It's day 1 of the college hoops season which means it's a new gambling year. As always I'll tinker with this and try to come up with some sort of blog that works for everyone. As the season goes on we'll be going with more trends and matchup based stats. But tonight? Tonight is about trying to find numbers that work and teams that work. We'll take a look at the two big games tonight and a couple others that I like. Here's to a hell of a season.
As always - all the lines come from the Barstool Sportsbook. Download the app here.
As I said in the title, allow me to introduce you to Patrick Baldwin. He's a consensus top-10 pick who turned down every big school to play for his dad at Milwaukee. He's AWESOME.
How does North Dakota slow him + Milwaukee's wings down? They lost their two best defenders. They also seem to be regressing each year. This season North Dakota returns four guys who played minutes last year, but that's it. Not the easiest to have your first game against a future lottery pick. North Dakota wants to run teams off the 3pt line. That's great, except Baldwin is a monster driving to the hoop. That sort of defense will play right into his hands and try to get Mitchell Sueker in foul trouble. Mind you Milwaukee also starts a 6'10" and 7-footer. I like Milwaukee here because Baldwin/Gholston/Thomas should destroy North Dakota's wings.
Pick: Milwaukee -7
Gonna be honest with you guys for a second. Outside of Kentucky/Duke this is my favorite game to watch tonight. Belmont returns all 5 starters. Ohio returns 4 starters, obviously losing Jason Preston. It's a hell of a game that should be played earlier so we all can watch it with nothing else on. The biggest question here will be can Ohio's Ben Vander Plas and Jason Carter - not really known for their defense - slow down Nick Muszynski? I do think Ohio can spread Belmont out though with BVP's shooting. Not to mention I love Mark Sears' game. Getting this game at home with a ton of momentum? I'm a sucker for small home dogs.
Pick: Ohio +3.5
Like I said, tonight is all about finding numbers. This is one of those games for me that I have circled. Why? Wichita State struggles against good post players and zone defense. You know what Jacksonville State does? They have Brandon Huffman - formerly of UNC. Just look at last year. Wichita State was 323rd in defensive rebounding percentage. Jacksonville State was 45th in offensive rebounding percentage. Now there is a fear that Tyson Etiene goes off because he's a hell of a player. But if Ray Harper uses that 3-2 zone and dares Wichita State to beat them that way? I love where stand.
Pick: Jacksonville State +8.5
I was ready to go all in on Kansas until I remembered Jalen Wilson is suspended for this game. He's so vital to what Kansas does defensively with the switching and taking away PnR. Then I also remembered that Bill Self an Remy Martin were already at odds with Martin being benched to start the last exhibition game. Sure, Kansas does have Joe Yesufu from Drake and Ochai Agbaji and David McCormack are still there. Now Michigan State did land Tyson Walker from Northeastern. He was CAA's DPOY and really attacks offensively. I love his game. He should take advantage against Martin/Yesufu. I'm also banking that Joey Hauser remembers how good he can be offensively again.
Pick: Michigan State +4.5
I don't have a great feel on this game. Why? Each team has a pretty clear advantage they can attack. For Kentucky? It's guard play. Duke's guards were flat out awful last year defensively. Getting in TyTy Washington, Sahvir Wheeler and Kellan Grady? That's where Kentucky needs to attack. More importantly they need to get in transition and push tempo. That's not what Kentucky tends to do. Cal prefers slowing it down. That's not how you beat this Duke team. On the other side, Paolo Banchero is a matchup nightmare. Kentucky has to make a decision and sacrifice some offense and play some combo of Toppin/Collins/Hopkins/Brooks to throw some different looks at him. Try to use some athleticism but give up size. That's also where Duke has an advantage. Oscar T is nursing a bit of an injury and if he gets in foul trouble, Lance Ware isn't ideal in this matchup. Maybe just to bang around with Theo John. But Mark Williams really improved here for Duke.
Pick: Over 148.5
Loyola lost a FIRST ROUND NBA pick. Sounds insane, but it happened and Santi Aldama did anything and everything for them. For UNC? I'm all for what Hubert Davis is likely going to do. Let Armando Bacot work in the post alone where he's a monster, especially in this game. You can bring either Brady Manek or Dawson Garcia off the bench and surround them with Caleb Love/Kerwin Walton/Leaky Black, etc. The biggest thing will be how does Loyola score? They were awful with Aldama on the bench last year.
Pick: UNC -25.5
Two teams I love. Bellarmine is incredibly fun to watch on offense since they barely dribble. It's all cuts, passing and trying to exploit defenses. They also want to suck the entire defense in. They'll try to take away Williams/Edey in the post, which, fine. Purdue can shoot. Newman/Stefanovic are both pretty prolific shooters. At the same time, Bellarmine doesn't really have anyone that can stay in front of Jaden Ivey. So while I think they might take advantage with their cutting motion offense, they don't have enough to handle Williams/Edey inside and Ivey driving.
Pick: Purdue -23