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Reply To: CBB • Friday Service Plays • 12/4/15

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ROBERT FERRINGO

2-Unit Play. Take #514 Columbia (-2.5)
over St. Joseph’s (7 p.m., Friday, Dec. 4)
This is a bad spot for a good St. Joe’s team. They wound up and took their shot against Big Five rival Villanova on Tuesday. Now they have to go on the road and face a dangerous Columbia team that shoots a lot of 3’s and can play well at home. Columbia has been up and down this year. But two of their four losses have been in overtime, including one at Northwestern, and a third is by one point. But last weekend they lost back-to-back games on back-to-back nights by one point apiece: one in OT and one on a buzzer beater. They came back and went on the road against a decent Bucknell squad (the defending Patriot League champs) and won. That shows resolve. Now Columbia is at home against a team in a letdown spot and I think the Lions will dictate the tempo and play well here.

2-Unit Play. Take #516 Pittsburgh (-7)
over Duquesne (7 p.m., Friday, Dec. 4)

Normally I would worry about a letdown in this spot for Pittsburgh. It is a neutral site game against a regional rival. But the Panthers got their asses kicked by Purdue on Tuesday. I think they are going to be pretty angry about that. This is a good Panthers team. After missing the NCAA tournament last year this group is determined to get back. They aren’t going to lose two in a row and if they win this game the odds are strong that they will cover. A worse Pitt team beat Duquesne by 16 here last year. The Panthers were coming off a 12-point loss to Indiana and weren’t messing around then either. I think they can do the same this time around. Duquesne has won three straight and already has a win over Penn State. But they haven’t played anyone even close to Pitt’s caliber and the best team they have squared off with (Pepperdine) they lost to by 14. I think Jamie Dixon is a good coach and will have his guys pissed off and ready to play. If he does then the Panthers will do exactly what they’ve done the last decade: win this game big. Pitt’s margins of victory over the last 10 years in this matchup have been by 15, 17, 21, 11, 15, 9, 27, 5, 17 and 11 points. They are 7-1 ATS in the last eight meetings and I see that trend continuing.

2-Unit Play. Take #517 Akron (-7.5)
over Marshall (7 p.m., Friday, Dec. 4)

1-Unit Play. Take ‘Over’ 149.0
Akron at Marshall (7 p.m., Friday, Dec. 4)

Marshall is a goddamn disaster. I’ve bet these guys a couple times this year because I thought that they should be vastly improved in Year 2 of the Dan D’Antoni Experiment. But it is pretty clear that D’Antoni has no idea what he is doing, and neither do his players. D’Antoni plays a ton of guys, subbing in players in waves. But no one can get into a rhythm and they just play sloppy, ugly basketball. Marshall was up 15 on the road against Tennessee with 15 minutes left. They lost by 10. They were up eight in the first half against Ohio and lost by 15. They lost by 15 against James Madison. They lost by 24 against Morehead State. At some point Marshall may be dangerous. But right now they are just a train wreck. Akron is a quality team. They won at Arkansas and they have not played up to their potential yet. They are big and experienced and they too play a lot of guys. I can see them getting down early against Marshall too. But then they are just going to look at each other and say, “What the hell are these guys doing?” and then hit the jets. Akron wins by 11.

2-Unit Play. Take #522 Wake Forest (-5.5)
over Arkansas (7 p.m., Friday, Dec. 4)

This is the first true road game for a team that is absolutely pathetic on the road. Arkansas is one of the worst road teams in the country. They have been for the past several years. Hell, this year they aren’t even that good at home. They lost at home to Akron and have neutral site losses to mediocre Georgia Tech and Stanford teams. Wake is the best team they have faced yet and this one is a true road contest. Not good. Wake has won three of its last four, beating Indiana, UCLA and Rutgers. Danny Manning has a good little squad and they are playing well without their best guard. Arkansas is in a full-blown rebuilding mode. They lost as much talent as any team in the country from last year. These guys are kind of a mess and I just think Wake is ahead of them right now.

1-Unit Play. Take #528 Missouri (-4)
over Northern Illinois (8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 4)

I know that Missouri stinks. But are they worse than a middle-tier MAC team? I don’t think so. Northern Illinois hasn’t finished above .500 in ages and didn’t do so last year. I know they are 7-0 right now. But the Huskies have played the No. 349 schedule in the country and haven’t faced anyone rated better than 200. The Tigers pounded Arkansas State and Wofford, two mid-major teams that are in the same stratosphere as this Northern Illinois group, and I think they will do the same here. Missouri has only been upset by a team rated No. 150 or lower one time in the last five years of nonconference play so they have taken care of business against weaker foes. They should do so again here.

1-Unit Play. Take #534 St. Mary’s (-10)
over UC-Davis (10 p.m., Friday, Dec. 4)

I’m not a fan of this St. Mary’s team. I’m just less of a fan of this Davis squad. UC-Davis is coming off a win (but no cover) and we cashed against them with Sacramento State. Now they are on the road playing a true road game and I don’t think they are up for it. The Aggies are squarely in my ?bet against? pile this year because they lost way, way too much from last season. The Gaels lost a lot as well. But they have a really good coach, a really solid system, and a really good point guard running the show in Joe Rahon. St. Mary’s beat Manhattan by 26 and Stanford by 17. Both of those teams are better than Davis.

