Thanksgiving NFL and college hoops picks
Happy Thanksgiving to you all. We have an awesome holiday edition of the column. We are washing the back luck we have run into the last couple of weeks and using the holiday to add to your Thanksgiving Day with winning bets. Feast Week is arguably the best gambling week of the entire year, and Thanksgiving Day this year is the main course.
We got a couple of NFL games and a decent slate of college basketball.
As always here are the picks, and before we get started a reminder: If you're gambling this Thanksgiving, make sure to do so with our friends at MyBookie. Use the promo code "TORRES" and MyBookie will double your first deposit, so if you want to bet $50 on Gonzaga today, MyBookie gives you $100 to play with.
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Here are the picks
Houston Texas at Detroit's Lions Breakdown:
Spread: Texans -3
It's one of the greatest American Thanksgiving traditions, watching the pitiful Lions on Thanksgiving Day.
The Lions have not been successful playing in the Thanksgiving spotlight - they are 5-11 ATS in their last 16 Thanksgiving games and they are 1-11 ATS when they have been an underdog during that same timespan. The Lions are coming off a pitiful 24-0 loss against the Panthers, marking the first time the Lions were shutout since Matt Stafford became the quarterback way back in 2009. In the Lions defense, they were missing key offensive players DeAndre Swift and Kenny Goladay, and Swift is expected to be in the back of the lineup Thursday. Still, I have shared my disgust for Lions head coach Matt Patricia in the past. It is hard to back him in any position. With a 13-28 record over his three seasons in Detroit, Patricia appears to be on his way out. An embarrassing loss on Thanksgiving with the whole world watching would seal his fate.
The Texans meanwhile, got in the win column beating the Patriots 27-20 as a 2.5 point underdog. Houston is essentially in no man's land. They sit at 3-7 far out of reach for the playoffs, but they don’t have a first or second round pick to recoup a good draft pick from their disastrous season. If there is a positive though, it's that quarterback Deshaun Watson has been balling in his last five games- Watson has thrown 11 touchdowns without an interception, posted a 116.2 passer rating, completed 70.9 percent of his throws, had three 300-yard games, and is converting an impressive 8.2 yards per pass. Watson is coming off his best game against the Patriots. He completed 75.7 percent of his throws for 344 yards, with three touchdowns (two passing, one rushing), a 121 passer rating, and 9.3 yards per attempt.
Thankfully for Watson - and this is big - Detroit essentially runs the same base scheme as New England. It is a very rare opportunity for a quarterback to see virtually the same defense in back to back weeks. I think Watson is going to take advantage. Houston has a non existent running game so Watson basically has to do all the work.
Both defenses have been awful all year. The Texans will pass the ball all over the field with Watson, and Detroit will be able to run the ball down the Texans throats.
The pick: Over 51
Washington Football Team at Dallas Cowboys
How bout them Cowboys? Three weeks ago Mike McCarthy's tenure in Dallas looked to be heading for an early exit, but now the Cowboys are one win away from being the favorites to win the NFL East. I still think most of Dallas already wants to get rid of the sour taste that is McCarthy, and many would prefer their team to tank for the higher draft pick. But it's hard to keep losing when you have the talent the Cowboys have. It’s an oxymoron, but the winner of this 3-7 matchup will have a good shot of punching a ticket to the postseason.
This is a game I would never bet on a normal Sunday. But it's Thanksgiving dammit and I want some action while eating my turkey. We are going to go with Dallas here. They have been energized since the bye week and the defense has improved tremendously. They competed with the Steelers with Garrett Gilbert at quarterback and they beat a hot Vikings team on the road. The defense and the offensive line are getting healthier, and Dalton has proven he can be a serviceable quarterback.
Alex Smith and the Washington football team have been in a great story. They haven’t really been impressive. They only scored 20 on a horrendously bad Bengals defense, they trailed by multiple scores against Detroit and the Giants. If the Cowboys take care of the football they can run away with this thing. Give me the Cowboys on Thanksgiving, it just seems right.
The pick: Cowboys -3
Now that we got our football picks out of the way let's get into what really makes Thanksgiving special, fall college basketball. All hyperbolic jokes aside, the best game this holiday is coming on the hardwood. With a mediocre football slate here is who we are looking to back in college hoops.
Gonzaga vs Kansas (Fort Myers Tip-Off, Fort Myers Florida)
The premier Thanksgiving game comes on the hardwood with an afternoon feature of two of college basketball’s top teams with No. 6 Kansas battling No. 1 Gonzaga at Suncoast Credit Union Arena in Fort Myers, Florida. Kansas and Gonzaga were two of the bigger losers of the NCAA Tournament's cancellation last season as both teams were projected to be No. 1 seeds going into the Big Dance.
Instead of potential national championship matchup, we trade that in for a premier opening game for the 2021 season. If you listened to Torres’s college basketball preview, he named Gonzaga as his preseason team to win the title. I completely agree with Torres, the Zags have five legitimate NBA guys in their starting five. Gonzaga is a team that legitimately does everything well, they have length, shooting, defense, rebounding, depth - simply they have it all. Add to the fact that Florida transfer Andrew Nembhard just received immediate eligibility, and is going to come off the freakin bench. To put it simply Gonzaga is stacked.
