Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 3:30 PM EST odds are subject to change.
Southern Illinois +8½ over Oklahoma St
Gallagher-Iba Arena - Stillwater, OK
8:00 PM EST. The 2021-22 season was the most trying season in Mike Boynton’s career as a head coach. The fallout from the FBI’s investigation into college basketball finally came home, and Oklahoma State found themselves banned from the NCAA Tournament for violations committed at a time when no one on the current Oklahoma State roster was a part of the program. Lessons were learned.
There are no secrets when it comes to what Oklahoma State did well and where it struggled. The Pokes finished fourth-nationally in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric. They finished 161st offensively, just ahead of juggernauts like UMBC and Tulsa. Oklahoma State finished seventh nationally in block rate, top 10 in defensive 2-point field goal percentage and top 20 in defensive turnover rate, per KenPom. However, a number of OSU’s better defenders are gone. Bryce Williams graduated. Isaac Likekele and Rondel Walker transferred. The Pokes will still be a very good defensive team because the rim protection and a couple of key perimeter pieces will still be there. But players that are versatile, above-average defenders and efficient scorers are hard to find and most are likely destined for bigger stages than Stillwater.
The Southern Illinois Salukis were once a dominant force in the Missouri Valley. From 2002 to 2007, SIU made the NCAA Tournament every single year, earning two trips to the Sweet 16 and amassing a conference record of 89-22 (.801). Since then, the Salukis have been “solid” but never “great.” This season might just be the year head coach Bryan Mullins gets his program back over the hump. Mullins, an SIU point guard from 2005-09, enters his fourth season at the helm in Carbondale. He inherited a completely gutted roster in 2019 but has slowly developed it into a conference contender. “This is our deepest team we’ve had and most experienced,” said Mullins. “We finally have kids in the program for 2-3 years now. This season will be a culmination of the last couple years.” SIU has flashed the upside to compete for a league title. Last year, the Salukis beat Colorado in the non-conference and narrowly lost a smattering of MVC contests. A slight change in the wind and SIU’s 9-9 conference record could have been 12-6 or better.
The Salukis are back but the market isn’t aware of it just yet. The Salukis return their best two players in Lance Jones and Marcus Domask – and bring back starting big man JD Muila, part-time starter Dalton Banks and former starter Trent Brown. Mullins also added Xavier Johnson (George Mason) and Jawaun Newton (Evansville) from the transfer portal. SIU has one more key returner. Troy D’Amico, a 6-7 rising sophomore, could be in for a monster season. Mullins thinks D’Amico was one of the better freshmen in the Valley last year and that his best days are ahead of him. D’Amico adds size and positional versatility to the rotation akin to Domask. Lineups featuring him and Domask at the 4 and 5 will be extremely difficult to defend.
In the end, it’s simple, really. Oklahoma State figures to be a decent underdog when taking back inflated points because their defense should still be very good. It may not be at the level it was last season, but Ok State is never going to be a bad defensive team — not with Boynton on the sidelines and Cisse, Anderson and Thompson on the floor. However, asking them to cover a number like this against a quality opponent is a massive challenge with such an unproven offense. SIU can win this game outright so don’t be afraid to put them in a couple of money line parlays and then bet ‘em flat too, taking back these points.
Southern Illinois +8½ -110 (Risking 2.20 units - To Win: 2.00)