2-Unit Play. Take #539 Iona (-8.5)
over Marist (7 p.m., Friday, Dec. 4)

Marist is not good. They went 7-25 last year and are off to a 1-3 start this season. Last year they were routinely wrecked, losing 18 of their first 19 games to star the season. Any decent Top 165 team that they faced beat them badly (avg. loss: 16.2 points). The Red Foxes are one of the 15 youngest teams in college basketball and start three freshmen. These guys need time to get used to college hoops. But they have played exactly once in the last 13 games: and that was a 26-point loss at Vermont. Iona is better than Vermont. The Gaels got off to a shaky start this year. But they have come roaring back, scoring 193 points in their last two games and winning both by double figures. Playing on the road here will not rattle them. They have the three best players on the court and this is a group that won at Wake Forest last year, so they won’t be rattled by playing in someone else’s gym. Last year Marist covered an eight-point line at home in this Metro league game. But that was in February and they caught Iona at the end of a four-game road stretch. The previous three meetings the last two years? Iona won by 22, 19 and 9. Iona knows it isn’t going to make the NCAA tournament as an at-large team. They need to win the MAAC. This is their second league game – they won the first by 24 – and they aren’t messing around. B-l-o-w-o-u-t.

2-Unit Play. Take #541 Rider (+1.5)
over Fairfield (7 p.m., Friday, Dec. 4)

2-Unit Play. Take #543 Monmouth (-2)
over Canisius (7 p.m., Friday, Dec. 4)

This game right here will tell us whether or not Monmouth is for real. Right now they have one of the best mid-major resumes in the country. They have wins over UCLA, USC and Notre Dame. Their only losses came at USC and by three points against a very good Dayton team. The Hawks look legit. But it is easier for mid-major teams to play up to big name competition than it is to play over teams they are better than. And after a lot of high-profile wins we’ll see if Monmouth is good enough to beat the teams they are supposed to. I think they are. Because really there was nothing fluky about their wins over those high-major teams. They are experienced and they are versatile, and they have the best player on the floor with Je’lon Hornbeak. Canisius has played two straight emotional games against regional rivals St. Bonaventure and Buffalo. The last game was an OT loss to a major rival. They are at home. But they have zero depth and are shaky defensively. Monmouth is clearly the better team here. The only question is whether or not they will come out flat after playing a bunch of big-time games. This one comes down to coaching. And I’ve seen enough of King Rice to think he’ll have his guys ready to play.

6-Unit Play. Take #550 Texas (-18)
over Samford (9 p.m., Friday, Dec. 4)

1-Unit Play. FIRST HALF: Take #550 Texas (-11.5)
over Samford (9 p.m., Friday, Dec. 4)
Let me first say that this group of Longhorns are a bunch of losers. They suck. They really, really do. Texas should’ve been much better than it was the last two seasons and they are already off to a shaky start this year. These guys just don’t know how to play and they don’t know how to play together. So why waste our time with a bunch of losers? There are three main reasons. First, they need something good to happen. They’ve played two home games and have looked like trash in both. But those two games were against small in-state teams (A&M-CC and UT-Arlington) that had this game circled for months. For the Longhorns these two games bookended their holiday trip to the Bahamas and came after their trip to China. It was tough for Texas to get up for those games. Shaka Smart is trying to instill a new mindset and a new system with this team. They’ve been working on it for months, and to be honest they’ve been shaky as hell. So, again, I think that they will have unusual focus in this game because they don’t just need a win – they need a big win. So motivation is in our favor. Second, Samford is on a 5-0 ATS run. That’s really surprising considering there is nothing outstanding about this team. Scott Padgett has done a good job with this group. I give him two more years before he is coaching somewhere real. But he doesn’t have the horses for this game. If Texas doesn’t give a damn about this game then Samford can run and shoot and play and cover. But the Longhorns just got pushed to OT against Arlington and escaped with a win. Their radar is up. And Samford is overvalued because of their recent success. Third, and finally, Samford lost by 41 at Louisville to open the season. 41. Texas is as big and as athletic as the Cardinals (though not as good). And we don’t need the Longhorns to win by 40. We need 25. Samford lost by 40 last year at Purdue. And over the last three seasons they have played seven nonconference games against Top 100 teams. They have lost by 46, 20, 23, 40, 7, 13 and 41 points. And Texas, although they are trash and never seem to play up to their potential, can oblige a blowout. Over the last three years the Longhorns have played nine nonconference games against teams ranked No. 220 or lower. They have won by 7, 28, 32, 22, 32, 32, 32, 45 and 11 points. This game is not against some small in-state school that’s going to treat it as their national championship game. It is against a small Alabama team that’s playing its third road game in three states in seven days. Samford is outmatched. They are going to lose by 26 and Texas should flex its muscles in this one. It’s now or never Longhorns; show us what you got.

1-Unit Play. Take #552 Montana (-6)
over San Francisco (9 p.m., Friday, Dec. 4)
San Francisco is dangerous because of their style of play. They will pull an upset or two out of their behinds this year. But this isn’t a good team and Rex Walters is really an odd coach running a weird program. (Why does he have more transfers out than any team in the nation the last four seasons?) And they just aren’t all that good. They lost at home to Eastern Washington and also lost at home to UC-Santa Barbara. Those are two teams that are in the same stratus as Montana and, again, both of those games were on San Fran’s home court. Now they head to Missoula to face a Montana team that’s the favorite in the Big Sky. The Grizz have dumped two straight. But they’ve done so on the road and against two real solid teams (NDSU and Pepperdine). I think they are primed for a bounce back effort and they should get it done here.

1-Unit Play. TEASER: #516 Pittsburgh (-2) AND Take #539 Iona (-3.5)