No. 22 Oklahoma State Cowboys at Baylor Bears Betting Preview

Saturday, December 12, 2020, McLane Stadium, Waco, Texas, 7 p.m. ET

Cowboys at Bears Betting Preview: Cowboys  (-4.5), Bears (+4.5)

Cowboys

After a 4-0 start that included wins over Iowa State and West Virginia, Oklahoma State rose to No. 6 in the national rankings and looked like the Big 12’s best bet to make the College Football Playoff.

The No. 22 Cowboys (6-3, 5-3 Big 12) have dropped three of their last five games, however, and can finish no higher than third in the conference after last week’s 29-22 loss at TCU.

A frustrated Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy made it clear during the league’s coaches teleconference this week that a third-place finish wasn’t high on his list of priorities.

“I’m not disappointed with anybody in this organization,” Gundy said. “I’m disappointed that — every year our goal is to win a Big 12 Championship. If you win a Big 12 Championship, you win first place. If you get second or 10th, you get the last place. There are no second-place medals.”

Oklahoma State lost at TCU despite jumping out to a 13-0 lead and forcing a season-high five turnovers by the Horned Frogs.

Playing without injured All-America running back Chuba Hubbard, the Cowboys managed to score off only one of the turnovers, a 40-yard fumble return by defensive end Brock Martin, and the Horned Frogs and quarterback Max Duggan took advantage of an injury-plagued OSU secondary to rally and pull out the victory.

“It’s a pretty rare game when you score on defense and you get that many turnovers to not be able to find a way to win, but we just couldn’t muster up much offensively,” Gundy said. “We couldn’t get much stability. We did hit on a couple of big plays, but we just couldn’t muster up enough with where we’re at right now to keep rolling.”

Bears

Baylor (2-6, 2-6 Big 12) is coming off a 27-14 loss at Oklahoma, holding the Sooners to just 269 total yards including 76 yards on 31rushes.

Quarterback Charlie Brewer completed 30 of 56 passes for 263 yards and a touchdown and also rushed for another touchdown in the loss to the Sooners. He ranks second in rushing for the season for the Bears with 170 yards.

Since COVID-19 prevented Baylor from playing a nonconference game with Houston, the Bears could still schedule another contest for Dec. 19. But coach Dave Aranda told the Waco Tribune his team is zeroed in on Baylor’s final Big 12 contest of the season.

“We’re not looking that way right now,” Aranda said. “All eyes are on this Saturday and the game versus Oklahoma State. All of our focus is really on that.”

The Bears also are looking at the possibility of a fifth different starter at running back as injuries begin to mount up at the position. Redshirt freshman Jonah White could get the nod against the Cowboys. Had three carries for 18 yards and had nine receptions for another 63 yards against Oklahoma.

“I’m a big fan of his,” Aranda said of White. “In practice, there was a pass out of the backfield where he stuck his foot in the ground, made a guy miss and lowered his shoulder. Really, from the foot in the ground to the acceleration, it was like, ‘Who is that?’ . But, it’s cool when you have your moment and you take advantage of it.”

The Bears have rushed for an average of just 92.9 yards a game this season, but did rush for 207 yards against Kansas in the opener and 203 yards against Texas Tech.

Cowboys at Bears Betting Pick for December 12, 2020

The Cowboys hold a slim 20-18 series lead overall but the Bears are 10-6 in games played in Waco. Baylor won last year’s meeting 45-27 despite Hubbard’s 171-yard rushing performance. Charlie Brewer was 13 of 17 passing for 312 yards and a touchdown for Baylor in that game.

Cowboys at Bears Betting Pick:

Cowboys 24, Bears 14

Cowboys at Bears Best Bet for December 12, 2020

Baylor is coming off a pretty solid defensive effort in a 27-14 loss to Oklahoma, holding the Sooners to a season-low 269 yards of total offense. The Bears’ season scoring high came in a 47-14 win over Kansas in their season opener. After scoring 50 in a win over Texas Tech on Nov. 28, the Cowboys lost to TCU 29-22 last week.

