Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 2:30 AM EST.
STETSON +6½ over Liberty
7:00 PM EST. Liberty’s Atlantic Sun Conference dominance ticks on, where Ritchie McKay has suffocated the league with his grinding half court style taken straight out of Tony Bennett’s Virginia playbook. Through three years in the league, Liberty is an absurd 38-7 and has won or shared the regular season title in each year. After losing a stacked 2020 senior class, it seemed the conference might have a chance to catch the Flames last year, but instead, they finished 69 spots higher at KenPom than any other league foe (and 140 higher than any postseason-eligible foe). This year is much of the same with Liberty ranking 123rd in the country and its closest ASUN competitor ranking 190th. The point is that there is a hefty price to pay to get behind Liberty in league play and now they’re priced like they are just as dominant as the past three years when in fact they are not.
Liberty has losses to Manhattan by 16 and to Stephen F by 12. They have a two-point win over Northern Iowa and an eight-point win over Bethune-Cookman. Three of its nine wins have come against Division two schools Boyce, Carver College and Regent University.
Last season, Stetson ranked 345th in experience, rolling out a rotation of four freshmen, three sophomores, and a senior. To the relief of third-year boss Donnie Jones, the band is back and the members are all a year older. The one senior, Christiaan Jones, chose to use his super senior season afforded by COVID, and Stetson brings back 95.2% of its minutes from last year – 21st nationally, per BartTorvik. The Hatters will be a primary test case of the “does continuity equal improvement?” hypothesis, hoping to capitalize on the benefits of returning the same eight-man rotation that delivered Stetson’s best KenPom ranking since 2001.
Last year, the Hatters split every ASUN two game-series with the exception of one. That includes splitting with league champ Liberty so they are not about to be intimidated by a team they beat last year. This year, Stetson is improved while Liberty is not. The Hatters have also played the tougher schedule (ranking 133rd to Liberty’s 192nd), which includes a 10-point loss to Miami, a two-point home loss to Campbell and a nice win over Charleston.
Stetson got its first taste of postseason basketball at the Division I level last year, splitting a pair of games in the CBI. That was a remarkable achievement for such a young team, and with a cadre of shooters back, the potent Hatters’ offense is capable of winning outright here and certainly capable of coming in under the number.
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STETSON +6½ -105 (Risking 2.1 units - To Win: 2.00)