NJIT vs. Kentucky NCAA Basketball – November 14th

It’s not that rare to notch a push with one of our picks. It’s a slightly more rare to push with the opening pick of the season. And it is even a little less common to push with the opening pick of the season because the muggy temperature in the gymnasium at the military base in Okinawa, Japan turned the court into a de facto ice skating rink rendering the surface unplayable and causing the game to be cancelled at halftime for the players’ safety…

So, yeah. That’s how our season started. I felt bad for the kids and for Coach Few and Dixon and the respective Gonzaga and Pitt fan bases, but can we all agree it MIGHT be time for the NCAA to do a little advance prep for the overseas military “tribute” games? We’ve seen games on aircraft carriers get cancelled (go figure – who’da ever thought THAT might not work out well…) and now one in a sweatbox ice rink on an island south of mainland Japan. Perhaps there should be a little advance prep to make sure these games will be playable. I doubt sending everyone home at halftime is the “tribute” the NCAA had in mind…

And that result is STILL better than the start of the season for a few marquee programs like Wisconsin and UCLA. No one goes into the Kohl Center and beats the Badgers, right?? Well, last night Western Illinois did, showing that perhaps the faith in Bucky (and Bo Ryan) might have been a little optimistic after losing four starters (two who were lottery picks).  Western Illinois was picked to finish LAST in the Summit League in the preseason coaches’ poll. (Bonus points if you can name the Western Illinois mascot… it’s the Leathernecks. Yup.)

Meanwhile, UCLA lost at home to Monmouth, Georgia lost to Chattanooga and NC State got dropped by 17 points at home by William and Mary. So much for our uneventful quiet opening night… it’s going to be a wild season, so strap in friends!

The best win that won’t get nearly enough publicity was authored by the Baylor Bears. They beat a good Stephen F. Austin team that has won more games than any school in the country the past two seasons, by 42 points in the opener. This game was earmarked as a potential mid-major upset opportunity. Instead, the Bears levied one of the most lopsided victories of any Top 25 team, only they were one of the few that did it against an experienced NCAA Tourney-likely ballclub. Impressive stuff. Baylor looks like a legit player in a loaded Big 12 conference this season.

We are technically 0-0 on the season, so let’s see if we start with a win after yesterday’s false start…

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Today’s Free Pick:

NJIT Highlanders at Kentucky Wildcats

Kentucky doesn’t rebuild, they simply replace Lottery Picks with soon-to-be Lottery Picks and keep on rolling. Such appears to be the case this year with Skal Labissiere and Jamal Murray filling in for Karl Anthony Towns and Trey Lyles. This team will be good – no doubt, but I don’t think it is the “special” team last year was. Labissiere is good, and could very well be a Top Three pick, but I don’t know if this team will have the same presence defensively as last year’s squad with Cauley-Stein.

Meanwhile, Kentucky has a history of some sluggish November performances. Yes, they win, but usually not in the dominating fashion the name on the front of the jersey suggests. Last night they won easily but didn’t even come close to covering the number against Albany. I expect a similar type of game tonight. NJIT isn’t bad. Seriously. This is a pretty good basketball team. And I want credit if they are playing in March as the representative from their newly-joined Atlantic Sun (though North Florida’s win at Georgia was a pretty good sign for the A-Sun. FGCU is solid as well).

Regardless, this shouldn’t be a “game” but it won’t be a massive blowout either. NJIT won at Michigan last year, so don’t expect them to crumble just because they are playing in a big, famous arena. I like them to keep it closer than that Big Blue faithful expect and to cover the big number tonight at Rupp.

Free Pick: NJIT Highlanders +25

Chris Scheeren / Author