St. Mary’s vs. Pepperdine Pick NCAA Hoops – Jan 1st

We notched a second straight NCAA winner with Xavier easily putting away Georgetown in the second half last night in a late contest that ended, technically, in the next year. The game was a perfect example of exactly what I have been talking about the past few days; the extreme parity from near-top to near-bottom in some of the nation’s best leagues, including the Big Ten and the Big East. Seton Hall easily handled St. John’s at home and Providence handling Creighton at home. Home court could wind up being a big differentiator in those leagues where the teams truly aren’t separated by much.

Perhaps the AAC could be added to that list as well. With Temple going into UConn and wining in overtime, it’s clear the Owls are back in contention after a rare dismal season last year. They now own back to back wins over Kansas and UConn, so it would be unwise to ignore them. Likewise, watch out for the run SMU is about to go on. They finally got Markus Kennedy cleared eligibility-wise, and they are healthy. This team has won seven games in a row and now faces back to back games at Cincinnati and versus Memphis. Win those two games and it is time to get the Mustangs back on the national radar.

It’s a pretty light slate of action today with all the attention going to football, and deservedly so – today’s going to be awesome. But there are a few games out in the underrated WCC, and one in particular I like from a wagering perspective.

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Today’s Free Pick:

St. Mary’s Gaels -3.5 at Pepperdine Waves

St. Mary’s isn’t as good as when they had Matthew Delavadova and Omar Samhan, but this is still a decent ball club with fringe at-large dreams. At least that has become the basic expectation for the Gaels year in and year out. They’ve built that solid of a program.

Meanwhile, Pepperdine hasn’t seen much basketball glory since Doug Christie was roaming the campus and the move to the WCC hasn’t made life any easier. They are off to an 8-4 start but a closer look at the resume doesn’t give you much to be excited about. Their losses aren’t terrible; Iowa, Arizona State, Richmond and a decent IUPUI squad. But their best win is debatable, because none of them really fit the criteria.

St. Mary’s enters at 9-3 with losses to Boise State and a close loss to St. John’s. The Northern Arizona loss will haunt them come Selection Sunday, but they are hoping a road win at Creighton can balance it out. The truth is this team will need to drop no more than three or four conference games and split with Gonzaga and BYU to have a chance to dance.

For tonight however, I’ll take the Gaels. They have beaten Pepperdine ten straight times and have really only been challenged twice. The Waves took them to OT here last year, but aside from that it’s been all Gaels. St. Mary’s has played a better slate, has better talent and should be able to exploit a big advantage in Brad Waldow tonight.

Why fight history? St. Mary’s just beats Pepperdine. I’ll cash a winning ticket expecting them to do the same tonight.

Free Pick: St. Mary’s Gaels -3.5

Chris Scheeren / Author