Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 11:15 AM EST.
12:00 PM EST. After years of snacking on the cupcakes in the Missouri Valley, the Shockers decided to pick up and leave for more competitive pastures after years of years of perceived disrespect from the NCAA selection committee. Last season Wichita State, despite its impressive 31-5 record, was only granted a 10-seed in the NCAA's. Had the Shockers not won their conference's tournament, they would likely have been a bubble team on Selection Sunday. This season, WSU is playing in the much tougher American Athletic Conference, which rose from the ashes of the old Big East. The Shockers are 15-3 and don't appear to have missed a beat in the AAU, as WSU is ranked #4 in the nation. The Shockers' made it to the national stage as a plucky underdog that had to fight for respect from the big boys, but after six straight trips to The Big Dance, including a Final Four appearance in 2013, WSU is well known in the market and you will therefore pay a premium to back them.
Expectations were high for the Cougars after returning the AAU's leading scorer from a year ago, but Houston is unranked and sits third in the conference standings behind Cincinnati and the Shockers. The Cougars' stock is low after an 81-72 loss at Tulane on Wednesday night, and we were on the Green Wave in that game, as we suspected UH might be looking ahead to this very important contest. Further deflating its value today, was Houston's very disappointing showing at Wichita State just over two weeks ago, where the Cougars were embarrassed 81-63 as a 10-point pooch.
While the Shockers are rolling, they have faced just one team that is currently ranked in the Top-25, and it ended in a 91-83 home loss to the Sooners. The Shockers have an impressive 5-1 conference record, but as a 10½ point favorite at home to SMU last Wednesday night, WSU got all they could handle from one of the AAU's top programs and dropped an 83-78 decision to the Mustangs. If the Shockers wanted stiffer conference competition they've got it. Further inflating WSU's value today is its undefeated road record, but they have yet to visit the AAU's best with conference road wins at Tulsa, East Carolina and UConn. Today's game is huge in Houston and will be played at the Toyota Center, home of the Rockets, and it will also be broadcast nationally on ESPNU. This is a game that the Cougars have had circled since the Shockers decided to step up to the high-majors and we don't expect them to be flat. Last time out, the Cougars were asked to spot road points against what looked to be an inferior squad, and it blew up in their faces. Houston now finds itself on the other side of that situation, as the Shockers are being asked to do the heavy lifting here. All the value in this game lies with the Cougars and while the Shockers may indeed be really good, they are going to have to show us much more than a bunch of weak victories to warrant spotting these road points against a team with talent that is on the tournament bubble and needs signature wins. The Cougars will treat this one like a tournament game because that’s how important it is to them.
We’re going to split this up and play Houston +3½ for 1 unit and Houston +147 for 1 unit for a total risk of 2.1 units. There, the plays are officially:
Houston +3½ -101 (Risking 1.01 units to win 1).
Houston +158 (Risking 1 unit).
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#526 HOUSTON +158 (Risking 2.01 units - To Win: 3.18)