Underdog SMU Is Our NCAA Basketball Pick Against Connecticut

Jason Lake

Wednesday, February 17, 2016 8:12 PM GMT

Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016 8:12 PM GMT

The SMU Mustangs are banned from the postseason. Will they be deflated enough to make the Connecticut Huskies the right basketball pick for Thursday night's matchup?

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Free NCAA Basketball Pick: SMU +3½ -110
Best Line Offered: at BetOnline

 

Jason's 2015-16 record as of Feb. 17: 5-4 ATS, 1-1 Totals
The SMU Mustangs know a thing or two about NCAA violations. In 1987, their football program was the first to suffer the “death penalty” as a repeat offender. Nearly 30 years later, Larry Brown's basketball program is in hot water; the Mustangs were barred from the postseason way back in September, and Brown was suspended for the first nine games. Fraud: It's what's for dinner.

They might not go dancing this year, but the Mustangs (21-3 SU, 9-11 ATS) are still motivated to defend their regular-season AAC title, and they're just a half-game back of the Temple Owls with six games left to go. Next up is Thursday's tilt (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2) versus the Connecticut Huskies, who are well on the road to March Madness at 18-7 SU and 10-10-1 ATS. The Huskies are 2-point home faves on our NCAA basketball odds boards as we go to press.

 

Still The 1
Temple might be on top of the AAC standings right now, but according to Sports-Reference, the Mustangs (+18.8 SRS) have outperformed everyone else in the conference by a fair margin. The Huskies (+16.2 SRS) aren't too far behind on the Simple Rating System, but if we give them 3.5 points for home-court advantage, we get a kayfabe spread around UConn –1 for Thursday's matchup.

Without any significant injuries reported on either side, one might conclude that SMU belongs in our NCAA basketball picks this week. The Mustangs have gotten the better of UConn since joining “The American” in 2013; they're 4-1 SU and ATS after five meetings. Meanwhile, the Huskies have dropped the cash in each of their last three games, while the Mustangs have fallen into a six-game zigzag pattern SU and ATS that's “due” for a loss in Game 7. We're not going to worry about that pattern too much here at the ranch.

 

The Brown Note
Brown added a little extra spice to this matchup when he held a conference call with reporters on Tuesday and called the NCAA's postseason ban “a bunch of bull.” The venerable head coach was defiant in support of his players, and said that any punishment should have fallen on his shoulders, not theirs. The Mustangs have responded by playing even better than they did last year, moving up four spots to No. 19 (No. 6 offense, No. 90 defense) on Ken Pomeroy's efficiency charts.

The Huskies are back in Tournament contention after rebuilding last year under coach Kevin Ollie, and once again, they're not far behind SMU at No. 24 (No. 83 offense, No. 7 defense) on the Pomeroy charts. They should be even better next year, but for now, we're going to recommend a very small wager on the Mustangs. May the sphere be with you.

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