Things really start heating up today; conference foes square off under the growing intensity of the impending March Madness, several teams venture for a rare non-conference game searching for one more resume win to separate from the at-large pack, and nearly every game has some implications in conference races and national rankings.
There are so many incredible games today, it was nearly impossible to select only two for official picks – but I did at long last – and those picks are below, but I couldn’t resist going through a few picks I would pick if only I were picking… take my advice on short explanation, or leave it behind, but when a few big names fall, I want to make sure you can come back to thesportsgeek.com and find my pseudo-humble “told you so.”
Ohio State is going to lose today. They are one of only three unbeatens remaining, and they are favorites on the road, but the Illini are better than their #24 ranking and the Buckeyes are ripe for the picking.
Syracuse, on the other hand, is not. They get a visit from #7 Villanova and on that basis alone are at the very least on “upset watch” in the Carrier Dome. But it’s not going to happen. In fact, don’t be surprised if the ‘Cuse put a pretty serious hurting on Jay Wright’s Cats.
Two of the most intriguing games of the day are a pair of long traveling non-conference matchups. Tennessee visiting Storrs to face UConn is interesting, if for no other reason than the odd loophole that will allow Bruce Pearl to coach smack-dab in the middle of his eight game suspension. Pearl will certainly help, but unless he can guard Kemba Walker it is going to be tough to steal a win on the road.
The one that most piques my curiosity is 17-2 St. Mary’s taking on the talented, though somewhat erratic, Vanderbilt Commodores. For years it has been the Gael’s conference mate Gonzaga getting the big-name upset scalps. Today St. Mary’s gets a chance to earn a HUGE win for the tourney profile, and a chance to begin to step a little bit away from the Zags long shadow.
It’s going to be an incredible day of college hoops – pick a few winners and enjoy the smorgasbord of high-quality hoops.
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Today’s Free College Basketball Picks:
Temple Owls @ Xavier Musketeers – pick-‘em
Two weeks ago Xavier looked completely outmanned in a humbling defeat to Cincinnati at the Crosstown Shootout. The loss dropped Xavier to 8-5, and the possibility of the Muskies missing the NCAA tournament for only the second time in eight years began to seem very, very real.
Since then, they have caught fire – tearing through A-10 play, ripping off four straight wins by an average of more than 18 ppg. Sure, the Muskies have some offensive deficiencies, but who in the A-10 doesn’t this season? Yes, they are too reliant on their 6’0’’ point guard Tu Holloway to be their everything, but for the most part this year the junior has been equal to the task. The fact remains that very, very few conference foes have escaped the Cintas Center with a win lately. As a matter of fact, X has won 34 consecutive conference home games – an A-10 record-tying streak.
Temple will be one of the stiffest challenges they will have had to fight off if they are able to keep the streak alive. The Owls entered the season as the league co-favorite along with Richmond, and did little to dispel that notion early, capturing wins over Georgia, Maryland and Georgetown.
However, last Saturday’s blitzing at the hand of Duquesne raised some pretty big red flags for this Temple team, who despite some good wins has also looked very vulnerable in losses to Cal (who is dreadful) and Texas A&M.
Xavier will need to shoot the ball well. It’s a game where they will miss injured sharp shooter Brad Redford, but still have enough fire power to ride the reliably frenzied fans at Cintas to a record-breaking 35th consecutive A-10 win.
Cincinnati Bearcats @ St. John’s Red Storm -2.5
Let’s stay in the same city for our second pick – or at least “pick against.”
Last week I handed you an easy win with the ridiculously low line of the UC v. Notre Dame game. Let’s call this Saturday’s trip to Madison Square Garden and St. John’s déjà vu.
St Johns seems to have really gelled since a few ugly early season stumbles. Last week’s home 90-72 pasting of the Fightin’ Irish showed that the Red Storm are a legitimate potential tourney team in Steve Lavin’s first year at the helm. Like most up and coming teams who are new to success, the Johnnies have had their struggles on the road…. The good news is, tomorrow’s game isn’t on the road. It’s at home in the friendly, but road team-intimidating Madison Square Garden. For many a young team the lights in the World’s “Most Famous Basketball Arena” are a little bright the first time you see them.
Cincinnati STILL has yet to beat a quality team on the road. The difference between now and when I wrote the same thing three weeks ago is that now they have had some chances…and failed to do so, losing to Villanova, Syracuse and Notre Dame by an average of 11.3ppg. Cincinnati is a bubble team with an inflated record and real difficulties with shot selection and turnovers. They are going on the road to play a team that is probably 2-3 points better than them on a neutral floor. It’s a no-brainer.
Take the Red Storm in a game that will likely be closer to double-digits than not covering.