The Billikens have lost a lot of their key players from last season, but they should still be a contender in the Atlantic 10. That being said, are they worthy of being seven-point college basketball betting favorites tonight? We're not so sure.
Depending on where you look, the Billikens are favored by either 6.5 or 7 points on the college basketball odds. Earlier, Saint Louis was favored by even more (up to 7.5), so the movement would lead you to believe the public isn't quite sure the Billikens deserved to be such heavy favorites.
The total for tonight's game inside Chaifetz Arena has yet to have been made public by college basketball odds makers.
Saint Louis Billikens
Since the Billikens have yet to play a regular season game yet, we should look back and run over their 2013-14 performance.
It was a succcesful season for Saint Louis, who finished with a 27-7 overall record. The Billikens were disappointing come tournament time though, as they lost early in the A-10 tournament and then bowed out to Louisville in the third round of the NCAA tournament.
Dwayne Evans, Jordair Jett and Rob Loe were the three main scorers for the team. Evans averaged 14.0 PPG and 6.5 RPG, while Jett was good for 13.9 PPG, 4.0 RPG and 4.8 APG in 2013-14.
Evans, Jett, Loe and Mike McCall Jr. are all gone now, so it's going to be intriguing to see how this team rebuilds for the 2014-15 season. There are only two seniors on this year's team, those being Grandy Glaze and John Manning. It's a freshman-heavy team, as nine new guys are on campus this coming season.
Despite a lot of new faces, we still expect Saint Louis to be a contender in the conference. That being said, we may want to be careful and see how these Billikens fare early on before trusting them when placing our final college basketball picks.
Southern Illinois Salukis
The Salukis didn't exactly light the world on fire last year, finishing with a forgettable 14-19 overall record. They were an even 9-9 in conference play. Nonetheless, it's not like Southern Illinois wasn't competitive. Looking over their box scores, the Salukis rarely got blown out, which bodes well for tonight's game, given the relatively high spread.
Desmar Jackson was the star of the show for this team in 2013-14, as he averaged 18.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game. The only other Saluki to average in double figures was Anthony Beane, who was good for 14.7 points a contest. He shot an impressive 39.4 percent from three. Jackson is gone, but Beane returns, so Southern Illinois will at least have some continuity from last year. Jalen Pendleton, Sean O'Brien and Tyler Smithpeters played significant minutes for the Salukis in 2013-14, so you have to figure they'll be key part of the rotations this coming season as well.
It should also be noted that Southern Illinois finished strong last season, going 8-4 over the team's last 12 games. That's encouraging news for those that are seriously considering the road team with their sports picks tonight.
NCAA Basketball Pick
As we ran over in the Saint Louis blurb, we're going to tread carefully with these Billikens. They're young and have had to rebuild.
Losing practically all of your important players is a big deal, so we have to think it's going to take time for the Billikens to get comfortable with one another on the court.
Until then, there may be value in fading Saint Louis, with the public perhaps thinking about their 2013-14 success rather than their 2014-15 prospects. Southern Illinois is in a good spot to cover the number as an underdog, so we'll roll with them to close out our college basketball picks for Saturday evening. They built up some momentum with a strong finish to 2013-14 and we like them to come out and play well in the opener.
Free NCAA Basketball Pick: Southern Illinois Salukis +7 at Bet365