Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 10:30 AM EST.
WEST VIRGINIA -17½ over Northeastern
2:00 PM EST. Even Bill Coen might call last year a slight disappointment for the Northeastern Huskies. With a relatively experienced team and an out-and-out star in Jordan Roland leading the offensive attack, Northeastern floated along as a .500 team all season, going 6-6 in the non-conference and 9-9 in league play. A run to the CAA Tournament championship game nearly salvaged the meandering campaign, but the Huskies ultimately fell to a tremendous Hofstra team, depriving Coen of his second straight NCAA Tournament bid and third in six years.
Without Roland and fellow senior stalwart Bolden Brace, Coen now faces a daunting rebuilding task, particularly on the offensive end. Roland and Brace were two of the country’s most efficient all-around shooters, with Roland flirting with the 50/40/90 club on high volume and Brace not far behind; the two ranked 72nd and 126th nationally in true shooting percentage. Roland played a ton of minutes last year, and in the rare instances where he sat, the offense bottomed out.
Northeastern is 1-4. They lost to Syracuse by six and to Old Dominion by four by those are two rebuilding programs. When Northeastern played Georgia a week ago, they lost by 18 and now take a giant step up in class when facing the Mountaineers here.
West Virginia is not a team the market is comfortable spotting heavy lumber with. For years, WVU’s offense has been its Achilles Heel but this year’s squad actually has some shooting on the floor. Last year’s team was completely undermined by its almost-comical impotence from beyond the arc, ranking a dismal 329th nationally in 3PA rate and an even worse 338th in 3P% (28.6%). This season, the Mountaineers have found the range to get them to an acceptable level. Deuce McBride’s development is the most important arc for West Virginia’s offense, but teams also have to be legitimately worried about former JUCO transfers Taz Sherman and Sean McNeil as they space the floor around WVU’s frontcourt onslaught.
The narrative we’re reading about this game is that it is a sandwich game for the Mountaineers after coming off a game against #3 Kansas with Oklahoma on deck on Jan 2. We’d buy that angle had WVU beat Kansas but they did not. As a two-point pooch, the Mountaineers were actually hammered by 15 points and for a game to be considered a sandwich game, it first has to qualify, meaning, WVU had to battle to the bitter end and lose a heartbreaker or win outright. None of that happened so those discussing a “sandwich spot” know not what they’re talking about. If WVU does not cover, it’s not because they’re looking ahead. They had a bad game, which requires more focus, not to mention a coach in a foul mood.
As for Northeastern, well, they did not pick the best time to face the Mountaineers. Led by two sophomores (Tyson Walker and Chris Doherty) and with as many as four freshmen getting playing time, this will be one of Coen’s youngest teams. It also lacks the perimeter pop that he’s had in recent seasons but the market sees WVU in a bad spot against a team with some decent pedigree recently and they’re likely going to eat it up. Northeastern is an extremely weak conference, they’re a one-man show and if WVU shows up like we trust they will after a bad loss, 65 points might get us the cover. They might score closer to 80.
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WEST VIRGINIA -17½ -103 (Risking 2.06 units - To Win: 2.00)