High/Low Picks For Thursday, February 9

Matthew Jordan

Wednesday, February 8, 2017 8:46 PM UTC

Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017 8:46 PM UTC

The biggest spread on the opening NCAA basketball board for Thursday is No. 20 Saint Mary’s giving three TDs and a field goal or so against Portland, while the smallest number is a pick’em between Saint Peter’s and Quinnipiac. Here are my picks.

Portland At No. 20 Saint Mary’s (-24)

West Coast Conference game, and this could be a huge trap for the Gaels. I don’t think they have any shot of losing, but they could easily be looking ahead to Saturday when they host No. 1 and unbeaten Gonzaga in one of the biggest events in school history. That’s probably the only realistic chance that the Zags have of losing before the NCAA Tournament. The Gaels are 21-2 overall and 11-1 in the WCC with their only conference loss to Gonzaga. SMC is one of the best offensive teams in the nation in averaging 119.9 points per 100 possessions, trailing only UCLA and Gonzaga. Yet it’s also great on defense, allowing just 56.6 points (No. 2 nationally). The Gaels’ star is Aussie center Jock Landale. Last year, he averaged just 7.9 points and 3.9 rebounds but lost 20 pounds in the offseason and is now putting up 16.9 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. He’s a WCC Player of the Year candidate.

Portland is just 9-15 overall and tied for last in the WCC with a 2-10 mark. The Pilots’ season went down the tubes when star guard Alec Wintering, who was averaging 19.5 points (first on team), 5.6 assists (first) and 4.6 rebounds (third), went down with a torn ACL around three weeks ago. Portland hasn’t won since and enters on a 10-game losing streak. The past seven have been by double digits so you can see why the big spread here. The Pilots hosted Saint Mary’s on Jan. 12 and lost 74-33, easily a season low in points scored. The school’s lowest-ever point total was 27 points in a 43-27 loss to Pacific Lutheran in 1947-48.

The road team has covered nine of the past 12 in the series. I believe Portland will here. SMC will get out to a huge lead and then get the starters out ahead of Saturday’s big game. The Pilots will cover in garbage time.

NCAAB Free Pick: Portland +24Best Line Offered: Heritage

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Saint Peter’s At Quinnipiac (Pick’em)

This one is from the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, but I’m sure you knew that. Saint Peter’s (12-12, 8-6) is in a three-way tie for third in the league – Monmouth is going to be the regular-season champion. The Peacocks had some respectable non-conference results, losing by only 10 at Maryland and eight at Notre Dame. Saint Peter’s has had some tough luck lately, losing three in a row by a combined six points with two in overtime. On Monday, it was a 72-70 loss to Canisius.  After the Peacocks tied the game at 70 and with no timeouts, the Golden Griffins' Malik Johnson went the length of the floor and banked in a contested game-winning layup with 0.1 left on the clock. SPC turned the ball over 21 times, leading to 32 Canisius points. The Peacocks have lost each of the last five MAAC games by just one possession and by a combined total of 10 points.

Quinnipiac (10-14, 7-7) comes off a last-second 73-71 win at Fairfield on Monday. Freshman guard Peter Kiss (great name) scored six of his 18 points in the final 1:08 and nailed the go-ahead basket from about six feet out with 1.9 seconds left. He added 12 rebounds and five assists as the Bobcats rallied from a 14-point second-half deficit. Kiss is one of the conference’s best freshmen and the two-time reigning MAAC Rookie of the Week. Yet he’s not even the best freshman on his team: Mikey Dixon leads the club in scoring (16.6 ppg). He has been named MAAC Rookie of the Week four times.

With a win Thursday, the Peacocks would earn their first series sweep ever vs. Qunnipiac. Saint Peter’s won 58-54 at home on Jan. 9. The road team is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings.

NCAAB Free Pick: Saint Peter’s At Pick'emBest Line Offered: BetOnline

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