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September 22, 2014

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Vegas Play of the Day: SMU vs. Minnesota

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Associated Press

SMU head coach Larry Brown, left, yells at a referee during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against TCU in Dallas, Friday, Nov. 8, 2013.

I’m going to avoid dipping my toe into baseball until I’m all out of college basketball, which means today I’m going with the NIT Championship.

In case you’re new here, the Vegas Play of the Day started with a fictional $10,000 and uses odds from the South Point sports book. In an effort to build on my lead before the dog days of summer bring me back down, I’m going with the first four-digit bet of our competition.

SMU minus-3 against Minnesota: $1,100 to win $1,000

The idea behind our plays was that we would bet the amounts in relative relation to our confidence in the pick. However, while this is my largest play it is definitely not my favorite pick. Instead it’s an attempt to create a little more distance from the pack before I inevitably fall behind once I’m forced to pick NBA or MLB games every day.

That said, I do actually like SMU to cover in this game, and the headline reasons are defense and Larry Brown.

Both Minnesota and SMU are No. 1 seeds in the NIT, meaning they were likely a win or two from the NCAA Tournament. In fact it’s widely believed that a simple victory against lowly Houston in the American Athletic Conference tournament would have been enough for the Mustangs to get in. So both of these teams are good.

A key difference is that while Minnesota has made this run to Madison Square Garden on shooting — either from the 3-point line, free-throw line or sometimes both — the Mustangs have done it mostly on the defensive end, where they’ve held three of four NIT opponents to no more than one point per possession. The only team to go above that was California, which was playing the final career game of coach Mike Montgomery, who retired after the season.

While it’s possible the Gophers will come in and shoot the lights out once more, solid defense is less streaky and thus gives me more confidence. And speaking of confidence, no matter how productive a first season it’s been for Minnesota coach Richard Pitino he’s overmatched against Brown, who’s the only basketball coach in history to win both an NCAA (Kansas) and NBA (Detroit) title.

Once we’ve made it this far in the NIT, motivation is no longer a question. These teams want it, and I want to be on the side with the better coach and better defense.

Standings: Bern (17-11, $11,390), Keefer (15-14, $9,717), Brewer (10-16-3, $6,060)

Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at twitter.com/taylorbern.

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