After treading water for several days this handicapper finally hit a two-fer Wednesday night, going 2-0 with our free NCAA basketball picks. Here's our attempt at a repeat performance for tonight.
Cincinnati vs. SMU -6.5
The Mustangs, back in the rankings this week, host the Bearcats for a big game in the American Athletic Conference.
SMU, the preseason favorite to win the AAC, owns an eight-game winning streak, after dumping Central Florida Saturday 75-56. But because they were favored by so much – 19 points- the Mustangs could only come up with the push on the spread.
Just before that SMU won at South Florida 63-52 but pushed at -11. Before that, though, the Mustangs had won four in a row ATS, covering at -3 over Temple, -18 over East Carolina, -8 at Tulane and -18 against Houston. So we do respect SMU's ability to cover spreads.
Cincy, meanwhile, had won four games in a row, all by double-digits, but last time out got upset at East Carolina 50-46. The 'Cats led that game 46-39 late, but let the Pirates score the last 11 points of the game. Cincy shot just 36 percent from the floor Sunday, made just three of 18 from beyond the arc and lost outright as a 10-point favorite. Ouch.
Bigger-picture, SMU is 9-1 in conference play, a half-game behind first-place Tulsa, while the UC is tied for fourth place at 6-3. Interestingly, at least to us, the Mustangs visit the Hurricane Saturday night.
The Bearcats won the first meeting this season between these teams a month ago in Cincinnati 56-50. UC shot 46 percent from the floor, held the Mustangs to 43 percent shooting and won outright as a one-point home dog.
We don't usually subscribe to the “looking ahead” factor, but in this case, with SMU, it's difficult to dismiss, with the big game at Tulsa coming Saturday. Also, both these teams play tough defense, and for what figures to be low-scoring scrum it never hurts to take the points rather than give them. The Mustangs may still be the better team in this match-up, but playing at home they're probably favored by a bucket or so too much. And we like Cincy's chances to bounce back with a better performance than it put on last time out. So we'll take the underdog Bearcats here, as our free NCAA basketball pick plus the points.
Free NCAA Basketball Pick: Cincinnati +6.5 at 5Dimes
Washington State vs. Oregon State -7
Two teams coming off polar-opposite performances meet when the Beavers host the Cougars.
OSU just went 0-2 both SU and ATS during a two-game trip to the state of Arizona, losing at Arizona State 73-55 and at Arizona 57-34. The offensively-challenge Beavers shot just 29 percent from the floor last Friday, and while they held the Wildcats to 41 percent shooting they faded late, and missed on the spread as 18-point dogs.
But before that trip Oregon State had won three in a row, and five of six. At 14-7 overall and 5-4 in the Pac-12 the Beavers, who we thought might finish in last place in the Pac-12 this season, have a shot at the NCAA tournament.
Wazzu, meanwhile, had lost four games in a row, both SU and ATS, but pulled an upset last time out, nipping Stanford 89-88 as a nine-point home dog. The Cougars shot a hot 55 percent from the floor Saturday, made seven of 16 three-point attempts and went 30-for-43 from the free-throw line.
We'll go out on a limb here and say Washington State will not shoot 55 percent Thursday night.
Oregon State isn't exactly a powerhouse, but it has every right to a bounce-back performance tonight. The Beavers ran into a tough defensive squad last time out, and their offensive shortcomings made things even worse. But the Cougars don't play the kind of defense the Wildcats do.
Also, Oregon State just beat Washington State three weeks ago up in Pullman 62-47, winning SU as a three-point NCAA basketball odds underdog. We won't be surprised to see a similar outcome tonight.
Free College Basketball Pick: Beavers -7 at BetOnline