We enter tonight on a three game NCAA Basketball ATS winning streak, and I wish I could have gotten to a column yesterday, because there were two free-money games. West Virginia brought the undefeated record to Madison Square Garden to meet Virginia. Yes, UVA lost their opener on the road at George Washington, but that is a good Cavaliers teams and West Virginia’s early schedule was SO weak that their #14 ranking was laughable. Meanwhile, another team struggling to meet preseason expectations, Michigan, was simply blasted by a good and undervalued SMU team. It is easy to ignore the Mustangs since sanctions eliminate them from postseason consideration, but the veteran tandem of Nic Moore and Markus Kennedy is one of the best duos in college basketball and put Larry Brown’s squad in good position to edge out UConn and Cincinnati for the AAC crown.
Tonight isn’t a great slate of college hoops, but there are a few decent games, highlighted by Vanderbilt and Dayton, UNLV and Wichita State and an instate-rivalry between Utah State an BYU.
Today’s Free Picks:
Niagara Purple Eagles at St. John’s Red Storm -9
The Red Storm are quite a rebuilding project in Chris Mullin’s first year back on the bench. The season began by getting blasted by a D2 school in a preseason game and they have already taken losses to Fordham by 17 and Vanderbilt by six million (actually 37). The squeaked out a seven point win over St. Francis in their last outing. However, they are 5-3 with a win over Rutgers and a close loss to Indiana. The team isn’t good, but they are starting to improve a bit.
Niagara isn’t particularly good. Their leading scorer transferred to James Madison and they enter tonight just 3-6 on the season. In fact, they aren’t good at all. They are ranked 314th in Ken Pom, making them one of a handful of the worst teams in the nation. They have lost games by double-digits to Vermont, St. Joes, Youngstown State and Monmouth. The Johnies have had some struggles but they are in the same class as those teams on the very low end (with a higher ceiling than all four).
I won’t be betting St. John’s many times this season, but tonight is a line that has overreacted a to the Johnies’ struggles at the sake of overlooking their dreadful opponent.
Bonus Pick: Dayton Flyers at Vanderbilt Commodores -9
This is probably the best game of the night, but the line indicates Vegas has a lot of faith in Vanderbilt and their funky home gym. It’s a fair line, given that Dayton’s last prime-test test was a massacre against Xavier and that Vandy is unbeaten aside from a hard-fought neutral floor loss to Kansas and a two point loss at Baylor. I’m all for impressive losses early in college hoops, but it is a bit troubling that Vandy hasn’t really gotten any big wins yet. They’ve had a few opportunities and come up short. The best win on their schedule is probably Wake Forest. The rest are blowouts over bad teams (including the aforementioned St. Johns).
Meanwhile, Xavier blip aside, Dayton has looked pretty good this season. They owns wins over Alabama, Iowa, Monmouth and a decent North Florida squad. They’ve got some talent and they are an NCAA-Tournament experienced team under Archie Miller.
I’m not sure they will get the win, in fact, I’d expect Vandy to win at home. But laying close to double-digits is a pretty big cushion. I’ll bet on a decent game tonight. The lingering memory of the Xavier romp is still fresh, but I have a sneaky suspicion that loss won’t be that embarrassing by the end of Xavier’s 2016 campaign. Give me the Flyers to hang around and make this a good ballgame.