Mark Lathrop switches his focus to college basketball, and his dominant non-conference record in 2016-17 has us waiting for the picks he'll bring us. Read on as he breaks down an opening night matchup close to home in Spokane.
The college basketball regular season is upon us again, and after concentrating on an exciting MLB season I’m looking forward to putting in another profitable slog through the collegiate ranks. I’ll begin opening night by looking at a game played 30 minutes away from my house, as the NCAA tournament runner-up Gonzaga Bulldogs takes on Texas Southern University on Friday evening. The line for this game is not widely available, but is listed at 5Dimes in “College Extra” at -30.5 favoring the Gonzaga Bulldogs at home in the NCAA Basketball Odds board.
The last time these two teams played was in 2014; a mid-December date that had Gonzaga winning by 40 points at home. That won’t be the case here, as Gonzaga won’t have the luxury of having their rust off and will be dealing with the loss of 4 NBA caliber players from last year. Texas Southern is also better than the last time they played, and is coming off of a first-place finish in the SWAC and a 2017 NCAA Tournament appearance. They got whacked by North Carolina in the first round though, by the score of 103-64.
Just like Gonzaga though, Texas Southern lost some players of their own. That didn’t matter for preseason votes though, as Texas Southern was picked to win the SWAC once again. Mike Davis (formerly the Indiana Hoosiers head coach) has put together a non-conference gauntlet to make sure that the Tigers are ready for conference play. Texas Southern will play Gonzaga, Washington State, Ohio State, Syracuse, Kansas, Clemson, Oregon, Baylor, TCU, and BYU among others in non-conference play this year. To think that they are worried about this one game in Spokane is likely foolish.
What is sure to effect Gonzaga this year is the difference in size that they will be able to deploy on the floor. Their length caused all kinds of problems last year, yet the players with any kind of height and length this year are all inexperienced. I’m not saying they won’t put it together by the end of the season, but I’m discounting any size advantages Gonzaga has until we see how the starting rotation flushes out. As it stands now, and with injuries to Jesse Wade and Jeremy Jones likely keeping those players out, the Bulldogs will have no size advantage against Texas Southern in this game.
I’d also like to point out that Mark Few is tinkering with his lineup at the moment, and their Saturday 96-67 win over the College of Idaho is a prime example. He’s letting the youngsters with no experience play, and not starting players such as Killian Tillie – who tallied 28 points once he got into the game. The recent Gonzaga injuries will force more of the same, so I believe taking Texas Southern +30.5 points in this game is the wager to make and my NCAAB pick.
2016-17 NCAAB Record: 63-5-3, +7.31 Units