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've got a murderer's row in Maui and some unproven undefeateds. Anything can happen!
[Ryan's picks are underlined]
BOOM! Did I call that or what? I needed a solid round of picks last week and I got it with a 4-1 record to move me to 7-3 on the year. That's like, really good you guys. I'll try not to ruin it this time around with a bunch of teams that we really don't know much about. But let's be honest: It's mid/late November, so we don't know much about any team. Doesn't mean we can't bet money on them! Happy Thanksgiving!
9:30pm ESPN3: Virginia Tech @ No. 5 Syracuse (-10.5)
Neither team has been in a game that finished within single digits, and Syracuse has beaten every opponent by at least 24 points. Now, neither team has played anyone that was very good, so we could learn a lot tonight when they both face their toughest battle yet. Syracuse is straight rolling over opponents. No starter played more than 20 minutes in their 45-point blowout of Colgate, but the Scoop Jardine-led offense is on point right now. James Southerland and Dion Waiters have led the team in scoring with 13.8 ppg, and Southerland boasts a whopping .788 True Shooting Percentage. It will be a tall order for the Hokies to keep pace with the Orange, and not even a balanced scoring attack led by Dorenzo Hudson (19.3 ppg) and excellent shooting (51.3% FG, 42.3% 3PT) will be able to reveal chinks in Boeheim's famous zone.
10:00pm ESPN: No. 6 Duke (-4.5) @ No. 14 Kansas
We're making no secret of the fact that I was practically born in blue and red, so this pick is particularly painful. At this point in the season I think the Blue Devils are definitely 4.5 points better than the Jayhawks, even though they're much more evenly matched than they look on paper. Duke has kind of sauntered through their wins as they figure out how to play with each other. Meanwhile, Kansas is playing at full throttle already with the limited talent they have on the floor. So these two teams catch each other at separate ends of the chemistry spectrum, but ultimately Duke has far more weapons that Kansas. The Blue Devils shot lights out from beyond the arc in their win over #15 Michigan, but rebounding is an issue and the Jayhawks are beginning to find scoring options beyond Thomas Robinsin and Tyshawn Taylor.
5:00pm ESPN2: No. 8 Memphis (+1) @ Georgetown
Even with Memphis falling to #15 Michigan and being taken to double-OT by unranked Tennessee last night, I'm not sure how you give points to the Tigers. The Georgetown offense is highly reliant on senior Jason Clark, and he's not going to hit 6 three-pointers every night like he did in a career-high 28 point performance against Chaminade. I really like the Hoyas: They shoot the ball well, play strong defense and took #14 Kansas to the limit. But they turn the ball over too often to beat a Memphis team with blinding speed and more ability than they know what to do with. Even after a physically and emotionally draining game last night, Memphis will not only win, but Will Barton & Co. will run away with it.
7:30pm ESPN2: No. 15 Michigan (-5.5) @ UCLA
Living in SoCal, I caught the Fox Sports radio crew coverage of UCLA vs. Kansas last night as I drove from work to the Long Beach State vs. Boise State game. The atrocities coming out of Don MacLean's mouth made me want to swerve into the Pacific. After the Bruins plummeted off everyone's Top 25 rankings with two very bad losses, the UCLA great predicted that the Bruins would bounce back with a win over KU last night. His reason? UCLA COMING OFF A BIG WIN OVER CHAMINADE. I'm sorry, but if a team is 0-2 against D-I schools and 1-0 against D-II, you do not get to classify that as a "big win" and it damn sure isn't grounds to claim that they'll beat the Jayhawks. His other reason? THE RETURN OF REEVES NELSON. I like Nelson. He's a lot of fun to watch and I'm sure he's a great kid. But he should not be the best player on your team. ESPECIALLY if you are trying to play teams like Kansas and Michigan. Nick is right, but the point is not that UCLA doesn't deserve the ridicule, it's that they don't deserve the hype. Yes, the Bruins will improve dramatically as the season goes on. Yes, they fought back from a big deficit to keep the KU game close. But this is just not a team that can hang with ranked opponents right now. Timmy Hardaway Jr. makes short work of Jerime Anderson tonight.
8:30pm: San Diego State (+7) @ No. 23 Arizona
I really like this matchup. Arizona has a lot of talent and needs to prove that they deserve to stay ranked, while a loss here would certainly knock them out. They run a balanced attack with five guys over 9.6 ppg led by Kyle Fogg, Solomon Hill and the explosive Nick Johnson. Meanwhile, San Diego State is trying to prove that last season's success was no fluke. I caught them in action last weekend in their home win over Long Beach State, and came away impressed with their toughness and balance. One player would score on a run of 6-8 points, then when Long Beach figured it out the Aztecs would switch to another scorer that went on a run of his own. Chase Tapley didn't play well in that game but Jamaal Franklin killed Long Beach with one big shot after another, and James Rahon and Xavier Thames stepped up for clutch buckets when they needed them. I think Arizona wins the game because they're much better inside than San Diego, but it stays close.
7:00pm ESPN2: Stanford (+2) @ Oklahoma State
In a matchup of two undefeated teams that I really don't know much about, I like the Cardinal even though they're on the road in a hostile environment. They've played tougher opponents than the Cowboys with big wins over Fresno State and Colorado State and run a balanced, efficient attack led by point guard Aaron Bright. He'll have the pleasure of checking freshman Cezar Guerrero, who hit 8 threes for 29 points in the OT win over UTSA. It should be a great duel, but ultimately I like Stanford's poise. While OK State is fourth in the nation in rebounding, it's mostly because they haven't played anybody and I don't think they can rely on another outburst like that from Guerrero.