Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 2:30 PM EST
West Virginia +8½ -110 over Gonzaga
Jimmy V Classic - Bankers Life Fieldhouse - Indianapolis, IN
7:00 PM EST. The hype train for these Bulldogs of Gonzaga was picking up steam long before the 2020-21 season tipped off, and after a 2-0 start, there are no signs it's going to slow down any time soon. In those two games, coach Mark Few and his team smacked around the Kansas Jayhawks 102-90 after they frog stomped Auburn 90-67. That’s two easy wins and two easy covers. The 'Zags were a 4-point choice over KU, who at the time were the #6 ranked team in the nation. We're not going to take anything away from the Bulldogs, as they are a solid program that is in the national conversation every year. What we are interested in is whether or not Gonzaga is getting a little too much love from the market. From our perch, this appears to be way too many points to spot to a well-coached and talented team like West Virginia.
How the Mountaineers got here is a story of "it's not what you know, it's who you know," after head coach Bob Huggins pulled some strings with his buddies over at ESPN. You see, it was actually Tennessee that was supposed to be playing here in the Jimmy V Classic, but because of COVID-19 concerns, they were forced to withdraw. Always the opportunist, Huggins made some calls to Bristol, and voila, West Virginia is in. While the national exposure is nice, there was one specific reason that Huggins wanted to take part in the Jimmy V and that was to get a shot to take on the 'Zags. His Mountaineers exit from the 2017 NCAA Tournament at the hands of Gonzaga perhaps still stings.
It would be easy to call this a "revenge" spot for WVU, but that is a tired talking point that is overhyped and overused and to be honest, that game was over three years ago. There is a big difference between looking for some payback for a recent loss and backdooring your way into an opportunity to face the #1 team in the country when you otherwise would have no chance to sniff them until March. That said, you don't think that Huggins has been scheming to shut down the 'Zags? It is doubtful that WVU will not be up for this game. One look at the line should be a wake-up call if they are not. West Virginia is 2-1 to start the season and their credibility took a hit right out of the gate, as it lost to South Dakota State 79-71 as an 11-point favorite. While the Mountaineers won and covered against VCU and Western Kentucky, they did so by the slimmest of margins (by 1½ and 1 point, respectively). If you've bet WVU this season, you've had to sweat in all three of their games. The market does not like to sweat.
The Mountaineers are coming off a year with double-digit losses and a mediocre conference record in 2019-20. They have not been impressive to start the season and because of that, they are taking back way too many points in this spot. Like any team that relies on the long ball, if the ‘Zags hit their shots, they'll probably win and cover easily, but if they don't, Virginia could give them fits. In a world where defense and rebounding have gone the way of the Dodo, Huggins and company are still doing it their way. They say styles make fights and the Mountaineers just might have what it takes to knock the Bulldogs off the top of the mountain but no matter how you break it down, the points are inflated.
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West Virginia +8½ -110 (Risking 2.20 units - To Win: 2.00)