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A Showdown in the WCC and Saturday’s Free Picks

A Showdown in the WCC and Saturday’s Free Picks

Saying its been a wild week in college hoops would be a little bit of an upset.  Two of the top three teams in the country lost home games; Purdue in a Buckeye-validating loss to Ohio State and Villanova in one of the true stunners of the season, falling at home to previously winless in conference St. John’s.  If it weren’t for the spoiler-alert St John’s win over Duke the weekend before, I’d have said the Nova loss was the most surprising regular season result in several years.  As it stands, it’s still jarring Nova just DOESN’T slip up.  Ever.

The chaos leaves Virginia is rare territory; as the undisputed #1 team in the country. But does it make them the clear favorite to win the national title??

Not according to Vegas.  Odds to cut down the nets remain pretty parity driven (according to Bovada.lv) with Villanova and Michigan State still leading the pack at +500.  Virginia is next at +600, along with Duke, while Purdue is also in single-digits at +700 (or 7:1).  From there?  It’s an appropriate free-for-all.  Oklahoma is an overrated +1800 (the Trae Young interest factor) with teams like Arizona, Kansas, Cincinnati, Xavier, Kentucky and West Virginia in the +2000 to +3000 range.

This season is still WIDE open, but today will give us a few more interesting data points as we begin our March analysis. There are some fantastic games on the schedule, so let’s dive in with a few free picks for a crowded Saturday slate.

TODAY’S FREE PICKS:

Jalen_Brunson_VillanovaButler Bulldogs at Villanova Wildcats -9.5

Villanova can avenge their only two season blights in one fell swoop today; both their early season 101-93 loss at Butler, and their most recent outing’s stunner – the home loss to St. John’s.  I’d be cautious betting against Jay Wright’s squad today, even with the large laydown.  This is a buzzsaw a lesser Butler team is walking into today, and I expect Nova to come out sharp and control the game from the opening tap.

Butler is just 2-5 ATS this season on the road, compared to a tidy 10-3 ATS at home.  Villanova is 16-8 ATS overall on the season and have been very comfortable in the role of heavy favorite. They have a 17.7 average margin of victory. Butler has lost their last two road conference games at Creighton and Providence by 11 and 10 respectively.  Villanova needs only replicate the same result to cover and is a far superior (and highly motivated) team.

On a neutral floor, give me Butler. But walking into an angry Villanova gym?  I think today could get ugly.

MY PICK:  VILLANOVA WILDCATS -9.5

 

yurtsevenNorth Carolina Tarheels -3.5 at NC State Wolfpack

This one is interesting.  North Carolina is (assumedly) the better team.  They also have the revenge factor after losing at home to North Carolina State 95-91 in a thriller earlier this season.  But this is also a HUGE trap game for North Carolina, going on the road against a perceived inferior opponent right on the heels of an emotional victory over “real rival” (according to Joel Berry) Duke.

The Wolfpack is at home, where they have already beaten Duke, Notre Dame and Clemson.  North Carolina has road losses at Clemson, Virginia Tech, Virginia and Florida State.

The value here is with the Wolfpack getting points at home.  North Carolina has the name, but on paper, these two teams are a lot more similar resume-wise than most would realize.

I’ll take the points and the home court edge.

MY PICK:  NORTH CAROLINA STATE WOLFPACK +3.5

 

bruce pearlAuburn Tigers -3.5 at Georgia Bulldogs

What’s it gonna take for Bruce Pearl’s Tigers to get a little respect??  They are 21-3, 9-2 in the SEC, ranked #8 in the country and they are barely favored over a mediocre Georgia squad with a 13-10 (4-7) record.  Yes, Auburn lost at home this week to Texas A&M, but there is little shame in an 81-80 loss to a talented squad like the Aggies.  It certainly doesn’t invalidate what they have accomplished to this point in 2017-2018.

Auburn is 9-2 ATS in SEC play and an equally-ridiculous 16-6 ATS for the entire season.  This team is playing excellent basketball and hasn’t faltered on the road they way many expected them to in conference play.  They are 5-2 ATS on the road, and have already gone into Missouri, Mississippi State and Tennessee and won road games.

Georgia meanwhile has been underwhelming.  There was some preseason optimism around this squad with Yante Maten, but it hasn’t materialized into wins.  The Bulldogs have home losses to South Carolina and Arkansas and are just 4-7 straight up in league play.

I’ll take Bruce Pearl to keep the mojo going tonight on the road.

MY PICK:  AUBURN TIGERS -3.5

 

jockGonzaga Bulldogs at St. Mary’s Gaels -2

The Gaels pulled off the near-impossible earlier this season; winning a conference game IN the Kennel and knocking off the Zags.  All that stands between them an a first-ever perfect WCC season and first outright WCC crown since 2012 (Gonzaga owns them all back to 2000) is to consolidate the break and win again, this time at home.

Easy, right?

With all due respect to the Purdue vs. Michigan State tilt today (slight lean MSU at home, but no official pick), THIS is the GAME OF THE DAY.  Both of these teams are really good and both are really nice sleeper Final Four teams in this year of massive parity.  It worth staying up late tonight to catch this one if you live on the East Coast.  There may be a few games of equal talent today, but NONE will even approach the passion and importance of tonight.

St. Mary’s and Gonzaga have both been excellent straight up and have had their struggles ATS.  Much of the struggles are because they are both routinely double-digits favorites against the vastly under-talented WCC conference foes.  Gonzaga’s average MOV (Margin of Victory) is 17.4.  St. Mary’s is 14.4.

This one comes down to home court advantage.  These two teams are really equal.  Gonzaga has a little more depth, St. Mary’s has the best player in Jock Landale. I expect a good game, and if the line was 3.5 or 4, I’d lean Gonzaga. But as long as it is just a single bucket, I’ll take the Gaels to cap off a dream conference season with a rare double-double over Gonzaga.

MY PICK:  ST MARY’S GAELS -2 

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