Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 10:00 AM EST. Odds subject to change.
Murphy Center, Murfreesboro, TN
Stephen F Austin +125 over Middle Tennessee State
8:00 PM EST. Conference USA (C-USA) went through a major shakeup in the offseason with the top four teams from the conference all jet-setting for the American with FAU, who made the Final Four, North Texas, UAB, and Charlotte, who won the CBI, all leaving the conference. That has created a power vacuum in C-USA that has left the Blue Raiders, the fifth-best team in the conference last season, as the best team left from 2022-23. If one thought those top-4 teams leaving C-USA would have catapulted the Blue Raiders to the top of the power ranking, one would be mistaken, as the Blue Raiders were pegged to finish fourth in the preseason poll with UAB, WKU, and North Texas all polling ahead of them and being the only three teams to receive a first-place vote.
The offseason was not kind to head coach Nick McDevitt as he lost over 30 points per game in scoring with Eli Lawrence (12.2 PPG), Deandre Dishman (10.5 PPG), and Trefale Lenard (8.3 PPG) moving on. The loss of Lenard cannot be quantified, as he did everything for the Blue Raiders, and he was one of the most active and disruptive defenders in the country, ranking 42nd nationally in block rate and 56th in steal rate.
Middle Tennessee State got the season started on a winning note, knocking off Northern Kentucky on Monday night, 74-57, as a -4½-point favorite. An easy win and cover early can endear one to the market, but it’s important to never overreact to just one game. From a strictly value perspective, the Blue Raiders cannot be favored here against this fierce invader, not even on their home court.
The Lumberjacks’ rich winning tradition continued from the Southland into the WAC, finishing fourth last year and tying for first two seasons ago. Stephen F. Austin’s identity is tough defensive pressure in the interest of forcing turnovers, which has translated into plenty of wins over the last seven years under Kyle Keller. The Jacks return three of their top four scorers: guards Latrell Jossell and AJ Cajuste, along with forward Sadaidriene “DayDay” Hall. Stephen F. Austin played a tune-up game to get ready for this “real” season opener on Monday night, but we're not going to put any stock into crushing a cupcake, as it was a glorified practice. This is the main event.
The Lumberjacks are pegged to finish at the top of the WAC, with only Grand Canyon getting more first-place votes than them, and that is pretty high praise. Furthermore, Stephen F. Austin narrowly cracked the Mid-Major Top-25 to start the season, but that it didn’t serves us well here, as it is still very much under the radar. The Lumberjacks are the superior side, and it’s not close. Wrong side favored.
Stephen F Austin +125 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 2.50)