Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 10:30 AM EST odds are subject to change.
American +14 over Georgetown
Capital One Arena, Washington, DC
11:30 AM EST. We faded the Hoyas last game out with La Salle taking back +160 on the money line. The Hoyas were a 3½-point fav that day and won by 7. Now trust us when we suggest that the Hoyas couldn't have played any better while the Explorers couldn’t have played any worse. The Hoyas jumped out to an 18-3 lead and had to hang on. The Explorers went 5-25 from the land of plenty (20%) and overall shot a lousy 38% from the floor. Now the Hoyas are 11 points more today than they were against La Salle and that, my friends, is wrong. Georgetown is a weak program that is going to run into some non-conference upsets. In the spirit of sticking with it, we’re right back fading Georgetown.
Even more than power conference leagues, mid-major dynasties are difficult to construct. Experience is perhaps the most valuable commodity as you get farther down the college hoops totem pole, resulting in many programs following the typical life cycle: bring in young guys, take lumps as they develop, win when they’re old, watch them graduate, repeat. The old axiom of ‘get old, stay old’ is the mid-major Holy Grail. The ‘bring in young guys’ step in the above sequence has been especially tough for the American Eagles, as it coincided with the brunt of COVID. Head coach Mike Brennan led his squad to a 12-6 league record in 2019-20 with one of the older teams in the Patriot League. Then came the graduations, transfers and a faux “season” in 2020-21 that saw American’s wide-eyed new foundation play just 10 total games. League rival Navy was playing games before American even began practicing. That carried over to last year, when six of American’s top 10 players were freshmen by eligibility. Paired with more COVID absences and long-term injuries, the Eagles were flying with one wing. It was brutal. Some of their freshmen only played six or seven games (in 2020-21).
Brennan teams do not typically stay down long. In 2017-18, the Eagles went 6-24 and 3-15 in the league. A year later, those figures jumped to 15-15 (9-9). Brennan is optimistic that as his team grows and gels, a similar leap can occur once again. Leading scorer Stacy Beckton graduated after five productive years in the program, but eight of American’s top 10 players are back. That number does not include Ben Lubarsky, who started all 10 games during the COVID-shortened 2021 slog. He missed last season with injury, but he is back and ready to complement a hungry flock of Eagles. He’ll rejoin an offense that excelled at getting inside last year. Per Hoop-Math, American ranked 12th nationally in at-the-rim attempt rate, and a lot of that was due to Matt Rogers’ brilliance. The skilled big man impressed in multiple facets, impacting the game as a scorer and creator despite being in and out of the lineup.
Brennan does not believe in quick fixes via the portal. His best teams have grown together organically by learning his system as well as each other’s strengths and weaknesses. He believes this is that next group — and the lack of transfers out of the program indicate that the players believe it, too. “They realize they can be good,” said Brennan. “They trust our staff, they trust each other. Last year, they knew we were young and felt how difficult it was, but they also knew how close we were. We weren’t getting blown out, we were right there. … It’s a great group of kids who get along and listen.” The Eagles have already seen plenty of progress this offseason and early in the year. The Eagles are 2-2 with their only bad loss occurring against George Mason by 17. Losing to GMU is not a bad loss but losing by 17 is. American figures to leave nothing on the table here in a winnable game but more importantly, the points that Georegtown is spotting is a badge of honor they are not capable of wearing.
American +14 -109 (Risking 2.18 units - To Win: 2.00)