Cowboys at Bears Best Bet: UNDER 49.5

Saturday College Hoops Best Bets: Look at a Texas Two-Step

The 2020/21 college basketball season officially tipped off Wednesday night, and this is our first college hoops Saturday of the season! 

For those of you somewhat new to betting on college basketball, the Saturday slate is usually stacked with well over 100 games throughout the season, today’s slate is not quite at that size just yet (thanks COVID-19), but there are still a lot of juicy options to choose from.

I’ve pared the board down to three for you, including a bonus play if your book has odds on it.   Let’s dive right on in.

North Texas at Arkansas (-8/143)

Eric Musselman’s 2020/21 season debut couldn’t have gone much better, as the Razorbacks squeezed by with a 142-62 win over Mississippi Valley State on Wednesday.  They’ll get a much bigger test today when they face North Texas, who also happens to be coming off of a 116-62 beatdown of that same Mississippi Valley State team.

The Razorbacks could be one of the deeper sleepers in all of college basketball this season, as Eric Musselman has a roster loaded with fresh talent thanks to six impactful transfers joining the program and the 7th best-recruiting class in the country.

Arkansas is still going through the early stages of getting all the new faces to gel on the roster, but they are still deeply talented at every position.  However, their opponent today in the North Texas Mean Green are no slouches in their own right.

Considered to be one of the favorites in Conference USA this season, UNT returns a starting lineup that boasts four seniors including that of reigning conference player of the year Javion Hamlet.  The former JUCO product was a revelation last season for the Mean Green and he led the conference in free-throw shooting while hitting over 43-percent of his baskets from deep. 

If this matchup occurred a month from now when Arkansas would have had time to get more games under their belt with a practically entire new team, we’d be all over the Hogs here, but this is a spot that could favor the more experienced Mean Green who will have the best player on the floor.

I’ll side with the team that’s played together longer and take the points, though I’m torn here because Arkansas is one of my favorite teams this season.

Best Bet: North Texas +8

South Carolina vs. Liberty (+7.5/137.5)

Played on Neutral Court (Kansas City, MO)

One of the victims of college basketball’s 2019/20 season being abruptly canceled thanks to the pandemic was the Liberty Flames.  Liberty was in the middle of the best season in their program’s brief Division I history, going 30-4 on the season and winning the Atlantic Sun Tournament.

The bad news for Ritchie McKay’s Flames is that the bulk of that 30-win team has now moved on from the program.  The good news is he has added enough talent to this season’s roster to still be a very feisty opponent.  Liberty hit 19 threes, including seven from leading scorer Darius McGhee, in an 84-73 victory over Mississippi State on Thanksgiving Day.

That young talent will be put to the test immediately, however, against Frank Martin’s smothering 2-3 matchup zone.

South Carolina plays their first game of the season today, and it will be the first time we see prized transfer Seventh Woods in the lineup for the Gamecocks. He will be joined by the top scorers on the team from a season ago in A.J. Lawson and Jermaine Couisnard and considering Martin’s penchant for having his team play a quick tempo game, I can see this being a higher scoring game than what oddsmakers are calling for today.

Liberty plays at the second slowest pace in the country, trailing only that of the methodical Virginia Cavaliers, but Martin’s Gamecocks pushed the floor to the tune of the 11th quickest pace in the country. 

Look for South Carolina to force turnovers that lead to easy buckets for the Gamecocks, but also to give up a lot of open outside looks to Liberty’s bevy of perimeter jumpers and for the total to sail over the 137.5 mark.  I do also like Liberty to cover the 7.5-point number, and wouldn’t even rule out the idea of sprinkling a little bit on the moneyline, but for now, I’ll stick with the points.

Best Bet: OVER 137.5
If You’re Feeling Dangerous:  Liberty +7.5, Liberty ML (+275)

Louisiana at Baylor (-20.5/149.5)

Played on Neutral Court (Las Vegas, NV)

The Baylor Bears were well on their way to a 1-seed in the 2020 NCAA Tournament when everything came crashing down.  Today marks Baylor’s season debut and first crack at picking up where they left off a season ago.

