Welcome to the latest edition of the SFBE Vegas Odds for the 2011-2012 season. Ryan ZumMallen will be your host, flaunting his gambling acumen and quickly breaking down the night's most important match-ups.
Ryan is a diehard Jayhawk living, writing and balling in Long Beach, CA. He writes for the Long Beach Gazettes and is an occasional contributor to SLAM Magazine and other outlets.
Today we're tempted by bigtime programs with bigtime spreads and mid-majors with something to prove, so let's get to it.
[Ryan's picks are underlined]
I kicked off this season with a 3-2 start earlier this week, missing those two losses by a combined 1.5 points. So close! Such is the thrill of the gamble. That feeling of "almost" is what keeps suckers running back to their bookie, and it's what will keep this column going throughout the season. Here's to an undefeated Friday.
6:00pm ESPNU: Davidson (+18.5) @ No. 6 Duke
Duke has won two games at Cameron Indoor Stadium by a combined six points over unranked Belmont and Michigan State, so an 18.5 point spread is steep for any opponent. And Davidson is no slouch; Coaches in the Southern Conference overwhelmingly chose the Wildcats as the preseason favorite. Davidson is averaging 93ppg and four Wildcats are scoring in double figures (with six players over 8.5 ppg). Duke will dominate in the post and win the game but Davidson isn't going down easy.
7:00pm: Miami OH @ No. 14 Xavier (-15.5)
Miami pulled off a pretty impressive overtime win over Dayton on Tuesday, forcing 22 turnovers and hitting clutch free throws to pull away. Unfortunately for the Redhawks, none of that will matter in this one. Tu Holloway is surrounded by a lot more depth this season and Xavier will want to avoid being the next Top 25 team to lead Sportscenter with a loss to an unranked team -- so they'll overcompensate.
7:00pm: St. Bonnie (+6) @ Cleveland St
These two could hardly be more evenly matched. Cleveland State is riding high after downing Vanderbilt and is looking to start 3-0. Meanwhile, St. Bonaventure should be one of the top teams in the A-10 and would love nothing more than to stop the Vikings in their tracks. Cleveland State has youth and talent on the perimeter while Bonnie has dominant senior Andrew Nicholson on the inside. KenPom has these two ranked No. 84 and No. 86. Both teams are shooting exactly .500 from the field. We're in for a dogfight of one or two points, not six or seven.
8:30pm: New Mexico (-4.5) @ Arizona St
After two games each, the Lobos are shooting and rebounding better than the Sun Devils. New Mexico is deep, balanced and tough defensively while Arizona State relies almost exclusively on forward Trent Lockett (the rest of the team shot 23.8% from the field in a terrible loss to Pepperdine). Not only should the Lobos win this away game, but it could turn ugly. Quick.
8:00pm ESPN3: Houston (+10) @ Arkansas
Both teams are 2-0, but neither has played a decent opponent and neither has been in a game that finished closer than 13 points. Arkansas is clearly the better team, and at home, but the question is whether or not Houston can keep it close. They've got size in the backcourt and shoot at a good clip but will need an answer for Marshawn Powell. Arkansas has the depth to avoid the upset but with so many unknowns - and with only one senior, Houston might not know any better - the Cougs could make a statement.