The long-awaited return of one of my favorite plays has come: Big Sky Parlays. If you followed me closely last season, you know that these became a staple of my Thursdays. And that’s because for 13 years, this has been my league.
One of the best ways to win in college basketball is to focus on one or two smaller leagues, then become an expert in it. Vegas does not have time to track 363 schools, and it focuses where the money is. Gonzaga will always attract more attention and more money than Eastern Washington. But more often than not, you’ll find more value in games involving the Eagles.
Of course, there will be more than just the Big Sky. We’ve got college bowls and other conference action happening. But this is my staple, and it’s going to remain that way. Here are my plays for December 29.
BOWL GAME PARLAY: MINNESOTA -9.5, TEXAS-WASHINGTON OVER 63.5, FLORIDA STATE -8.5, +430
Minnesota shouldn’t have too many issues with Syracuse. The Golden Gophers want to run the football, and Syracuse doesn’t stop the run well. The Orange also don’t move the football well, which should allow the Minnesota defense to clamp down on them. Washington leads the nation in passing yardage and Texas struggled to stop the pass before the opt-outs hit. However, the Huskies remain horrid on defense. Even in a weakened state, Texas should be able to score.
Finally, Florida State has made progress all season and Oklahoma backslid. The Seminoles should have motivation to finish the year strong and set themselves up for 2023.
BIG SCHOOL PARLAY: NEBRASKA +4.5, BUTLER -2.5, COLORADO +2.5, +515
Iowa really hates Pinnacle Bank Arena. The Hawkeyes finally managed a win in Lincoln last year, but that’s the only time anything’s gone their way in that building. Nebraska has already proven it can make life difficult for opponents in Lincoln, and the Huskers should stick close here. They might even win this one outright.
When Providence doesn’t get to the free throw line, the Friars usually don’t win. Butler excels at keeping teams away from the stripe, and the Bulldogs should take advantage of weak Providence defense. Finally, Colorado’s offense is hitting well right now, and the Buffaloes get the right opponent in Stanford. The Buffs have feasted on the Cardinal since joining the Pac-12, winning 14 of the past 16 meetings. Stanford’s faced a brutal schedule, but it’s not quite on Colorado’s level.
BIG SKY PARLAY: NORTHERN ARIZONA ML, EASTERN WASHINGTON-MONTANA OVER 140, NORTHERN COLORADO-WEBER STATE UNDER 143.5, +485
Home court advantage usually means the world in the Big Sky. That’s not true when Northern Arizona and Idaho State square off. The visitor has won nine in a row in this series, with the Lumberjacks winning three straight in Pocatello. Taking NAU TTO 69 also holds promise, because the Lumberjacks shoot it well at Reed Gym. Northern Arizona has scored 73 or better in four of five visits to Pocatello, and with 10 of the past 12 meetings decided by four points or less, points should come late.
I hate backing an over in Dahlberg Arena, but this one makes sense. Montana is deadly from the line and Eastern Washington’s scored four of five in the 70s. Games between the Grizzlies and Eagles usually see scoring; nine of the past 12 have hit over 140. Finally, Northern Colorado and Weber State both come in playing excellent defense. The Wildcats have held four of five opponents to 65 or less, and while the Bears haven’t been quite that strong, they also just had to play a red-hot Colorado offense and gave a credible showing. These teams should make each other work, and as long as they keep each other off the foul line, this under should work.