Cardinal To Take Advantage Of SMU's Schedule In Tonight's Matchup - NCAA Basketball Pick

Willie Bee

Monday, December 19, 2016 3:49 PM UTC

Monday, Dec. 19, 2016 3:49 PM UTC

SMU is a 9 point favorite on the college basketball odds tonight, and the Mustangs are looking to extend their 5-game win streak against the Stanford Cardinal. Our expert capper provides his insight on this game and a free pick.

Season: 14-14 (-1.40)

If you asked 1st-year head coaches Jerod Haase and Tim Jankovich how it was going so far for their teams, they'd probably both say things are so-so with their clubs in the top 20% of the latest Ken Pomeroy Ratings.

If only one makes it to the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, however, it could come down to who wins tonight's battle in Dallas where the SMU Mustangs host the Stanford Cardinal in a 9PM (ET) clash which can be seen on ESPN2. After first opening up at BetOnline as a touchdown favorite, SMU has been pushed up to -9 for the contest. With both sides sporting leans to the 'under' this season, the scoreboard mark is 131.


Ponies Riding 4-Game Win Streak

If you asked me how Stanford was doing, I'd say better than expected. The close of Johnny Dawkins' tenure running Stanford's hardwood program was mediocre at best, the squad coming off a 15-15 campaign that followed the NIT Championship in 2015. A return to the NIT was about as high as any pundit predicted for the Cardinal this season, and an upset this evening would definitely put them in that mix.

Haase's troops have played one of the toughest schedules in the nation, SMU being the fifth opponent currently listed in Joe Lunardi's bracket. The only win so far came as 4½ point underdogs on the NCAA basketball odds vs. Seton Hall at the AdvoCare Invitational. Junior forward Reid Travis is Stanford's brightest star, but the Cardinal's outside game needs work ranking 321st in the country hitting threes (29.6%).

Southern Methodist is doing much better from beyond the arc (36.8%, 97th), and has spread the scoring around better than Stanford with four players putting up double-digits. Semi Ojeleye (17.6 ppg) and Shake Milton (12.2) lead the way on offense, but it's defense where the Ponies truly excel. The Mustangs rank 20th nationally allowing 61.4 PPG and 29th in rebounding (40.6 rpg) as they come into this one with a 4-game win streak, one of those a couple of weeks ago handing D-FW metroplex rival TCU its first and only loss of the season.

 1st Game Of Back-To-Backs For SMU

Stanford and SMU are meeting for the second consecutive season, and fourth time overall with the Cardinals up 2-1 in the prior three skirmishes. The Cardinal grabbed dubyas in the first two contests (1963, 1998) before the Mustangs came to Stanford in November 2015 and left with an 85-70 decision. Jankovich served as interim head coach for that win due to Larry Brown being suspended, and the Mustangs covered as 5 point road chalk with the final skipping past a 145½ point total with about 90 seconds to spare.

The Mustangs are clearly the better team and deserve to be nearly double-digit home favorites, but one thing that concerns me is playing again tomorrow night. While that one comes against Albany before beginning their Christmas break, Jankovich doesn't have a deep rotation and may try to work some extra bench time for his top players. My free basketball pick will be to take the visiting Cardinal.

Free NCAA Basketball Pick: Stanford +9Best Line Offered: at BetOnline

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