are they the best team in the nation, or just second best behind Gonzaga? The Zags and the Bears had their scheduled game canceled earlier this season, which is an absolute shame, as both teams have established themselves as head and shoulders above the rest of the nation at this point. Even with as good as the Big 12 has been this year, the Bears stand out as the best team, and by a fairly wide margin.
Jared Butler is making his case for national player of the year, as he leads the Bears in scoring at nearly 17 points per game and fills up the stats sheet with 3 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals a game. Against Kansas, Butler was unstoppable, as he dropped 30 points on the Jayhawks on 7 of 9 shooting from the land of three. Butler is one of the best on-ball defenders in the nation, and it will be interesting to see if they match him up on Cade Cunningham or Isaac Likekele on defense, as his ability to slow those guys down is going to be a key to this game.
Who Do I Like?
You gotta love Big 12 basketball! While the Big 10 is the better league top to bottom, the Big 12 has more teams that I see as potential threats to make a run to the Final Four than any other conference. We all know Baylor is one of those teams, but if the Oklahoma State Cowboys somehow bypass their postseason ban and sneak into the tournament, they can absolutely make a deep run. My opinion on the Cowboys is a little higher than most people’s, but even despite the fact that I think the public is sleeping on OK-State, I am still shocked at this number.
This line opened up with Oklahoma State getting +8 points at home. That is a lot of points for a home underdog in league play, no matter which teams are playing, but I understood the number, as Baylor has mostly been blowing teams out this year. I was surprised, though, that so many people were happy to not only lay the 8 points on the road, but that they are still firing on the Bears now that the line has moved to -9.5.
All Oklahoma State has to do in this game to cover this spread is not get blown out. The biggest margin of defeat for OK-State this year has by a measly 3 points. The Cowboys either beat you, or they keep the game very close in defeat. I am not ready to go out on a limb today and say that Oklahoma State is going to pull off the outright upset, but I do think that they keep this one a single-digit game, which is enough to cash our ticket.
As amazing as Baylor looked in the first half against Kansas, they were exposed a little bit in the second half and nearly blew a huge lead and lost the game. If they play like they did in the second half of their last game tonight in Stillwater, the Cowboys are going to have them on upset alert. I expect a physical, hard-fought game, where Baylor gets challenged and barely sneaks out of Stillwater still undefeated. I’ll call it a final score of 78-74 Baylor, with the Cowboys covering the number and cashing our ticket.