Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 1:40 PM EST.
East Carolina +12 over SMU
8:00 PM EST. Conference play tips off for both these programs tonight and it would be safe to say that motivation is high for both. It would also be safe to suggest that SMU’s stock is much, much higher than ECU’s because of past pedigree and preseason projections but these two teams are more evenly matched than this line suggests.
Seriously, who the f**k are the Ponies to be priced in this range? This is a team that has done jack since Larry Brown left after the 2016/17 season. Since Tim Jankovich took over, SMU is a horrific 51-44 overall with most of those wins occurring against cupcakes. In conference play over that same span, the Mustangs are 21-33. We’re not suggesting for a second that they are not talented because they are but this coach has had nothing but talent and he cannot get anything out of them.
The Mustangs are 4-0 out of the gate this year but so what, as the first three victories occurred against three more cupcakes in Sam Houston State, Texas A&M-CC and Houston Baptist. SMU’s other victory occurred over Dayton by two points. The ‘Stangs have the athletes, the size and the depth to be a good team on paper, but until they execute under this regime, we have to take a wait-and-see approach to their expectations. What we know for sure is that they are overpriced here because ECU has zero market credibility. That’s about to change.
East Carolina joined the D-I ranks back in 1966. Since then, the program has earned a trip to the NCAA Tournament just two times, the last of which being in 1993. A consistent AAC bottom feeder since joining the league, the Pirates turned to Joe Dooley, who previously led ECU back in the late 90s, to build a sustainable and winning program. Dooley improved upon a dreadful 2018-19 season, leading the Pirates to an 11-20 (5-13) mark last year but more importantly a 47-spot jump in KenPom’s rankings. Dooley had one of the youngest and least continuous squads in the country last season, making his relatively solid performance even more impressive. This year’s ECU squad will feature Dooley’s best roster since returning to the program, as nearly everyone returns from last season including AAC POY candidate Jayden Gardner.
Although they have played nobody, ECU is a quiet 5-0. The Pirates Strength of Schedule (SOS) ranked 284th in the country so the market is putting way more emphasis on their losing culture than on their 5-0 record. What’s sort of amusing is that SMU’s SOS ranks worse at 299th but they get credit for being 4-0. Incidentally, ECU’s 9-point win over Charlotte is not bad at all considering that Charlotte ranks 164th on KemPom. The Pirates are a good rebounding team and have plenty of athletic perimeter players and size up front to be an intimidating defensive squad. With the amount of continuity from last season, we should expect ECU to improve perhaps even significantly. It is our position that the Pirates long history of bottom feeding has them being short sold and taking back inflated points.
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East Carolina +12 -105 (Risking 2.1 units - To Win: 2.00)