I fell to 1-1 on the year with my college basketball picks last night. I tried to get some value with Hofstra in a tournament game against Clemson, but they couldn’t live up to a pretty flexible +9 spread. The Pride did a solid job initially, as they were in a 30-28 game late in the first half, but allowed the Tigers to run away with a 12-4 run before the break.
Hofstra still had a shot, only down 10 at the break, but their previously strong perimeter defense didn’t hold up and they ultimately failed to beat the spread.
BYU is my pick to cover tonight, as they’ll put a nice 2-0 record on the line at home against the University of Texas-Arlington. Some will recall the Mavericks, who crushed the Cougars 105-89 in the NIT last year. BYU sure does, and they’ll be looking to accomplish three things in this rematch; exact revenge, defend their home court and stay undefeated.
A fourth (covering a palatable -8 spread) would sit just fine with me, as well, and it looks like My Bookie provides us with the best point spread to attack. The Total is interesting, but it feels like a trap. The last meeting was a track meet, but as I’ll break down, I’m not sure you can bank on that again.
Texas-Arlington Mavericks (+8) @ BYU Cougars (-8) Total: 159
I think there are two important things to consider ahead of this potentially explosive matchup; the Mavericks went completely nuts in the last meeting and last year was last year. Truly, two guys who averaged under 9 points per game poured in 28 and 20 points, respectively, as the Mavs shot a blistering 63% from the field.
I’m not saying they can’t again, but an emphasis on improved defense by BYU (and their home court edge) could swing things back their way. The Cougars are known for offense, themselves. BYU topped 80+ points a whopping 22 times a year ago and unsurprisingly finished 26th in the nation in points per game.
The nice thing about BYU this year is they’ve already shown shades of their old offensive ways. They dropped 91 points in their first game of the season and through two games, rank 30th in shooting percentage (35th from long range). It’s only two games, but even without star guard Nick Emery leading the charge, this team looks entirely capable of running and gunning again.
Of course, that may not be their only path to wins. BYU’s defense looks vastly improved on paper, as a tough road win at Princeton (65-56) could suggest. The Cougars held the Tigers to 37% shooting from the floor in that contest and could look to tighten things up in a rematch with the Mavericks.
Perhaps the best part about this second meeting is the fact that the Cougars weren’t quite 100% the first time around. T.J. Haws and Yoeli Childs weren’t healthy in that contest, while Elijah Bryant didn’t even play. Childs and Haws will both be on hand to dish out some revenge, while Bryant has quickly proven to be BYU’s best player (24.5 points per game).
Things have changed a bit for BYU, but overall that might be for the better. Texas-Arlington won’t be an easy task (25th in the nation in 3-point % after one game), but the Cougars just got done with a tough assignment and will be better prepared for this matchup after suffering through it a year ago.
The Cougars could have the tools to work their way into the Top 25, but that process will be greatly slowed if they can’t score a win here at home tonight. That’s the other reason to back the Cougars; they tend to succeed on their home floor. Of their 11 losses a year ago, just four came at the Marriott Center – one of which came against top-ranked Gonzaga.
There is no denying the Mavs are dangerous in this spot, but BYU is at home, equipped to run and gun and looks better defensively.
Texas-Arlington is not a team that scares you with defense, either, so if BYU can pop off a bit and put the clamps down, I think they look like one of the better college basketball picks on the board on Saturday. I’m backing them on their home floor and I think they run away with this one.