Happy Holidays, readers. I sincerely hope that each and every one of you have a safe and joyous holiday surrounded by good company and love.
Among the fun, food and gift-giving, we have some good basketball this weekend. Personally, I like the college basketball slate during Thanksgiving week better but a decent Friday/Saturday card looks just fine with the NBA on Christmas Day.
I’m going to write up two of those games in the coming days so you have my thoughts before Christmas morning (you will probably do well to fade those picks, based on how things have gone in the Association for me this month).
College hoops has been just fine, though. I just do about four or five games a month leading up to March Madness but we’re 2–1 this month with a chance to lock up profit for the second month in a row with a win tonight. I’m going to highlight a nationally-televised game on CBS between Florida Gulf Coast and Wichita State.
We’re coming up on five years removed from Dunk City — the great run that put a 15-seed in the Sweet Sixteen for the first and only time in NCAA Tournament history. That run eventually left the Eagles without a coach but has proven to be a building-block for a program that is becoming a perennial in the Dance. FGCU has been in the tournament for the last two seasons but hasn’t made it out of the Round of 64, losing once as a 16-seed and then last year as a 14 in a six-point game to Florida State.
Last year’s team had four double-digit scorers and three of them are still around this year. Brandon Goodwin is the leading scorer at nearly 19 points per game. He is a small, shifty guard who has mastered the art of finishing around the rim over bigger defenders because he really isn’t much of an outside shooter. He leads the team in assists, due in large part to his penetrating style of play and, at 6’2″, rips down 5.2 rebounds per game, which is the second-most on the team.
Goodwin plays the most minutes and has the ball in his hands far more than any Eagle. But that means he will be the focal point of Gregg Marshall’s defensive game plan. I’m concerned about how effective Goodwin can be for FGCU because he doesn’t shoot it well. Wichita State’s defense is well-known for clamping down inside the three-point arc. You can stretch them if you have two or three guys who don’t hesitate from deep (that’s what Oklahoma did last week). Goodwin is most dangerous driving and kicking but you better believe Marshall knows that and will do everything he can to keep him out of the paint.
Oklahoma is legit with a freshman who has emphatically thrown his name into the ring for National Player of the Year. The Sooners hit first and made the Shockers uncomfortable on their own floor for the entire first half. By the time the 20 minutes were up, the lead was too big for WSU to make a serious run in the second half.
That game got headlines, unlike Wichita State’s mid-week bout with Arkansas State, which began with a similarly sluggish start for the Shockers. The Red Wolves took a six-point lead into half before Wichita State outscored them by 15 in the second half.
That type of slow start won’t be acceptable three times in a week. I believe in the adjustments Wichita State will make, namely coming out strong right from the tip and playing 40 minutes of intense basketball. Marshall has the bodies to do it and I expect to see it on Friday. Give me the Shockers by 20, or more.
Free Pick: Wichita State -17