'Tis the season to follow conference action on the college basketball betting schedule, and SBR has three quick previews with free picks from the Big 12, ACC and West Coast.
West Virginia vs. Texas Christian
Six teams headed into 2015 with unbeaten records, five of them ranked in the top 25 by both the writers and coaches. The lone exception is TCU, and the Horned Frogs put their 13-0 record on the line at home Saturday afternoon in the Big 12 Conference opener against the West Virginia Mountaineers.
It's the second consecutive year WVU and TCU start their Big 12 schedules against one another, and the only way to see it is to be inside Daniel-Meyer Coliseum for the 4 PM (ET) tip. West Virginia started the wagering at -1½ with that spread now a point higher. SBR's live NCAA Basketball odds have yet to detect a total for this game or any others on Saturday's slate, but will have that number as soon as lazy sports books put one out.
This is the fifth meeting between the Horned Frogs and Mountaineers, each of the previous four coming in the last two seasons during the conference slate and all of the games ending in a victory for West Virginia. Not only have the Mountaineers won all four clashes, their backers cashed each time out while totals split, 2-2 O/U.
It has been a while since TCU got off to such an impressive start, a 10-1 beginning to the 1997-98 campaign the closest to the current school record for wins to open a season. It has also been a while since TCU won a conference game, March 2013 against Oklahoma to be exact. That is one of only two Big 12 dubyas the Horned Frogs have since joining the conference, and a setback to West Virginia in last year's conference opener started a 0-19 run through the Big 12.
Trent Johnson's gang will get a chance to prove this 13-0 start is no fluke with a very tough Big 12 slate coming up. The first five home games for the Frogs are against ranked teams, and they'll play a 7-game stretch from Jan. 19 through February 11 vs. squads presently in the AP or USA Today polls.
Never argue with a streak, a wise old gambler once told me, so I'll play TCU's conference losing skid to continue with a free pick on the Mountaineers.
Free NCAA Basketball Pick: West Virginia -2.5 at BetOnline
Virginia vs. Miami (FL)
Another one of the six unbeatens also begins its conference card Saturday when the Virginia Cavaliers head south to Miami to take on the Hurricanes. Bank United Center in Coral Gables hosts the ACC clash with ESPN2 on hand for the tip-off 5:30 PM (ET). Virginia started at -7½ on the college basketball odds, that spread now -8 at many sports books.
Miami came out of the chute strong with eight consecutive wins to open the 2014-15 college basketball betting season, two of those triumphs coming against Florida and Illinois. Jim Larrañaga's lads hit a speed bump after beating the Illini, however, dropping three of four before Tuesday's rout of Charleston, 67-40.
Virginia was busy beating Davidson that same night, though the Cavaliers couldn't cover a spread that opened at -16½ in the process of moving to 12-0 on the year. Tony Bennett's bunch will be aiming for their 1st-ever ACC win on Miami's floor, losing all five attempts and covering but two trips while four of the five remained 'under' the total.
The Cavs should end their losing streak on this floor, but covering could be a different story. I'm taking the 'Canes and the points.
Free NCAA Basketball Pick: Miami +8
Gonzaga vs. Portland
A 3-game road trip to begin their West Coast Conference schedule comes to an end for Mark Few and the Gonzaga Bulldogs in one of Saturday's late games. Gonzaga, No. 7/8 in the latest rankings, pays a visit to Portland for a tangle with the Pilots, ESPN2 broadcasting the collision at 9:30 PM (ET). SBR's live NCAA basketball odds has Gonzaga in the -11½ to -12 range.
Few and the Bulldogs started their WCC slate off on the right foot with an 87-80 win and cover at BYU a week ago, following that up with another straight-up and spread victory at San Diego on Monday. The Pilots also began league action with two road covers, but were unable to record the outright win this past Monday at BYU in a high-scoring affair.
The Zags have ruled this series over the past 20 years or so, winning 35 of the previous 37 meetings and taking 17 in a row at Portland before last season's lone trip to Chiles Center. The Pilots halted a 20-game losing run against the Bulldogs with an 82-73 decision as 8½ point underdogs, and have covered 3-straight at home heading into Saturday's tilt.
Gonzaga has done just enough to cover on the road, and they've taken care of their conference revenge games so far as well. I'm laying the points on the Bulldogs for my final free NCAA Basketball Pick.
Free NCAA Basketball Pick: Gonzaga -11½
Willie Bee for the NCAAB Season: 8-14 (-7.40)