The bulk of last season’s team is back for the Bears, including their top three scorers in Wooden Award candidate Jared Butler, MaCio Teague, and Davion Mitchell.  Baylor’s calling card a season ago was their imposing defense, and Scott Drew will also return Naismith Defensive Player of Year finalist Mark Vital to lock down the paint.

Today the Bears play a Louisiana side that is expected to finish towards the bottom of the Sun Belt after being a middle of the road team in the conference a season ago.  One thing to keep in mind with the Ragin’ Cajuns is they also like to play at a quick pace (32nd overall tempo per KenPom), but they’re downright awful in transition defense as they ranked 316th in that category a year ago.  They also got punished on the boards by most of their opponents, and no one in the country compares to how Baylor attacks the glass.

This has all the makings of a bad matchup for the young Cajuns.  Look for Baylor to get a comfortable blowout from Las Vegas.

Best Bet: Baylor -20.5

Bonus Play: Mississippi Valley State at Wyoming (-31.5/159.5)

Normally I would never consider laying 31.5-points with a team coming off of a 9-24 season, but as we already touched upon earlier in this article, Mississippi Valley State is a special kind of awful.  To date this season they have lost their first two contests by 80 and 54 respectively.  Mississippi Valley State is an auto-fade at this point until they give some reason not to be.   

Bonus Bet: Wyoming -31.5

Big 12 College Basketball 2020/21 Preview

Before the 2019/20 college basketball season was canceled and March Madness was called off, the Big 12 was in a position to potentially have two #1 seeds in Baylor and Kansas and were considered as the conference most likely to field the eventual National Champion.

The conference is possibly even better this season.

The Big 12 currently features a whopping five teams in the Kenpom Top 10, with Baylor and Kansas once again considered strong favorites at a run at a spot in the Final Four. 

Top to bottom, there may not be a better conference in college basketball this season.  Here’s how the Big 12 shakes out and what you need to know about each school before the season begins.   

The Contenders

#2 Baylor (+165 to Win Big 12)

Before the cancellation of the 2019/20 season, the Baylor Bears were flying high and breaking a multitude of school records including a 23-game winning streak to propel them to the first #1 overall ranking in school history.

The Bears started to show some chinks in the armor at the end of the season, however, as they would drop three of their last five games to end the season including road losses to TCU and West Virginia.

Fortunately for Baylor supporters, the bulk of last season’s team is back including the top three scorers on the team in Wooden Award candidate Jared Butler, MaCio Teague, and Davion Mitchell.  The Bears also return Naismith Defensive Player of the Year finalist Mark Vital, giving the Bears one of the more balanced teams in the nation.

While last season’s team had the potential to be special, this could be Scott Drew’s best group yet.  You will be hard-pressed to find a team in the country, much less the Big 12, that can match Baylor’s talent, depth, and experience the Bears will have on the floor at any given time.  They will be a team to watch all season long and have a real chance to replicate the success they had a season ago.  

#6 Kansas (+170 to Win Big 12)

While Baylor was enjoying the best season in school history, we’d be remiss not to mention that heading into the fateful Selection Sunday that never happened, Kansas was in the middle of playing some of its best basketball of the Bill Self era and was considered the prohibitive favorite to cut the nets down in Atlanta this past spring.

Before COVID wiped away March Madness, Kansas had emerged from a chaotic regular season as the best team in college basketball.  This was in large part due to the phenomenal inside-outside game from Devin Dotson and Udoka Azubuike. 

Both of these players have since departed to the next chapter of their careers in the NBA and now Bill Self and the Jayhawks are put in the rare spot of having a mini-reboot to their roster.

Of course, Kansas rebooting is far different than the rebooting that most college basketball programs do, and they will still have a roster chock-full of talent, but there will be a setback until the Jayhawks can figure out how to replace the production they just lost.

One way the Jayhawks plan to reload this season will come by playing a three-guard lineup, and on occasion even going with four-guard lineups on the floor.  Senior Marcus Garrett and junior Ochai Agbaji will be the focal point of the Kansas offense with five-star recruit Bryce Thompson also likely to log a lot of playing time for Self’s Jayhawks.

