Pick Oklahoma to Cover vs. Creighton for NCAA Basketball

Doug Upstone

Wednesday, November 19, 2014 5:58 PM GMT

Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014 5:58 PM GMT

College basketball handicappers get an opportunity at a surprisingly rare matchup tonight in Omaha, when these two Midwestern schools with traditionally strong programs will meet for only the second time in their long histories.

The Breakdown
The Sooners enter at 1-0 SU and ranked 18th in the recent polls. The unranked Bluejays have begun 2-0 in the post-Doug McDermott days. The college basketball odds in sportsbooks opened at +4 for the home squad, and moved to +5.5 by late-morning, as a majority bettors are leaning to the Sooners among their sports picks. Tip off in Omaha is 8 pm Eastern time and can viewed on Fox Sports1.

 

Sooners Preview
Lon Kruger and Co. are trying to build on a 23-10 season that ended with a second-round loss in the NCAA tournament. In their season- and home- opener, they soundly beat Southeast Louisiana 78-53 in an un-lined game.

What we saw in that one was a team-leading 25-point performance by 6-4 G Buddy Hield, who added seven rebounds in 28 minutes. PG Jordan Woodard contributed seven assists, seven points and four steals in his 28 minutes. Two others put up double-doubles in 25 minutes: 6-8 F and Gonzaga transfer Ryan Spangler had 11 points and 11 rebounds, while 6-4 G Isaiah Cousins went for 14 points and 10 rebounds, as the Sooners grabbed 49 rebounds in all.

The fifth starter is and University of Houston transfer TaShawn Thomas. He had only 4 points and 3 rebounds in the opener, as he integrates into Kruger's system after averaging 15.4 points and 8 rebounds for the Cougars last season. Oddly, the Sooners shot only 38.7 percent from the field against Southeast Louisiana, and 42.9 percent from three-point range. F Dante Buford will miss the entire season due to academic reasons.

 

Bluejays Preview
How do you replace the contributions of All-American Doug McDermott? Well, so far, that hasn't been much of a problem. The Bluejays successfully have swallowed two cupcakes by rolling up the points: 104-77 over Central Arkansas in an unlined season- and home-opener; and 84-66 over Chicago State, who snuck in under a 23.5-point spread in the college basketball odds. In addition to reconfiguring an attack that relied so heavily on his son, coach Greg McDermott also has had to work through senior PG Austin Chatman's recovery from off-season thumb surgery, which caused him to miss some early practices.

In the Chicago State victory, 6-11 C Will Artino lead the way with 20 points and 8 rebounds in 22 minutes. 6-9 F Toby Hegner totaled 17 points and 10 rebounds in 30 minutes. 6-2 G Devin Brooks had 10 rebounds, 6 points and 6 assists, and floor-leader Chatman had 5 points and 4 assists. Off the bench, 6-2 G Isaiah Zierden totaled 18 points in 22 minutes.

The Bluejays' 94 points per game average is 13th in the NCAA, as is their 82.5 percent free-throw mark. Through two games, Artino leads the squad with averages of 17 points, 9 rebounds, 61.9 percent from the field and 3 steals. But this will surprised nobody making college basketball picks -- their defense is very porous statistically across the board. In fact, after two games they are 325th in 3-point percentage allowed (44.7), 273rd in field-goal percentage allowed (45.9), and 246th in points per game allowed (71.5). This matchup with the Sooners probably won't help those totals much. Guard Avery Dingman is out indefinitely with an ankle injury.

 

Coaching Matchup
This is a good one. Kruger is in his 30th season in a career that has wound through Texas-Pan American, Kansas State, Florida, Illinois, Nevada-Las Vegas and Oklahoma, and brought a 538-342 (.611) mark into the season. He has one Final Four appearance and 15 tournament appearances to his credit.

McDermott is in year 15, and has posted a 260-169 mark in stops at Northern Iowa, Iowa State and Creighton. Six of his teams have reached the NCAA tournament, but none made the Final Four.

 

The Pick
Too much for Creighton to overcome from a talent perspective and consider this system - Favorites of 3.5 to 9.5 points like Oklahoma, in a game involving two teams who had good records (60% to 80%) from last season, with three or more starters returning from last year than their opponent in the first five games of a new year, are 22-3 ATS the last 17 seasons.

NCAA Basketball Free Pick: Oklahoma -5.5 at 5Dimes

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