With only one college football game on the slate, college basketball takes center stage. The Mid-Money Madness column is back. We went 3-1 in our opening slate of games back in the first week of the season. Through the first few weeks of the season, we are starting to get a good gage of where these teams are. As always, all lines are provided by our partners at Draftkings Sportsbook. We are writing this column simply for fun, so don’t hold us to the standards of Steve Fezzik. Here is our slate:
Basketball Hall of Fame Classic (Fort Worth)
Mississippi State @ Colorado State
Spread: Colorado State + 1
One of the most underrated contests on the entire slate. Colorado State puts its unbeaten record on the line. CSU has one of the most impressive offenses in the country. The Rams were one of the top teams in the country in returning offensive production. That has visibly shown as CSU ranks 13th in offensive efficiency, first in effective field goal percentage, first in 3-point field goal percentage and 10th in offensive turnover percentage. The only thing they don’t do is secure offensive rebounds. Who needs second chance points when you are always getting buckets on your first try? Mississippi State will be CSU’s toughest test. The wing combination of Garrison Brooks and DJ Jeffries will be the most physical and athletic combination of defenders David Roddy will face. Roddy has been the Charles Barkley of college basketball this season. Despite playing power forward at just 6 foot 5 inches, Roddy is averaging 20.6 points and 8.7 rebounds. While Roddy may struggle to get points inside today, I think he will open CSU’s perimeter shooting. The Bulldogs allowed Minnesota to shoot 41% from behind the arc in their 77-72 loss. I think CSU can make it rain from downtown. CSU barely missed the tournament last season. While I think they are an at-large lock, this group knows how important this game will matter on Selection Sunday. I expect the Rams to come out with a sense of urgency and to get a win against a solid SEC opponent.
The pick: Colorado State +1
Holiday Hoops Giving (Atlanta)
Clemson vs. Drake
Spread: Drake +2
Drake lost all three games at the ESPN Events Invitational, but it has a chance to gain a huge win here. Clemson seems to be sort of fraudulent offensively. The Tigers rank 6th in effective 3-point percentage, but they have played five teams that rank outside the top 300 in 3-point defense, and everyone they have played ranks outside the top 200. Drake fits in the middle of the category, ranking 250th. I think Clemson’s 3-point luck is due to run out. With Clemson, you really have to focus on the defensive end. It ranks 66th in defensive efficiency this year. However, Clemson is undersized this year, and it has hurt them in a couple of ways. PJ Hall, who stands at 6 feet 10 inches, is the team’s only real shot-blocking threat, and the team ranks 298th in block percentage. This should open driving lanes for ShanQuan Hemphill and post opportunities for Darnell Brodie. Freshmen Tucker Devries has been a freshmen stud for the Bulldogs and is averaging 13 points per game. I like the spot for Drake here. I think they are the better team, and we are getting three points. Ride the Bulldogs to gain a much needed win.
The pick: Drake +2
South Dakota State @ Washington State
Washington State -6
This line simply does not make sense to me. Former USF coach Kyle Smith has turned the Cougars into a potential tournament team in his third season. WSU is 6-3 against the spread this year. They are coming off a 94-60 blowout win against a dangerous Weber State team. South Dakota State just lost by 14 points to Idaho. I’ll say that again, they got blown out by Idaho. That may have been have been a look ahead spot, but when you give up 98 points in regulation to the Vandals, you have problems. The Jackrabbits are one of the worst teams in the country defensively. They rank 268th in overall efficiency, 305th in effective field goal percentage, 301st in 3-point defense and 267th in defensive turnover rate. Offensively the Jackrabbits are extremely potent, but that doesn’t matter if you routinely give up buckets on the other end. Washington State is a balanced team that ranks 57th in offensive efficiency and 47th in defensive efficiency. All the Cougars need to do is force SDSU to go on one scoring drought to blow this one open, and I think they do that here.
The pick: Washington State -6
New Mexico State @ Loyola Marymount
Spread: NMSU pk
This is what I call a spot play. All the money has gone towards New Mexico State, and I don’t get why. NMSU is coming off three straight rivalry games that ended on buzzer beaters. The last one ending in controversy after they made a scene, stomping on New Mexico’s home floor. Now they have to travel on the road to sunny Santa Monica, Calif. LMU needs this win to continue its momentum. After a rough start to the season that included a home-opening loss to Chattanooga, a close call against NAIA Arizona Christian and blowout against Florida State, LMU has quietly won five out of its last six games. While the WCC is getting some love as a whole, everyone has been ignoring LMU’s recent success, despite them being a potential dark horse team to begin the season. LMU needs a win to continue positive momentum heading into conference play. The Lions are expected to win by four in Ken Pom, yet the line here is a pick at home. I love the value on the Lions, and they take care of New Mexico State here.
The pick: Loyola Marymount
VCU @ Old Dominion
Spread: VCU -5.5
We are kind of late to the party. The line ballooned from 3.5 to 5.5 overnight. I still like the Rams here. They got off to an up and down 5-4 start, but they have wins against power conference teams Syracuse and Vanderbilt. Most importantly now they have their star Ace Baldwin back in the lineup. He had a solid 146 offensive rating in 20 minutes against Jacksonville State. He should get some more run. VCU has been poor offensively to start the year and has not got much production outside of Vince Williams. Positive regression is coming for the Rams. Defensively, VCU should put the clamps on Old Dominion. VCU ranks third in defensive efficiency, fifth in effective field goal percentage and fourth in defensive turnover rate. Old Dominion’s offense ranks 300th in effective field goal percentage. To say they will have trouble scoring, is an understatement in this one. Take the Rams confidently on the road.
The pick: VCU -5.5
Never Forget Tribute Classic (Newark, N.J.)
St. Bonaventure vs. UConn
Spread: UConn. -3.5
The Bonnies will take on the Huskies at Prudential Center in New Jersey. UConn struggles to score against good teams. Without a clear indication of health for Kyle Lofton, I can’t take the Bonnies straight up. The Bonnies offense runs through Lofton and with him possibly being out or even limited, their offense is not the same. UConn ranks 32nd in defensive efficiency and seventh in 2-point defense. The Bonnies should have trouble scoring. Without their star scorer they will have to step on the defensive end. However, UConn will miss its post star Adama Sanogo. The Huskies are up and down on offense, and without their post presence they struggle to score. So give me the under here.
The pick under 133.5
Santa Clara @ California
Spread: Santa Clara +1
We are finishing the column with a Pac-12 vs WCC nightcap. I think you can guess who I’m siding with here. I’ll admit Cal is better than expected. They have won their last two games and have wins against Fresno State and Oregon State. Santa Clara has been impressive too. The Broncos are a great shooting team and rank 10th in the country in field goal percentage (50.5%) and 41st in 3-point shooting (38.3%). They are excellent from the line as well, 32nd in the country at 77.3%. The only advantage Cal has in this game is in the rebounding department. Cal ranks 12th in defensive rebounding percentage, but Santa Clara doesn’t crash the offensive glass anyway. The Broncos rank 47th in two-point defense but are poor on the offensive glass. Cal’s path to victory is using its size and athleticism on the boards. I’ll still take the more efficient shooting team on the road against the cellar dweller of the Pac-12. Give me the Broncos.