While we were thankful for Feast Week, it's time to move on to another exciting week of hoops. College basketball experts Three Man Weave are back with their two best bets for today's slate. For these bets, we're using the current odds from William Hill (as of 10:13 a.m. EST).
Old Dominion at William & Mary
3MW Pick: Old Dominion -1
As I am wont to do in these pick write-ups, I’ll start with the bad news. Old Dominion has lost four games in a row, with three of them coming in a Feast Week disaster in the Cayman Islands—a sort of ODU basketball Fyre Fest (not the Bahamas, but you get the analogy). As poorly as Ja Rule and Billy McFarland executed their music festival plan, the Monarchs’ offensive execution in the Caribbean was nearly as bad, struggling even more than a typical ODU offensive attack—which is saying something.
The thing is, sometimes teams just get in a rut at those three-day tournaments, especially after losing the first game and ending up in the losers’ bracket. Back on the mainland with nearly a week of rest, the Monarchs should be refreshed and looking to start anew, and this feels like a terrific “buy-low” spot for a well-coached team. After falling to Loyola-Chicago in the seventh-place game, coach Jeff Jones was optimistic despite a fourth straight loss:
“It is always disappointing to lose, but I thought our effort was terrific and we can work with that…We have to work on and address some things, but maybe, just maybe, depending on what we do with the opportunities in front of us, this could be a turning point for our basketball team.”
Those are encouraging words from an honest coach, and the first of those opportunities he’s referring to comes against in-state rival William & Mary.
Therein lies first edge—minimal travel. Oddsmakers typically give a “standard value” for home-court advantage, and not only is William & Mary just 45 minutes north across Chesapeake Bay, but two of the veteran Monarchs (Xavier Green and Aaron Carver) have also played at W&M before, as this is an annual series. Both the proximity and familiarity should help mitigate the home court somewhat.
Matchup-wise, the most important part of dealing with William & Mary is stopping its Two Towers alignment of 6'10" Nathan Knight and 7'0" Andy Van Vliet. The two big men can each score both inside and out, so having versatile forwards with size is crucial—a specialty of this ODU roster. Coach Jones can start 7-footer Dajour Dickens on Knight, but if the skilled Tribe center proves too nimble for him, Jones can turn to Carver or Kalu Ezikpe, both hyper-physical defenders with some lateral quickness. As for Van Vliet, the more perimeter-oriented of the two opposing forwards, any of the Monarchs’ army of 6'5" and 6'6" wings can switch onto him in a pinch, as well.
Another factor in Old Dominion’s favor is that William & Mary guard Thornton Scott remains out with a lower leg injury, and coach Dane Fischer said on Monday that he’s not expected back before Christmas. Scott is the Tribe’s best perimeter scorer, and the offense has had some poor performances in the four games he’s missed, thrice failing to reach 1.0 points per possession.
Ultimately, while I’d love to have the opening number of +3, I do think the Monarchs win outright, so I'll take the -1.
Northern Kentucky at Miami Ohio
3MW's Pick: Miami Ohio -3.5
Will the real Northern Kentucky please stand up? Since Jalen Tate, NKU’s unequivocal leader, went down with a broken hand in mid-November, the Norse have taken on a dual personality act, a la Christian Bale in the Prestige. One alias struggled with a MEAC team (Coppin State) and a SWAC team (Texas Southern), while the other won at Ball State and terrified Arkansas in Fayetteville. There’s no alternate universe where the discrepancy in those results makes any sense whatsoever. Thus, not even Nostradamus can predict what version of Northern Kentucky will reveal itself tonight in Oxford when the Norse travel to take on Miami Ohio, but let’s pull out our crystal balls and play pretend for a second.
NKU nearly spoiled the Razorbacks’ Thanksgiving over the weekend, but let’s hold the applause for a second. Arkansas was without its best player, Mason Jones, and the Razorbacks’ rotation became razor-thin, a divine development for the Tate-less Norse. Now three days removed from that brutal war, Northern Kentucky must regroup and refocus for a restless and antsy Miami Ohio team, who’s eager to end a two-game skid. With nearly a week to recoup—Miami OH hasn’t played since last Wednesday—the Redhawks’ army of guards is primed to wear down an ailing Northern Kentucky backcourt, who may also be without the services of Paul Djoko (who did not play last game). That places an inordinate amount of pressure on Dantz Walton, Tyler Sharpe and Trevon Faulker to carry to scoring load, who will have their hands full on the other end having to corral the explosive Nike Sibande and the jet-quick Mekhi Lairy.
If that angle doesn’t convince you, here’s another way to handicap this. Miami lost by 6 last year at NKU, which landed right on the oddsmakers’ closing number of 6 (depending on which book you view as Gospel). Now, fast forward to today. The line opened at PK, which implies the oddsmakers are effectively appraising both teams at a similar price as last year, assuming you apply a standard home value of 3 points. I’m sorry Mr. Oddsmaker, but this equation does not hold. This Miami Ohio team is essentially a carbon copy of last year’s rendition, save Darrian Ringo, while Northern Kentucky’s 2018-19 roster has two gaping holes without Drew McDonald and now Jalen Tate.
Yes, the sharps have pounced on the opening line, but any number at or under 4 is still worth laying here. I’ll go to battle with dynamic guard play and a sharp coaching tactician any day of the week, so sign me up for Jack Owens and the Redhawks in a perfect "get right" spot at home against a fragile opponent.
Season Record: 12-10