Self will look to replace the vacancy of Azubuike with forwards Silvio de Sousa and David McCormack.  You may recall hearing Silvio de Sousa’s name when it looked like he may channel his inner WWE and hit someone with a stool during a brawl with rival Kansas State last season. While that’s certainly one way to enforce the paint, Self will likely try to get de Sousa to try a more conventional method this season.

All in all, Kansas is going to still be a dangerous opponent to deal with.  We will find out a lot about where the team currently is when they play their season opener against powerhouse Gonzaga on November 26, but assuming we have a 2021 NCAA Tournament this season, Kansas figures to be one of the top seeds in the dance when it’s all said and done.  

The Dangerous Dark Horses

#15 West Virginia (+525 to Win Big 12)

The Mountaineers began the 2019/20 season like they were shot out of a cannon as Bob Huggins’ squad opened the season with an 11-1 record capped off by a 67-59 win over then #2 ranked Ohio State.

Then conference play began.

West Virginia would start conference play with a 6-3 record before the wheels would come off in February as the Mountaineers would go 1-6 that month and put themselves back in the bubble conversation before handing then 4th ranked Baylor a 12-point loss in the last game of the season that would have likely sealed their at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament.

Now Huggins is back at it again with a roster he has said is his best since the 2010 West Virginia Final Four team.  He may not be wrong in that assessment.

While there are legitimate concerns about the Mountaineers’ offense and whether or not they can put up enough points to make a long run in March, there are no such concerns about West Virginia’s defense.  The Mountaineers return the tandem of Oscar Tshiebwe and Derek Culver, giving Huggins two of the best rim protectors in the entire country.

Offensively, Huggins’ Eers play about in the manner that you’d expect a Bob Huggins team to look – ugly.  WVU was atrocious shooting the ball a season ago, going 26% from three-point range and an abysmal 62.9% from the free-throw line.  Both ranked dead last in the conference.   

If West Virginia is to be a better offensive team this season it will likely depend on guard Miles McBride emerging amongst a log jam of guards on the roster.  The sophomore guard is the teams’ best shooter by a significant margin, and there just aren’t a whole lot of shooters on this team.  The WVU defense is the real deal, however, and they could very well propel the Mountaineers from a dangerous Top 15 caliber team to a legitimate Final Four contender if they just get a little better offensive output this season.

#14 Texas Tech (+600 to Win Big 12)

Kevin Beard has quietly turned Lubbock, Texas into a fervent college basketball community. 

Despite losing their top two scorers (Jahmi’us Ramsey and Davide Moretti) from last season’s team, Texas Tech had a home run of an offseason as they added three of the best transfers available in the transfer portal with Mac McClung (Georgetown), Marcus Santos-Silva (VCU), and Jamarius Burton (Wichita State) all coming over to join the Red Raiders.

Beard also pulled in a pair of top-50 recruits in Nimari Burnett and Micah Peavy, giving Texas Tech one of the deepest rosters in the Big 12.

Among the players returning to Lubbock this season, Beard will likely lean on the services of junior guard Kyler Edwards (11.4 ppg) the most as he looks to repair the Red Raiders backcourt.

This is a team that could start out of the gates somewhat slow before really picking up momentum as conference play gets going.  On paper, they are as deep as any in the country, if Beard can get the talent to gel this is another sleeper candidate for the Final Four.

#19 Texas (+690 to Win Big 12)

While schools like Baylor were surely yelling profanity at the sky when COVID-19 swept over the United States and canceled the best season in school history, Shaka Smart’s job security got a much-needed boost when the entire college sports landscape drastically changed.  Suddenly the Longhorns couldn’t afford to pay a lofty buyout to Shaka Smart and they had to essentially run it back when it looked like Smart was running out of time just weeks before.

This is the make or break year in Austin for the Shaka Smart era, as the once highly coveted basketball coach has now gone five seasons without an NCAA Tournament victory, and has missed the tourney entirely in three of the last four seasons since Smart was named the Texas head coach in 2015.

