College basketball bettors getting refunds on wagers figures to be a common occurrence as the COVID-19 pandemic wreaks havoc on schedules that are very much in flux.
The 2020-21 season is already shaping up to be college basketball’s strangest. The Maui Invitational will be played in Asheville, N.C. The Battle 4 Atlantis — rechristened the Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic for 2020 — was moved from the sunny Bahamas to chilly South Dakota.
The sport just lost it opening-day marquee matchup when 18th-ranked Arizona State decided not to play No. 2 Baylor after Bears coach Scott Drew tested positive for the virus. The Sun Devils announced on Monday that they would play Rhode Island, a late addition to the 2K Empire Classic at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut. The Uncasville site, which is being called Bubbleville, has become a college basketball home for a number of teams and events.
Villanova and Boston College are scheduled to play in an Empire Classic semifinal this evening. There are more than two dozen teams scheduled to play games at Mohegan Sun during the Thanksgiving week.
In light of the problems posed by the pandemic, the NCAA gave member institutions and event organizers more latitude on scheduling rules this season.
Thanksgiving week’s premier matchup, between No. 1 Gonzaga and No. 6 Kansas on Thursday, is another example of this season’s schedule-on-the-fly planning.
The Bulldogs and Jayhawks were originally going to play in separate tournaments in Orlando, Fla., before ESPN scrapped its Walt Disney World-bubble plans. So, the two teams will now head south to Fort Meyers on Florida’s Gulf Coast for a pair of doubleheaders on Thursday and Friday. Auburn and St. Joseph’s will also play on Thanksgiving Day, and the Zags will take on the Tigers with the Jayhawks facing the Hawks on Friday.
In addition to picking winners, bettors will have to deal — for at least the foreseeable future — with and a fractious and ever-changing college basketball landscape.
Let’s take a few stabs, anyway. Here are this week’s picks. The numbers for the spreads are based on game predictions at KenPom.com.
San Francisco -9 vs. Towson: The Dons went 22-12 in their first year under 33-year-old head coach Todd Golden. Golden, who took over for Kyle Smith, has adopted Smith’s “Moneyball” approach to the game and given particular focus to defense.
That should come in handy against Towson, which went 19-13 last year and was 12-6 in the Colonial Athletic Association. However the Tigers lost their top two scorers from 2019-20 and are young.
The Dons have a decent shot at being 7-0 when they face Gonzaga on Jan. 2. SAN FRANCISCO
No. 6 Kansas vs. No. 1 Gonzaga -2: The Jayhawks were No. 1 in the nation and the Bulldogs No. 2 when the NCAA Tournament was canceled in early March.
During the offseason, the Zags lost West Coast Conference player of the year Filip Petrusev and senior forward Killian Tillie. But Kansas arguably lost more with their two best players, Udoka Azubuike and Devon Dotson, to the NBA.
Kansas coach Bill Self’s biggest question will be whom does defensive specialist Marcus Garret guard? Preseason All-American Corey Kispert and five-star freshman Jalen Suggs will present different kinds of problems for the Jayhawks. The Jayhawks and Zags haven’t met since 1998, before Gonzaga became, well, Gonzaga. GONZAGA
LSU at Saint Louis -2: The Tigers’ season openers were rerouted last week from Nebraska to St. Louis. LSU faces SIU-Edwardsville on Thursday before taking on the Billikens on their home floor.
Saint Louis has improved from 12 wins in head coach Travis Ford’s first season to 23 wins in each of the past two, and the Billikens are among the favorites in the Atlantic 10. It could take the Tigers a few games to integrate their new faces. SAINT LOUIS
No. 14 Texas Tech -3 vs. No. 17 Houston: We know Chris Beard’s Red Raiders will be good on defense (Pomeroy has them fifth in the country in that category).
Beard’s challenge this season will be to replace three starters, including his top two scorers from a year ago. Marcus Santos Silva, a grad transfer from VCU and the Red Raiders’ only senior, will be expected to take on a big role.
The Cougars’ backcourt, including 6-foot-3 guard Caleb Mills, who led his team in scoring last season despite starting just seven games, poses a tough assignment for the second game of the season.
Houston’s offense in No. 9 in the nation, according to KenPom. HOUSTON