NCAAB: Under the Radar
Every team not in the Big East, Big Ten or ACC yearns to be the next Butler. Players dream of getting a long look from NBA scouts, coaches can't wait to walk away from their contracts and get big-money deals at the next level. And administrators can’t wait for the big checks that will arrive if their team suddenly and unexpectedly finds its way into a Final 4 appearance or two.
Here are a few teams that are on fire and off the radar right now that could be this year’s Butler:
LOUISIANA TECH (24-3)
Not much will remain of the Western Athletic Conference after this season when half the league sprints for greener pastures, but the Bulldogs are making an impression before they themselves depart for Conference USA. At 14-0 going into Thursday night’s game at home against Utah State, Tech has just about wrapped up the league title. And they’ve done it with only one double-figures scorer (Raheem Appleby 14.7). The Bulldogs take opponents out of their games with full-court pressure defense reminiscent of Nolan Richardson’s 40 Minutes of Hell Arkansas teams in the 1980s and ‘90s. LAT has 16 wins in a row and probably will enter tourney play with a 20-game winning streak.
ST. LOUIS (20-5)
The Billikens have gone on a tear since a back-to-back mid-January losses to Temple and Rhode, and are peaking as the season grinds to a close. They have 8 straight wins and 8 straight covers heading into Friday night’s huge game at Butler which could determine top seeding in the Atlantic 10 Tournament. The Billikens (9-2 in the A-10), crushed Butler (9-3) three weeks ago, but the Bulldogs rarely lose at home. St. Louis has momentum to spare after its huge win over VCU on Tuesday in which the Billikens held the best offensive team in the conference scoreless for 10 minutes and raced to a game-deciding 32-9 lead.
The Zips haven’t lost since mid-December and will take a 17-game winning streak (longest in the country) into weekend action. They haven’t yet locked up the Mid-American Conference, but can pretty much do that next week by taking care of Miami of Ohio at home. Akron has a nice blend of size and experience, led by shot-blocking 7-foot center Zeke Marshall, who has brashly predicted a national championship. Interestingly, the city’s most famous athlete says he keeps a close eye on the team. "They're on top of the MAC and they're playing some really, really good ball right now,” notes LeBron James.
- Southern Mississippi
- Dave Cokin
- September 3, 2016 - 7:30 PM
- Offered at:
- pinnacle @ 7 -110 Southern Mississippi
Here it is! Dave's very first comp selection for the brand new college football season. This line has a chance to go down off a key number, so grab it now if you're able!
I'm usually a little hesitant to back new head coaches out of the gate, but I think there's enough in play here to support a play on Southern Mississippi. Jay Hopson has done well at the FCS level, and he was formerly an assistant here at Southern Miss. I also like the fact that the new OC is Shannon Dawson, who had that job at Kentucky last season. He got fired, so there's two ways to read the situation. One is that he wasn't any good, the other is that he didn't have the personnel. But one thing for sure is that you know Dawson is going to be all-in to do some damage to the program that dumped him. That's a nice intangible. USM has the best QB in CUSA in Nick Mullens, and while the offense did lose a few important pieces, I expect the Golden Eagles to still be very productive on offense. We'll see on the defense. I don't think it's necessarily down from last year, but it probably isn't any better either.
Kentucky is already having some problems.The Wildcats are already down two projected defensive starters. For a team that lost seven of its eight leading tacklers from 2015, this is a potentially big hit. I think the Wildcats could have an improved offense. Eddie Gran is the new OC and he did some great work at Cincinnati. Drew Barker was unimpressive in two starts last season, but he was a pretty highly recruited QB and I suspect he'll do a better job this season. The strength of the Kentucky team will be its running game, especially with what is a very experienced OL to open holes.
This game looks like a tossup to me. I have these two teams very close in all three sets of power ratings I utilize. It's an important game for both teams. Southern Miss is an upwardly mobile program that would love to knock off an SEC opponent on the road. Kentucky hasn't been to even a minor bowl since 2010, and if Mark Stoops wants to stay off the hot seat, he needs an invite this season. That makes this almost a must win Week One game for the Wildcats. But I don't see them being a full TD better than the Golden Eagles, and with the early attrition on defense, I see the visitors having a legit shot here. I'll take the touchdown with Southern Mississippi.