Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 3:30 PM EST odds are subject to change.
Texas Southern +19½ over Texas Tech
United Supermarkets Arena - Lubbock, TX
8:00 PM EST. Texas tech comes in at #25 in the polls and while 25 teams have to be named, we’re not sure Tech deserves this billing. Yeah, they’re good but it’s their defense that is good while the offense is questionable. Spotting this type of lumber with a team that figures to have trouble scoring, especially from downtown, is a big uphill battle most of the time.
Mark Adams is a basketball lifer. He’s been all over the West Texas coaching ranks for the better part of four decades. After taking over for Chris Beard, who left Lubbock for Austin and the Texas Longhorns, Adams became a first-time high-major head coach at the ripe age of 65. Some doubted the decision. Some questioned how a guy that spent almost his entire coaching career in the JUCO and small-school ranks would be able to adjust to the high-major level in an era where everything is changing. Did Texas Tech make the right decision hiring from within? Well, let’s take a look at it. Despite remaking the entire roster, Adams led Tech to a 27-10 record, a 12-6 finish in the toughest conference in basketball, wins over Tennessee and Kansas and a sweep of Baylor. Most importantly, the man be- hind Texas Tech’s vaunted no-middle defense kept the Red Raiders right where they belong — at No. 1 in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric. The reward? Starting all over again. Nine of Texas Tech’s top 10 scorers are gone.
Tech started the year with a 73-49 victory over Northwestern State. That’s a 24-point win over a team that is ranked 353rd out of 363 Division I teams. Texas Southern ranks 230th but that’s conservative. They might be closer to 175th.
At Texas Southern, the Johnny Jones method prevails, over and over again. His secret sauce isn’t even really a secret — and yet, seemingly no one else can replicate it. First, he corners the market on talent, size and experience. Then, he deploys that talent, size and experience against the best of the best in a grueling non-conference slate. Granted, many SWAC schools do this — but few actually expect to win, as the Houston-based Tigers have done every year since Jones arrived in 2018-19. During that time, the high-profile list of Jones’s victims includes Baylor, Oregon, Texas A&M, Wyoming and Florida. Hardened by the relentless non-conference training, the head coach’s warriors typically lay waste to SWAC opponents. Recent insurgents, however, have challenged these Tigers — but Jones & Co. have managed to keep them at bay the last two years. In fact, the last two seasons ended in nearly identical fashion. A dominant SWAC Championship game performance preceded an NCAA Tournament opening round victory, and then the Tigers’ season ended with a competitive first-round bout against a blue blood. Last year, they fell to eventual national champs Kansas and, despite losing 83-56, outscored the Jayhawks in the second half.
Texas Southern lost its opener against a very good San Francisco team by a score of 90-77. Anything within 15 points of 77 here gets us a cover. “We feel like with the size and strength of this team, we have a chance to be bigger and stronger than we were a year ago”, said Johnny Jones. It's a foregone conclusion that the Tigers will be knocking on the door for a third-straight title. Jones is a master maneuverer of the SWAC Tournament and he’s a master motivator too.
Texas Tech is probably getting way too much credit to start this year. If we’re wrong, we’re wrong but we see at least 15 teams, maybe more, that should be ranked higher than Tech but are not. Not many teams ranked 25th or worse will be able to live to tell the tale about the time they were a 19½-point fav over Johnny Jones’ Tigers and covered. These are inflated points.
Texas Southern +19½ -110 (Risking 2.20 units - To Win: 2.00)