I’ve got a bit of a problem with teams getting off to slow starts lately, as Missouri State couldn’t get going against Evansville in time to cover a 16-pointer and Northern Arizona never got going on defense at all, allowing offensively-challenged Portland State to drop 97 points on them in a 21-point loss at home. When the Big Sky costs me a winning day, it’s just a weird day for me in college basketball.
Luckily, 4-4 isn’t a bad day (although it should have been 5-3 if not for the worst half of basketball in Creighton history), so we’ll try to build off that with a slate that includes soccer, college basketball and of course, conference championships. Here are my best bets for January 30.
MORGAN STATE -14.5, -110
This is bounce-back time for the Bears, who get to take out their frustrations on an absolutely terrible Delaware State team. The Hornets haven’t stayed within double digits on the road even once all season, and now they’ve got to go to Baltimore to face a Morgan State squad that’s coming off a bad loss to Norfolk State. This spread’s a little high, but the Hornets really are that awful.
SAINT PETER’S +10.5, -110
The Peacocks came through for me in crushing Manhattan, and I think they can hang around with Iona in this matchup. These are defense-heavy teams, so I think that even though the Gaels might be the better team, they’re not double-digits better than Saint Peter’s. This feels like a game decided by two or three possessions.
DRAKE +2.5, -110
Drake has been an awful spread team this season, but that’s in large part because the Bulldogs have usually been favorites by ridiculous margins. They’ve given Alabama and Clemson a good run for their money, and I think they can battle Loyola to a tight margin. The Ramblers are also a lousy spread bet, so this might be playing with fire, but it’s worth the risk.
BENGALS +7.5, -110
Everyone’s ignoring that Cincinnati beat Kansas City once already, and that’s because the playoffs are a different animal. But I think Cincinnati can hang around with the Chiefs and keep this close throughout the contest. I’d also like to take a flier on Cincinnati +2.5 in the first quarter, as the Chiefs’ slow starts mean that the Bengals should be able to stick close in the early going.
49ERS +3.5, -110
The Rams are walking into a “home” game here with a team that has already beaten them twice and has simply owned them in recent years. A lot of people are sleeping on Jimmy Garoppolo, but he’s been competent enough to get the 49ers here and has never had any problems with Los Angeles. Why this hook is here, I’m not sure, but I’m not complaining.
BEYOND THE SPREADS
I don’t want to touch the spread for Cleveland State-Northern Kentucky because the Vikings have been very bad at letting teams hang around. But I do like the under of 133.5, because Northern Kentucky won the rebounding battle in Cleveland (losing the game because the Norse shot 31 percent) and can do that again. I’ve already made my feelings clear on the over (54) for the AFC championship game, but I’m sticking with it, as Cincinnati can move the ball against the Chiefs.
Finally, there’s not a spread to play in Canada-United States, but I’m thinking a draw at +175 holds a lot of promise. The conditions in Hamilton are going to absolutely suck, and this is a situation where sharing the points actually helps both teams. Given that Panama and Costa Rica both still have to go to the Azteca (Costa Rica doing so today), a tie today almost certainly means both Canada and the U.S. will need just two wins to reach Qatar. If you want to get risky, I like a scoreless first half at +120 and a scoreless tie at +475.