The Mid-Money Madness article is back and running for it’s first edition in 2022. We are quiet 5-6 on the year but expect this column to be a weekly phenomenon.
Even with waves of postponements, we are still getting a glorious college basketball slate. We have teams making the most of the situations. The slate begins with a non-conference matchup between two of the best mid-majors in the sport as the San Francisco Dons will face Loyola Chicago at Salt Lake Community college Thursday afternoon in Utah.
The Dons scheduled the Ramblers after their matchup against Gonzaga was postponed due to COVID-19 protocols.
We also have an exciting matchups in the Conference USA with Louisiana Tech traveling to UTEP, and North Texas hosting UAB in the Super Pit. We will break those games down and more. Without further to do, here are the picks. As always, this is a reminder that we are bloggers not professional sharps here, so if you will please wager responsibly.
All odds are presented by SB Nation’s sportsbook partner, Draftkings Sportsbook.
San Francisco vs Loyola Chicago
TV/Stream: Wccsports.com 2:00 pm Eastern
Spread: Loyola Chicago -2.5
We have day-time basketball on a Thursday people. This is an opportunity to get a quadrant one win for both teams. But, I feel in this scenario, the Ramblers may need it more.
USF will have a lot more chances to get Quad 1 wins in the WCC but for the Ramblers, USF is the best remaining team on their schedule. This is also a matchup between two of the sports brightest young coaches with the analytic Todd Golden at USF going against the up and coming Drew Valentine at Loyola Chicago. While I like both teams, I think the Ramblers have the edge here.
Lucas Williamson on the perimeter will give Dons star Jamaree Bouyea some problems. The Dons rank 316th in offensive turnover percentage while Loyola Chicago forces turnovers at a top-80 rate. The extra possessions will decide the game here. Also to mention, the Ramblers are crazy efficient on the offensive side of the ball at 18th in offensive efficiency and No. 1 in effective field goal percentage. The game will be close, but I will take the Ramblers to win Thursday afternoon.
The pick: Loyola Chicago -2.5
UAB @ North Texas
TV/Streaming: CBS Sports Network 8:00 EST
Spread: North Texas -2
The Blazers travel to the Super Pit for a huge Conference USA matchup. You can argue this game may be the most important regular-season conference game of the season in the league.
UAB has looked the part as the preseason conference favorite going 12-3 with its only losses coming against South Carolina, West Virginia and San Francisco.
The two teams play contrasting styles. UAB loves to run, crash the boards, and shoot 3-pointers and is averaging 82 points per game. North Texas is a defense-centric team and are second nationally in scoring defense allowing just 54 points per game. So, something has to give here.
The Mean Green offense is slowly starting to catch up to their defense. Star guard Mardrez McBride has gotten hot going 8 of 19 from 3 in his past three games. He will be matched up with UAB’s leading scorer Jordan Walker, who is averaging 15.8 points per contest. I think the Mean Green match up with UAB pretty well. They rank 32nd nationally in 3-point defense. If they can defend the trey against the Blazers, there is a clear path to victory. I will take the home team in Texas to pull out a win.
The pick: North Texas -2
Stephen F Austin @ Abilene Christian
TV/Stream: ESPN + 8:00pm Eastern
Spread: ACU -6.5
A matchup between two rivals that play the same style of basketball. Both teams want to turn teams over.
ACU ranks No. 1 nationally in defensive turnover percentage while SFA ranks 32nd in the same category. SFA is coming off a long COVID-19 caused pause, but before that gave Kansas all the Jayhawks could handle on Dec. 18. Expect the Lumberjacks to shake off some rust.
There are times SFA does struggle to defend especially near the rim. ACU does not have a big man who can consistently exploit that and the team often struggles to shoot the ball in stretches. I think this is a game where to first team to score 60 may win. So because of that, I’ll take the under here.
The pick: Under 140.5
SMU @ Cincinnati
TV: ESPN 9:30 EST
Spread: Cincinnati -2.5
The mid-major game of the nightcap and our first preview for a game in the American Conference. The Bearcats rank 15th in our Other Top 25 rankings. It seems like SMU hasn’t beaten the Bearcats in a decade losing seven straight. I think that ends tonight on the road.
Cincy is coming off a home loss against Tulane, the Bearcats first game back from a pause. After their big win against Illinois, the Bearcats are just 1-7 against the spread. SMU will have the best player on the floor in Kendrick Davis who may be the conference player of the year averaging 21.5 points and 5.4 assists while shooting 48% from the floor. SMU has won eight straight and seven of those have been by over double digits. The Mustangs have beaten quality teams such as UCF, Dayton and Vanderbilt during that stretch. Nobody is paying attention to this SMU team but they should be. Kendrick Davis gets a national audience, and he is going to put on a show.
The pick: SMU +2.5
Louisiana Tech @ UTEP
TV/Stream: CBS Network 10:00pm EASTERN
Spread: UTEP +3
Louisiana Tech will be looking to extend its three-game winning streak when it travels to UTEP for a Conference USA matchup.
The Bulldogs have opened conference play with wins over Marshall and Western Kentucky. The Bulldogs have been a wagon this year lead by star Kenneth Lofton Jr, who is averaging 17.5 points, 9.9 rebounds and is shooting 58% from the floor. Tech is 11-3 on the year with their only losses against Alabama, LSU and NC State and just had a gutsy comeback road win against Western Kentucky.
The Bulldogs are eyeing the conference crown but here comes a tough road game against UTEP. The Miners are coming off a big loss to UAB on the road and now they have to go against the Bulldogs. The schedulers didn’t do Joe Golding team any favors. I want to take the home underdog here but can’t justify it. UTEP ranks 285th in two-point defense and struggles too much on offense. Give me Lofton and the Bulldogs to cover as favorites on the road.
The pick: Louisiana Tech -3