You're going to need a break at some point from spending time with your family during this Thanksgiving week, so why not escape with some college basketball on Wednesday? College basketball experts Three Man Weave are back with their two best bets for today's slate. The odds for these bets are from William Hill (as of 10:04 a.m. EST) when this was published.
Oklahoma State vs. Syracuse
3MW Pick: Oklahoma State +3
Oklahoma State and Syracuse meet tonight in a neutral contest at the Barclays Center, an arena I learned is not very close to Syracuse, NY. But the Orange still should have the crowd advantage in Brooklyn given how many Syracuse grads and fans live in NYC.
Even with the advantage on the "neutral" court, I still feel confident about this bet against the Orange. This line opened at 3 and I’m sure it will go down throughout the day. The two questions teams have to answer when facing Syracuse are 1) Can you shoot? and 2) Can you hang with the Orange athletes? In OK State’s case, the answers are a resounding “Yes” and “Yes”.
Oklahoma State is shooting just 30.3% from deep this season, but that number is due to correct toward the mean after the Pokes shot 37.2% last year (46th nationally). Thomas Dziagwa and Lindy Waters are two of the best outside shooters in the country and they’ll look to tee off against a Cuse zone that currently ranks dead-last in the country in 3PA rate allowed. Syracuse always has a crazy amount of length to contest those three-point shots, but few teams in the country boast the caliber of shooters that are Dziagwa and Waters. From an athletic perspective, OK State can go toe-to-toe with the Orange. Isaac Likekele is a big 6’4”, 215-pound point guard who’s sure to cause issues for the young Cuse guards on both ends of the floor. To boot, big man Yor Anei has been one of the best paint anchors in the country this season, owning the second-best block rate in the land at a ridiculous 20.2%. Cameron McGriff, a burly 6’7”, 230-pound senior adds muscle to the OK State starting five, one that won’t be overwhelmed with the typical Syracuse size.
Syracuse has admittedly looked very good this season, aside from the 34-point car accident against the impregnable Virginia pack line. But, it’s important to consider the types of teams Syracuse has dominated this year. With its immense size and athleticism, the Orange are a nightmare matchup for most mid-majors, especially the likes of Bucknell, Seattle, Cornell, and Colgate—beating these teams in the manner Cuse did was pretty much in line with expectations. That advantage—one Cuse relies on with a relative lack of elite talent for a typical Jim Boeheim squad—will not be seen in this matchup.
One interesting stylistic battle to watch in this one will be Oklahoma State’s willingness to push off the glass in transition versus Syracuse’s so-far extremely stout transition defense. The Pokes don’t play at a blazing speed overall, but they rank 37th nationally in percentage of FGA in transition following a defensive rebound. In that same stat on the defensive end, Syracuse is allowing attempts at the fifth-lowest rate in the country. The teams the Orange have played have certainly skewed this stat, so this tilt with OK State will be the true litmus test of Boeheim’s transition D.
OK State backers’ biggest fear in this one will be Syracuse’s outside shooting, which so far has been BLAZING with Elijah Hughes, Joe Girard and Buddy Boeheim all shooting at or above 40% from deep. The Orange have become a three-point reliant squad offensively over the past five seasons, and we will see plenty of long-ball tries tonight. OSU has allowed the sixth-highest 3PA rate this season, but teams are shooting just 25.7% against them. Both stats are worrisome considering more attempts usually means more makes and that 25.7% number is sure to correct soon. The Pokes’ defensive hopes will hinge on Likekele forcing poor decisions and guys like McGriff and Anei locking down second-chance opportunities.
This matchup is the start of a daunting stretch of games for both squads. OK State gets Georgetown and Wichita State at home, takes a road trip down to Houston and ends with Minnesota in Tulsa. Syracuse hosts Iowa before heading to Georgia Tech and Georgetown. Both teams will be looking to notch a signature win heading into their respective gauntlets, and I believe OK State is the better team.
Manhattan at Rhode Island
3MW's Pick: Manhattan +13.5
After a quick trip to the Carolinas over the weekend, Steve Masiello and the Jaspers return to the northeast to take on Rhode Island this evening in Kingston. Smack dab in the middle of a five-game road trip, this crucial non-conference segment of the season will flush out all of the Jaspers’ blemishes before gearing up for MAAC play in January. Some of those flaws started to shine through on Saturday, as Elon jumped on Manhattan early, racing ahead to a 25-8 lead. But, Masiello’s never-ending rotation, which can go as many as 11-players deep on any given night, kept coming at the Phoenix in waves until they finally cracked late in the second half.
That late comeback was a pivotal moment for Manhattan, who badly needed to validate the lofty preseason projections, some of which pegged the Jaspers as a potential dark-horse MAAC title contender. Those projections are bets placed on a young, alluring nucleus on the brink of a quantum leap forward. While those final 20 minutes against a bottom-feeding Elon team don’t warrant a gold star or a pat on the back, these types of subtle turning points are critical for the psyche of a young team.
A big addition, quite literally, for the Jaspers over the weekend was the resurgence of Warren Williams, an old-school big who possesses the body physique and footwork of a 12-year NBA veteran. Williams missed the Jaspers’ first three games of the season but clocked a productive and efficient 20 minutes of action against Elon, a sign that he’s rounding into form. Against Rhode Island tonight, Williams, along with fellow frontline enforcer Pauly Paulicap, must rule the lane like the Iron Throne, where they’ll be challenged by another bruising big in Cyril Langevine. Langevine’s physicality has wreaked havoc against opposing frontcourts all season, but the Williams/Paulicap tandem won’t back down from the challenge.
On the perimeter, Masiello’s amorphous defensive scheme is the perfect roadblock to disrupting the Rams’ explosive backcourt duo, Fatts Russell and Jeff Dowtin. Both Russell and Dowtin have played outstanding in the early going in all facets of the game, but they’ve yet to see a defense as funky as the Jaspers. To succinctly describe what Rhody should expect, allow me to hand over the mic to Albany coach Will Brown, who had this to say in preparation of the Manhattan-Albany duel back on Nov. 16th.
“They play differently than any team on our schedule,” Brown said. “They’re going to play that funky zone for 40 minutes and they’re physical. They foul every possession, and you can’t call fouls every possession.”
Put differently, the Jaspers’ defensive front will simply make Russell and Dowtin uncomfortable. That’s not to say Dowtin and Russell will cower in the fetal position when the pressure cooker heats up. After all, both are sound ball handlers and money free-throw shooters, but Masiello’s defensive disruption should at least take the Rams’ guards out of rhythm. Often times, Manhattan’s zone baits opposing guards into hoisting threes instead of patiently waiting to attack the creases in the middle, and this is exactly what Masiello will aim to do against Dowtin and Russell, who are dynamite off the dribble in space.
Add it all up and 13.5 points is too many, especially in what should be a grind-it-out, half-court affair (for context, the total opened at 133). Rhody should ultimately prevail, but 40 minutes isn’t enough time for the Rams to pull away from these deceiving Jaspers.
Season Record: 10-10