Since taking over in Austin, Smart is a disappointing 90-81 overall.  Far from the expectations of competing for Big 12 championships year in and year out.  However, if there’s light at the end of the tunnel for the 43-year-old coach it’s that this could be the best Longhorns team Smart has had yet.

The Longhorns feature a very experienced backcourt with juniors Courtney Ramey (10.9 ppg), Andrew Jones (11.5 ppg), and senior Matt Coleman (12.7 ppg).   In the Texas frontcourt, Smart has the luxury of having five players above 6-9, including five-star recruit McDonald’s All-American Greg Brown (#9 overall). 

Brown’s addition could essentially save Shaka Smart’s job, as the highly touted recruit averaged a double-double during all four seasons in high school and is considered a future NBA lottery pick.  

Collectively, this roster is arguably the most talented in the conference, though you may hear from some residents in Lubbock who disagree. 

Nonetheless, this is it for Shaka Smart.  If he can’t get this team over the hump, he will likely be in the market for a new job next spring, but if he can get this team over the hump look out for the Longhorns.

Middle of the Pack

Oklahoma State (+2000 to Win Big 12)

Oklahoma State will draw a lot of attention if for no other reason than to watch Cade Cunningham, the presumptive #1 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.

The Cowboys will not be eligible for the 2021 NCAA Tournament after receiving a one-year postseason ban from the NCAA for their involvement in the Lamont Evans FBI saga, meaning we will not get to see the top recruit in the land play in March, but that doesn’t mean Oklahoma State can’t be a fun team to pay attention to throughout the regular season.

Joining Cunningham in the backcourt for the Cowboys will be junior Isaac Likekele (10.9 ppg) and Cal Baptist grad transfer Ferron Flavors Jr. (13.5 ppg).  Beyond these two guards, this is an extremely young Oklahoma State team with only one other upperclassman on the roster in junior walk-on Dee Mitchell.

If Oklahoma State’s appeal is successful and their postseason ban is overturned, the Cowboys merit paying close attention to, however, if the appeal is lost and they are indeed banned from the NCAA Tournament this is still a team that should finish in the top half of the conference and could have a lot of value as an underdog in the matchups against the Big 12 heavyweights.

Oklahoma (+2000 to Win Big 12)

Lon Kruger has led the Sooners to NCAA Tournament berths in six of the last seven seasons, not including the 2019-20 campaign in which Oklahoma was heading for another at-large spot in the dance.

The Sooners lose leading scorer Kristian Doolittle from last year’s team but return their second and third-leading scorers with seniors Austin Reaves (14.7 ppg) and Brady Manek (14.4 ppg).

This iteration of Oklahoma basketball will look different than it has in recent years when Buddy Hield and Trae Young were dropping 35-foot jumpers all over helpless Big 12 defenders, but they will be a dangerous foe for the top dogs to encounter and should once again be in the mix for another 20-win season and subsequent at-large bid.

The Long Shots

Iowa State (+8000 to Win Big 12)
TCU (+10000 to win Big 12)
Kansas State (+30000 to win Big 12)

Let’s just say each of these schools are in for a long season in this loaded conference.  There are very clear “haves” and “have nots” in the Big 12, and these are the have nots for the 2020/21 season. 

Iowa State was a very poor team a season ago and lost their best player Tyrese Haliburton to the NBA Draft. That doesn’t appear like it’s about to change, and Steve Prohm could be on his way out of Ames as a result.

TCU loses their best player Desmond Bane (graduation) and ushers in a new era under Jamie Dixon.  Expect there to be a lot of growing pains and for the Horned Frogs to be a non-factor for much of the season.

Kansas State loses Xavier Sneed and Carter Diarra and returns no player that averaged more than seven points a game in 2019. Bruce Weber is another coach who can conceivably be on the ‘hot seat’ this season.

Outside of the occasional bet on one of these teams to cover a large point spread, just steer clear of these three schools as best as you can.

Big 12 Projected Order of Finish

  1. Baylor
  2. Texas Tech
  3. Kansas
  4. West Virginia
  5. Texas
  6. Oklahoma State
  7. Oklahoma
  8. TCU
  9. Iowa State
  10. Kansas State