The start of college basketball is here! The longest offseason in sports is over, and today is the day it all gets started again. I’m excited, you’re excited, so let’s just get to it.
This season, every day that there is a Big 12 game, there will be a daily preview post, focused on predicting the games both straight-up and against the spread. This is the most fun way to preview games to me for a couple reasons. First, there’s no need to write some bland, two sentence blurb for each game. That is just empty calories to me. I’ll highlight a few games (I’ll call these Quick Hitters) that I like most and maybe the one that is not being talked about enough, but there’s no need to write something for each game.
Second, I love to gamble. So I might as well post my gambling picks here and track them all season long. I will pick every Big 12 game that I can (some non-conference games may not have a line), and then I’ll pick a handful or two handfuls worth of games from outside the Big 12. These could be major top-10 matchups or games that I just am looking forward to watching or a spread that I want to bet. There will be no real, specific guidelines. But, I will track how I’m doing in all of these bets, both Big 12 and non-league bets. Should be fun to follow.
Iowa State at Missouri:
• So this line was at Iowa State -1 as late as noon on Thursday, the day before the game. That was very surprising to me that it even opened at that number. I know Iowa State is projected to win by 4 points in Kenpom and is currently ranked higher in Kenpom, but those rankings are probably a bit off. Ken Pomeroy has stated that one factor in his preseason rankings are previous success for the program in the last few years. Iowa State has been great lately; Missouri has been well, not great. Star freshman Michael Porter is now here, though, with the arrival of Cuonzo Martin as the new head coach.
• Iowa State will take a bit to come together this season. They only have four returning players from last season, and the highest scorer among that bunch was Donovan Jackson at 6.5 PPG last season. They’ve got to get used to playing with one another, and Steve Prohm has said as much. They’ll be without both Hans Brase and Cameron Lard tonight, as Brase is still recovering from injury, and Lard has been suspended for tonight’s game. Those guys would both directly contribute in the post against Porter. The Cyclones will only have eight players available. Combine all those factors together with the fact that the game is in Columbia, and I feel pretty confident Missouri will win and will likely cover that -4 number. This is the lock for today. Bet big on it.
Texas A&M vs. West Virginia:
• West Virginia is favored by 6 points in the Armed Forces Classic against Texas A&M. Kenpom has the Mountaineers by 2 points, but it is not aware of the suspensions to Robert Williams, JJ Caldwell, D.J. Hogg, and Admon Gilder. I’m guessing that is the main reason Vegas has bumped that spread up to 6. That number feels perfect to me. It feels like a 2 to 3 possession game without those guys for Texas A&M. West Virginia will also be without forward Esa Ahmad, and travelling across an ocean could somewhat affect their helter skelter high-energy press. I like West Virginia to win, but I will take them to cover as well. I don’t feel great about it, but the suspended Texas A&M players may be too much to overcome.
• Sidebar: it’s pretty great for the Big 12 that two of the three premiere matchups on the first day of the season involve Big 12 teams (UCLA vs. Georgia Tech in China being the other). This conference has really transformed itself into arguably the best college basketball conference in the last 3-4 years, and scheduling big non-conference games will only continue to help its image.
Northwestern State at Texas:
• I can’t find a Vegas line for this one anywhere, but if you can, and if it’s around the 24-point number that Kenpom is projecting Texas to win by, take Northwestern State. Texas will win big, but they will have some early season hiccups when it comes to learning how to play together and most effectively. Five freshmen could receive playing time. Northwestern State is bad. They are 299th in Kenpom. This will not be an enjoyable side to have. But, hold your nose and cover your eyes while taking this one, and hope that they can keep it under 24.
Yale at Creighton:
• This is a sneaky good opening night game. Creighton is favored by 8 points over Yale in Omaha. Creighton is ranked 45th in Kenpom; Yale is 84th. Freshman PG Makai Mason is back for Yale for the first time since the 2016 NCAA Tournament, a year in which he was a First Team All-Ivy selection. Yale plays at a very slow rate on offense; last season, their average offensive possession length was 18.3 seconds, which ranked 276th nationally. Creighton likes to play quickly; their average offensive possession length last season was 14.9 seconds, which was the 9th fastest nationally. Yale slowing down tempo could frustrate Creighton. I like Yale getting those 8 points and wouldn’t be surprised in the least if it was a one-possession game in the final seconds.