Another winner last night, as Dayton eeked out a half-point cover in overtime against USC. The Trojans kept their feeble season on life support with a clutch win in Los Angeles. There wasn’t much else going on yesterday in college hoops, but today is a totally different story. It’s an absolutely packed slate of college games as conference play begins in earnest.
Cincinnati took their first loss of the season this week to New Mexico, and gets another huge test today when they open Big East play at Pitt. They could very easily be looking at the second loss in a row after their perfect 9-0 start.
Other conferences begin action today as well. The Missouri Valley got kicked off yesterday, and the Big Ten gets started today with a pair of great matchups; Michigan State and Wisconsin and Iowa putting their solid start to the test by taking on Indiana. But for today’s free picks, let’s ring in the New Year with a pair of non-conference winners.
Gonzaga Bulldogs at Oklahoma State Cowboys -2 (Total: 136)
The Zags are never shy when it comes to their pre-conference scheduling. They take on another ranked opponent away from home tonight with a trip to Gallagher-Iba Arena down in Stillwater. The Bulldogs have won three straight, including a double-digit win on a neutral floor against Kansas State and a convincing home win over Baylor. They are 12-1, with their only blemish a home court loss to Illinois in which they shot the ball poorly and Brandon Paul ran absolutely wild.
Oklahoma State has been living large off their early season blowout win over North Carolina State back in early November, but hasn’t done much to challenge themselves ever since. They took a bad loss at Virginia Tech, and their best wins are over Missouri State and South Florida. Tonight will be their sternest test this season.
Both teams have some holes in the resume you could easily point at in making a pick tonight, but the one that jumps out at me is the fact that Gonzaga, for all its “tough scheduling” mantra, will play just their second road game of the season. Their first was a two-point escape at Washington State. I don’t think Oklahoma State will be as hospitable of a host. Give me the Cowboys laying the slim two points.
Free Pick: Oklahoma State -2
New Mexico Lobos at St. Louis Billikens -5 (Total: 123.5)
New Mexico passed their first road test last week with a gutty two-point win at Cincinnati. Tonight they will take on another tough non-conference foe as they ring in the New Year against an A-10 contender. New Mexico is quietly working up a decent resume; they own wins over Valpo, Indiana State, and of course the win over Cincinnati. Their lone loss is to sleeper South Dakota State. It’s a reasonable resume, but certainly not a jaw-dropper. They really need to steal a road win tonight.
St Louis entered the season with tourney expectations and thoughts of contending in the A-10. They sit at 9-3, and while they don’t have any “bad” losses, they certainly don’t have a win to hang their hat on yet either. They got hammered at Kansas (no big deal, most people do), lost to Santa Clara (probably a 4th or 5th place WCC team, though they looked good at Duke), and a 5-point road loss at struggling Washington. Their best wins are probably Texas A&M, Valpo and North Texas. I say “probably” because it is pretty hard to tell with the light slate they’ve faced.
I think New Mexico, once again, is underrated by the sportsbooks and Vegas. I expect them to play well at St. Louis, and wouldn’t be surprised if they won straight-up.
Free Pick: New Mexico Lobos +5