Happy Thanksgiving Day, everyone! Let's get this thing started right. While the majority of sports households across the country will be distracted by tryptophan and a possibly not-boring Lions game, there are plenty of great college basketball matchups to be found.
To celebrate, let's stay on this hot streak. My picks yesterday ended up going 5-1, bringing me to 12-4 on the season. We're in the middle of a roll! And soon, the cranberries.
4:30pm: Massachusetts (+8) @ No. 20 Florida State
Last night I played in my high school's annual alumni game. These kids were big, fast and looooong. Have kids always been this long? It seems like a new development. Anyway, yours truly was checked by the longest of these genetically enhanced 17-year olds and scoring was clearly not in the cards. Until the little squirt jumped for a rebound and the ball tipped backwards to me. Your humble scribe collected and fired. THREE-BALL IN YOUR EYE. On the night I scored four points with 1-2 FG (1-1 3PT) and 1-2 FT. Add that up: 50.0% true shooting percentage! I'll take it. We lost by thirty but I'll gladly trade that for the approval of the in-laws. There should be a stat for that. I'd lead the league. Anyway, both of these teams are undefeated and their defense is tighter than your uncle's grip on that Whiskey snifter. On a neutral court, I like Chaz Williams and the Minutemen.
12:00pm ESPN2: Texas Tech (+5.5) @ Indiana State
Both teams are undefeated, but neither has played anyone worth bragging about yet. This one will be a good test for two squads that appear to be moving in opposite directions - Texas Tech finished last in their preseason conference poll while Indiana State finished third in theirs - but it may be a closer contest than that would suggest. The Sycamores are an attractive mid-major Cinderella choice but four games in and their team stats are, well, pretty atrocious. They don't rebound or shoot the ball very well, but they have held three of the four opponents to under 60 points. Enter the Red Raiders, who are actually shooting the highest field goal percentage in the nation so far. In what will probably be a low-scoring affair, with Tech using good shot selection and heavy doses of junior Ty Nurse, on a neutral floor and the Sycamores without a clear go-to scorer, I'll take the points.
7:00pm ESPN2: Dayton @ Wake Forest (+6.5)
"Run Run Run." That's what Wake Forest head man Jeff Bzdelik will write on the wall before this game, because the Demon Deacons have a chance to pull a minor coup against a good Dayton team that hasn't looked very good so far. Wake Forest is very comfortable with high scores, putting up 80.0 ppg so far and winning three games by at least 11 points. Leading scorers Travis McKie (22.3 ppg) and C.J. Harris (20.7) are booth post better than a 70.0% True Shooting clip. That's bad news for the Flyers, who lost their only close game to Miami (OH) in overtime and committed 22 turnovers in their one road game. Later in the year, this is a game Dayton should win. Right now, they've given you no reason to think they will.
11:30pm ESPN2: Oklahoma @ Washington State (-2)
Oklahoma leads the nation in rebounding and Washington State ranks 309th in the category. Hard to favor the Cougs with stats like that staring you in the face, however, WaZu took No. 23 Gonzaga to the limit a few weeks ago and are shooting the ball extremely well. All three of their leading scorers - Brock Motum, Faisal Aden and DaVonte Lacy - have a True Shooting Percentage 64.9% or higher. While their backcourt doesn't score much, they have quick hands and force a lot of errors from the 2-3 zone. The Sooners may rebound, but they turn the ball over, too. If Oklahoma catches fire from beyond the arc then I'll lose this one, but I'm taking Washington State based on offensive efficiency and big-game experience.