Kansas is no slouch either, they return several returners from a top team including David McCormick, Marcus Garrett, and Ochai Agbaji. Kansas is simply a class below Gonzaga. They lose a lot of production from star point guard Devin Dotson and Udoka Azubike. Garrett and Agbaji were strong role players but they are not ready to provide the level of production created from hose two stars.
I think Kansas gives a valiant effort but they are not ready for the Zags. We mentioned in the Aaron Torres pod, that Mark Few did the dirty work himself and scheduled these games during the pandemic. Gonzaga always shows up and dominates this stand alone big non conference games. I’ll lay the points with Gonzaga and watch them make a statement.
The pick: Gonzaga -4
Western Kentucky vs. Memphis (Bad Boy Mowers Classic - Sioux Falls, South Dakota)
Rick Stansbury's Western Kentucky team is going to be this year's San Diego State. They have the talent to make it to the second weekend of the tournament. They return NBA caliber center Charles Bassey who looked good coming off an injury, and Taveion Hollingsworth is one of the most electrifying scorers in college basketball.
Memphis has a lot of talent and I think they will be good, but they have always shown inconsistency under coach Penny Hardaway. Bassey will overwhelm freshmen center Moussa Cisse and Western Kentucky will be able to score on Memphis’s stout defense. The betting market will react to Memphis beating a very overrated Saint Mary’s team. Western Kentucky handled a good Northern Iowa team on their best shooting day. These two teams are closer than the market indicates. I’ll take an experienced Western Kentucky team to get a huge resume boosting win.
The pick: Western Kentucky +4.5 and ML
Chicago State at Illinois
Spread: Illinois -38.5
I kinda feel bad betting against Chicago State here. They are loveable losers that you just have to feel bad for. Their head coach Lance Irvin literally opted out of the season because of Covid concerns three hours before their first game against Ohio. Chicago State is historically bad because of an insane lack of resources. That’s why they scheduled a half-a-dozen buy games where they continually get slaughtered.
Meanwhile, Illinois won a game by 62 points yesterday. 62 freakin points. They play an easier team in Chicago State. Illinois has an argument of being one of the best teams in college basketball. They have two legitimate NBA guys who decided to come back to college this season in Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn. Illinois has a talented front court that outrebounded North Carolina A&T 62-18.
The Illini's one question heading into the season was three point shooting. In Wednesday's opener, Illinois shot 17-31 from three in their last game. Dosmusu is going to want to put good shooting tape for NBA teams next year. Chicago State is the perfect opponent to do that against. I would normally worry about motivation in this spot, but guys are just excited to be back on the court playing basketball again after a long lay off. Illinois cruises and covers this massive number.
The pick: Illinois -38.5
Saint Joseph vs Auburn (Fort Myers Tip-Off, Fort Myers, Florida)
Spread: Saint Joes +7.5
It’s Ryan Daly season baby. The mid-major superstar returns to Saint Joes after a campaign where he averaged 20.5 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game. Daly is one of the best scorers in college basketball and he will be the best player on the floor in this game.
Briefly mentioned in the Torres preview, this season will be a tough rebuilding year for Auburn. Auburn voluntarily gave themselves a postseason ban from the NCAA tournament because they know they are going to suck and Bruce Pearl’s recruiting tactics aren’t much of a secret anymore. Auburn lost all five starters from last year, and star freshmen Sharife Cooper is not expected to be suiting up in an Auburn uniform. Auburn starts inexperienced five underclassmen. They are long and athletic and could mesh later in the year, but it's going to be ugly early. With the lack of practices and scrimmages going into the season, I just don’t see how Auburn can be good early on.
While Auburn is trying to piece together dysfunction, Saint Joes returns all five starters from last season and add transfer Greg Foster Jr from Gonzaga. I know they were dumpster fire 6-26 last season, but they did beat UConn in the non conference and battled continuous injuries in an abnormally strong A-10 last year.
With Taylor Funk back at full strength, and adding another guard to take pressure off Daly- Saint Joes should have a nice comeback season. Saint Joes has a notorious reputation winning these early non conference games against major conference teams.
The pick: Saint Joes +7.5
Northern Iowa vs Saint Mary’s
Saint Mary’s is one of the most overvalued teams in the country. They are not the same team after losing Jordan Ford and Malik Fitts. They really don’t have anyone who can break down a defense to score, or create opportunities for others. Northern Iowa is a potential tournament team with AJ Green leading the way. Northern Iowa is 6-7 points better and market is not going to reflect that. For reference, SB Nation’s Mid Major Madness ranked Northern Iowa has the 4th best mid-major, while Saint Mary’s was not ranked at all. Going to bet against the Gaels until the market catches up. The spread will open up between a pick em or UNI -2. Northern Iowa wins easily
The pick: Northern Iowa ML
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