Any gambler who has been around for even a little while has been warned about the suspicious line. It’s usually concluded that Vegas always knows best, but then again, how will you ever be a profitable sports bettor with that mentality?! Today’s matchup with Virginia Commonwealth and the Red Birds of Illinois State looks like a fairly decisive game on paper. But Vegas has kept it pretty darn close. It does look a little unusual to me, but ISU is also the home team. And it’s never easy to win at any Missouri Valley venue. That said, I’m going to trust me gut and try to exploit that funny looking line. Virginia Commonwealth sits as a small four-point favorite and the Rams will be the pick in this one.
VCU has had an interesting little three-game stretch since last week’s matchup with Villanova. The Rams were being outplayed by ‘Nova in the first half, but managed to keep it within a basket after 20 minutes. Eventually, the Wildcats got the best of Shaka Smart’s crew with a dominant second half en route to a 24-point win. VCU bounced back the next day with a 14-point win over a pretty good Oregon team before following it all up with a loss to Old Dominion on Saturday. Now, ODU often has very good teams and I’m not sure yet where this year’s version stacks up against teams of the past. But the loss came on the road, which is where VCU has to win on Tuesday. And while it is a little concerning that the Rams lost their first true roadie of the year, it only means that it will be a point of emphasis when the Rams try and avoid their first losing streak of the season tonight at ISU.
Last year, Illinois State struggled after losing a couple of really good seniors to graduation. But the entire Missouri Valley Conference was down. And everyone expects the collective unit to improve this year and give Wichita State a little more competition. The Red Birds are 3-2 in the early going, losing at home to Utah State and on a neutral site to Seton Hall. The loss to Utah State gives me some confidence in VCU tonight because it does show that the Bird are at least vulnerable on the home court, though it was the first game of the season and the Aggies aren’t a bad little ball club. ISU relies on three veteran scorers to lead the way, in DeVaugh Akoon-Purcell, Bobby Hunter and Daishon Knight. They each average double-figure scoring this year, but go up against a completely different animal in VCU. I like the Rams this year and I especially like them in this matchup against an inferior opponent.
Free Pick: VCU -4
2014 CBB: 3-3 0.70