Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 2:30 PM EST.
Illinois -6½ -105 over MINNESOTA
8:00 PM EST. The Gophers are 10-1. The market absolutely adores teams that rack up wins but what that 10-1 record doesn’t reveal is that Minnesota has played the 294th ranked Strength of Schedule (SOS) in America. The Gophers have racked up narrow wins over Western Kentucky, Princeton (in double OT), Jacksonville by 11 (not narrow but not a blowout, a one-point win over Pittsburgh and an eight-point win over Texas A&M-CC. That 10-1 record doesn’t reveal that the Gophers only rebounded 16.9 percent of their misses, which is the lowest percentage in the country according to BartTorvik.com. They also have the shortest bench in the country, meaning production off the bench is non-existent.
Scheduling games against garbage is the Pitino way, whether it was Rick Pitino or his son Richard. It was a way to pad one’s record and get them noticed but there was always a price to pay. Richard was fired after eight seasons with the Golden Gophers after last year but it was he who orchestrated the non-conference schedule for this season (and probably next) so this is not Ben Johnson’s doing. The Gophers own the most misleading record in the entire country and we have to try and take advantage of that 10-1 by getting behind their opposition at reduced rates.
Illinois is a 9-3 team that is spotting a significant amount of road points to a 10-1 team. The market may very well be enticed to grab the points but we urge you not to. You see, the Illini might be the best team in the Big-10. They’re a deep group that owns the 13th-best scoring offense in America and they’ll also have the three best players on the floor tonight, led by seven-foot center Kofi Cockburn. Cockburn is a stud in every sense. He’s averaging 21.8 points and 12.1 rebounds per contest. He’s hitting 62% of his field-goal attempts and has a double-double in all but two games this season. He’s a 7-footer and Minnesota hasn’t got anyone who can stop him. Dude will be like “The Chief” in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Illinois also ranks second in the nation in offensive rebounds, which means they extend their possessions 42% of the time on missed shots. The discrepancy in talent here is wide but Minnesota’s record masks that fact, thus presenting us with this great opportunity.
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Illinois -7 -101 (Risking 2.02 units - To Win: 2.00)