Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 10:30 AM EST odds are subject to change.
Idaho +4 over Utah Tech
ICCU Arena, Moscow, ID
5:00 PM EST. In case you were unaware, Utah Tech was formerly Dixie State, thus, this is not their first year at the Division I level. Utah Tech is now in year three in its official transition to D-I. Utah Tech is 1-3 this year but they are 3-0 Against the Spread (ATS) in its last three contests, thus, if you bet them today, that would be betting them one, two or three games too late. That said, the Trailblazers of Utah Tech have instant market credibility because they played and covered against #17 Arizona and Washington and Cal State Northridge.
Then of course there’s Idaho, who also comes in at 1-3 but all 1-3 teams are not created equal. You see, the Vandals lost to Omaha, Denver and Bakersfield, three marshmallows with zero market credibility. Idaho, with zero market cred just lost to three teams with even worse market cred. Idaho’s only victory came against Walla Walla, which sounds like a strip joint and not a basketball team.
The post-Verlin era for Idaho basketball has been a tumultuous one, to say the least. Four days after firing Don Verlin in 2019, Zac Claus was hired as the team’s interim head coach. Midway through his first season, Claus had the ‘interim’ tag removed and became the Vandals’ full-time head coach. Since taking the helm, Claus has had to deal with the NCAA investigation into rule violations that took place under Verlin. As a result, the program received a two-year probation period as punishment. Unsurprisingly, winning has been difficult amid such off-court strife. Last year’s eighth-place finish in the Big Sky is Claus’ best since earning the job, but Idaho’s 11 total Big Sky wins over the last three years register as the fewest in the conference.
This season, Claus is confident that the trajectory of the program will start to shift. He returns just four players from last year’s 9-22 team. The optimism comes from a group of transfers that have experience at multiple levels of college basketball. “With the size, the length, the toughness that we have up front, it’s going to make a big difference,” said Claus. “Perimeter-wise we’ve got the level of quickness and length to be a little more disruptive.”
One would be hard pressed to find a D-1 team whose stock is lower than the Vandals. The Idaho men’s basketball program has endured a rough four-year stretch, ranging from NCAA probation to a lack of victories. Still, Zac Claus has experience coaching at a winning program under Mark Fox and David Carter at Nevada. The roster he has assembled has a chance to truly excel in a year or two, and the current fifth-year guys should be important mentors as the promising young talent develops. This season, the ceiling is only as high as Rashad Smith and Divant’e Moffitt can carry the team, but the lack of winning experience makes it very difficult to trust Idaho. However, this is an extremely winnable game because the situation is a good one. Thus, this wager on Idaho is a situational one.
After a home win last Saturday over Cal State Northridge, the Trailblazers had one day off before a trip up to Seattle to play Washington. Tech played their hearts out in an 11-point loss but covered. Up next, Utah Tech traveled to Arizona to face the 14th ranked Wildcats. Taking back 27½ points, the Trailblazers would come in under the number, barely, in a 104-77 loss. Still, scoring 77 points on the Wildcats had to feel pretty good but truth be told, it was a track meet that had to take something out of the Trailblazers. Tech will now play its fourth game in seven days at four different locations. This is a completely meaningless game for the Trailblazers. It’s a non-conference inconvenience and it would not be reasonable to expect their “A” game. Instead, expect UTU’s D game, as they head home after this game and do not play again until Friday.
Idaho +4 -110 (Risking 2.20 units - To Win: 2.00)