Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 3:10 PM EST.
Montana St +6½ over WASHINGTON ST
9:00 PM EST. First things first. What we have here is a PAC-12 team spotting what appears to be a beatable price against a Big Sky team that nobody knows. Secondly, Wazzou is 5-0 this year while Montana State is 2-1, which is also going to attract some money on the 5-1 squad.
Indeed the Cougars are 5-0 but the five victories have come against five marshmallows in Texas Southern (ranked 223rd), Eastern Washington (ranked 134th), Oregon State (ranked 130th), Idaho (ranked 338th) and Portland State (ranked 305th). On top of the weak opponents, WSU beat the first four in that group all by four points or less. Their biggest margin was a 9-point victory over Portland State. We could seriously be discussing a 1-4 Washington State team after playing the 298th ranked strength of schedule in the country. As far as misleading undefeated records go, one would be hard-pressed to find a bigger fraud than these Cougars.
Montana State’s identity changed when Danny Sprinkle replaced Brian Fish. Under Fish, the Bobcats were a brutal defensive team for five seasons, finishing in the bottom-50 in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency ratings four times. In Fish’s final season (2018-19), MSU was 346th nationally in Adj. DE, making them one of the 10 worst defensive squads in the country. Its offense was incredibly fun to watch with Tyler Hall and Frey, but there was a firm cap on winning with how anemic its defense was. Sprinkle flipped the script when he arrived on campus. MSU finished 5th in the Big Sky in Adj. DE last season thanks to its ability to control the defensive glass, shut down transitions and slow-down opposing teams with its 2-3 and 1-3-1 zone looks. New personnel also helped on this end, as Sprinkle recruits like Jubrile Belo, Amin Adamu, and Mychael Paulo immediately increased the roster’s size, versatility, and athleticism.
It’s a strange phenomenon when a team loses its best player and yet is fully expected to be better the next season. Sprinkle has raised the talent level of this program in just 1½ seasons and seems poised to build on a solid first year. The Bobcats have arguably the best frontcourt in the Big Sky and a suitable Frey replacement in the electric Xavier Bishop. They have played just three games but they whacked UNLV and lost to Pacific by just four. We cannot emphasize how tempting it is to play the Bobcats on the money line here because we trust them to win on the square but the inflated points are way too juicy to pass up on.
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Montana St +6½ -110 (Risking 2.2 units - To Win: 2.00)