Fridays are for the mid-majors!
It’s a light slate with only 11 games on the docket, but nine of those games feature contests between mid-major teams. If you are mid-major basketball fan, cancel your Friday night plans because staying in to watch basketball is mandatory.
Spider-Man will be available to watch forever, but the opportunity to watch Chris Mooney coach for his job in a home game on national television against a rising Davidson team doesn’t come up often. So, it’s our obligation to relish in it.
In addition to the ESPNU Richmond-Davidson tilt, we have six out of the nine mid-major matchups in nationally televised spots. So, you if you are looking for some advice or information on teams featured on the college basketball slate you have come to the right place.
The column has produced an astoundingly average 8-8 record this season. That explains that I’m not a professional handicapper. We give out winners and sometimes — losers from time to time. Like always if you fade or tail we encourage you to wager responsibly. Let’s enjoy the fun times and positive vibes that come with a fantastic slate of college basketball.
All lines provided by SB Nation’s Sportsbook partner- DraftKings Sportsbook. So onto to the picks:
Davidson @ Richmond
Spread: Richmond -1
Tip off: 9:00 p.m. EST
Welcome to the Mooney showcase. We get nationally televised game showcasing two of the best system offenses in college basketball. We will have two NBA draft prospects with Hyunjung Lee for Davidson and Tyler Burton for Richmond.
I feel like this game all circles back to what is at stake for Mooney. It seems like this may be his biggest game of his coaching tenure with the Spiders. Friday night, Mooney gets to defend his case to stay with a chance to orchestrate a home win against an rising Davidson team on national TV.
To say the stakes are high for Richmond’s coach, is an understatement.
While Richmond is under pressure and will have a sense of urgency, Davidson is going to be feeling happy about themselves. The Wildcats are riding an 11-game winning streak, upset a top-25 opponent in the process, and people are declaring them the best team in the A-10.
Davidson’s offense has been full proof: the team ranks 20th in offensive efficiency, sixth in effective field-goal percentage, and any player from the floor can kill you from deep as they rank second overall in 3-point percentage. Outside of the Bama game, Davidson hasn’t seen the perimeter pressure it will see from super senior Jacob Gilyard. Combine that with the stellar crowd they will have to play in front of, I don’t expect Davidson’s shooting percentages to hold true. Burton is a mismatch on the wing and Richmond does enough offensively to secure a major home win.
The pick: Richmond -1
VCU @ Saint Bonaventure
Spread: VCU +2.5
Tip off: 7:30 p.m. EST
Let’s start with the matchup that has the brightest spotlight and the game I’m tempted to put this week’s paycheck on. The Rams will travel to Allegany, New York, in what is going to be a must-watch matchup.
Earlier in the week, I got some flack on twitter for ranking the Rams in top 10 in the Other Top 25 poll. The think is, I’m willing to die on the hill that VCU is the best team in the A-10 and I’m unfazed trusting Ace Baldwin with my life. The Rams have the most dominant strength in the conference BY FAR. I’m referring to the VCU Havoc defense which ranks third in defensive efficiency, third in defensive turnover rate, first effective field-goal percentage defense, and they simply have the best perimeter defense in the country.
Now, they are going to face a disappointing Bonaventure team that will be tired. Mark Schmidt essentially played his starters all 45 minutes in a desperate comeback against La Salle. He did it after the Bonnies were coming off 25-day COVID-19 pause. This isn’t ideal when facing a VCU defense that prides itself on constant pressure. Bonnie plays seven guys at the most, and doesn’t really have anyone on the bench to go to.
I also think the Bonnies have been extremely unimpressive all year. Their rankings are still tied to their significantly high preseason expectations. The Bonnies are 3-9 against the spread this year. On the flip side of that coin VCU is a resounding 10-4 ATS. The knock on VCU earlier in the year was it was all defense with little to no offense. The emergence of Baldwin becoming a playmaker in the backcourt is slowly changing that narrative. I don’t like taking the short road underdogs, but love VCU in this spot. I’m putting my money where my mouth is. I’m confident the Rams are going to make me look smart.
The pick: VCU +2.5 (Best bet)
Buffalo @ Ball State
Spread: Ball State +7.5
Tip off: 6:00 p.m. EST
TV: CBS Sports Network
Last night, this immediately jumped out to me with Ball State getting a big number at home. Then I realized this morning, the line moved against me.
According to Action Network, close to 80% of the money is on Buffalo in this contest. That then caused the line to move from 6.5 to 7.5. I just think there is a lot of disrespect in the market for Ball State.
Despite the market moving against me, I’m still going to back Ball State here. I watched the Cardinals against the Zips on Tuesday and Ball State went toe to toe with Akron for 75% of that game. I realize Ball State didn’t cover, but that means we get a good price with the Cardinal here. I see both teams struggling to defend each other.
Buffalo has NBA talent and hyper athletic bigs/wings with Josh Mballa and Jeenathan Williams.
Ball State is 3-0 ATS in conference home games so far. Ball State has been getting outstanding play from their freshmen big Payton Sparks. Sparks has scored in double digits in four of out his last six while shooting over 50% from the floor. He went for 23 points and 10 rebounds in the loss against Akron, and I think he can do some damage here. Ball State has an arrange of scorers and I think getting 7.5 points is a big margin for error. Give me the Cardinal at home.
The pick: Ball State +7.5
Fresno State @ UNLV
Spread: UNLV +1.5
Tip off: 11:00pm EST
We got late night Mountain West hoops on the docket.
The Rebels will host Fresno State in what is expected to be an entertaining matchup between two middle of the road MWC squads. UNLV is coming off 85-56 home win against New Mexico. It’s fair to mention the Lobos were missing their head coach and they were without key big man Gethro Muscadin.
Defending Fresno State’s Orlando Robinson will be a major step up in competition. The Bulldogs 7-foot stretch center is averaging 19.5 points and 8.3 rebounds. Robinson has one of the highest usage rates in the country since the Bulldogs run every possession through him, be it from the post or in pick-and-pop/roll scenarios from the top of the key.
UNLV will look to defend him with 6-foot-9 Texas transfer Royce Ham. The Bulldogs will have to play the rest of the season without Arizona transfer Jemarl Baker. I just think UNLV has a significant advantage at guard. The emergence of Donavon Williams has helped relieve a scoring load off Bryce Hamilton.
Fresno State is 1-4 on the road this year, while UNLV is 7-2 at home. The Bulldogs are extremely reliant on one player and while they have been successful on the defensive end (41st in efficiency). The Rebels will find ways to score with their elite iso scorers. I’ll take the Rebels to secure another home win.
The pick: UNLV +1.5