The college basketball betting gods sure are fickle; they'll love you one night, then slap you down the next. But what choice do we have, but to try, try again? Here's a pair of free picks for Thursday.
Washington -6 vs. Oregon State
The 11-4 Beavers, one of the more pleasant surprises in college basketball so far this season, take a two-game Pac-12 winning streak to Seattle to play the 11-4 Huskies.
Oregon State began this season with a new head coach and five new starters, which sounds like a recipe for a long winter. But the Beavers have exceeded expectations for those placing NCAA Basketball picks so far, going 11-3 against the spreads. They went 9-3 straight up through non-conference, then opened Pac-12 play with a 71-59 loss at Oregon two weeks ago. So we had a feeling the good start might go for naught. But OSU then beat Arizona State 55-47, covering as a one-point home favorite, then last time out upset Arizona 58-56, winning straight-up as a 10-point home dog. The Beavers shot 51 percent from the floor, and caught the Wildcats on a cold night, holding them to just 38 percent shooting.
However, a performance like that goes in our books as a precursor to a fade play. Our guess is Oregon State won't shoot 51 percent Thursday night.
Washington is a bit of a puzzle at the moment. The Huskies returned three starters this season from a team that went 17-15 last year, then started 11-0, with wins over San Diego State and Oklahoma. But U-Dub then got upset by Stony Brook, and has lost its first three Pac-12 contests. The Huskies fell by six points at Cal, lost in overtime at Stanford and, last time out, got upset at home by Washington State 80-77, losing outright as 11-point favorites.
Here's the deal; Oregon State, from what we can tell, has probably been playing a bit above its head so far, while Washington has lost four close games in a row. We expect the Beavers, sooner or later, to come back to Earth, and the Huskies can't go on losing close games forever. It's a little tough backing a team that's lost four games in a row, but this play is more of a fade on Oregon State than a take on Washington.
Free College Basketball Pick: Huskies -6 at 5Dimes
Gonzaga -12 at Pepperdine
Our second pick also involves a team, the 11-5 Waves, we believe might be due for a letdown.
Pepperdine has won three games in a row, the last two as betting underdogs. One week ago the Waves upset BYU in Provo 67-61, winning outright as 15-point road dogs. And last time out, last Saturday, they won at San Diego 59-47 as four-point road dogs in NCAA Basketball odds. Pepperdine didn't do anything all that impressive on offense in those two games, but held the Cougars to 38 percent FG shooting and the Toreros to 30 percent.
Bigger-picture, while the Waves are off to a 4-1 start in WCC play, when the dust clears we expect to find them in the lower division of the conference standings.
Gonzaga, meanwhile, is just being Gonzaga again this season. The Bulldogs have lost one game so far, in overtime at Arizona, and at the moment own a nine-game winning streak. The Zags are also 8-4-2 ATS on the season, despite being favored in every game but one, and often by large numbers. One week ago Gonzaga beat San Francisco 88-57, covering as a 20-point favorite, and last Saturday the Zags beat Santa Clara 79-57, but couldn't quite cover at -24.
Bottom line, Gonzaga is a solid favorite, playing on the road, where the spread is more manageable, going against a team currently on our “fade” list. So we'll take the Zags, minus the points.
Free College Basketball Pick: Gonzaga -12 at Pinnacle