It was a pretty uneventful day in college hoops with none of the ranked teams really being challenged, and most major conference unranked teams handling their business in routine fashion as well. North Carolina beat a solid Chattanooga team – that won in Knoxville against UT two nights ago – by FORTY. Kentucky shook off some rust early to handle Canisius and Florida, who I unwisely faded, handled their business relatively unchallenged from Mercer, jumping out to a 22 point lead and never really being in any danger of giving up the cover.
The only real eye-opener was the dazzling 30/9/7 opening debut of freshman point guard sensation Markelle Fultz. Even more dazzling? Washington still lost at home to YALE.
Today is also a relatively quiet schedule as the college hoops world takes a deep breath before tomorrow’s 24-Hour ESPN Marathon (which includes some great matchups on networks outside of ESPN as well). But there is one MONSTER game tonight as the reigning champs Villanova head to Mackey Arena to face a good, and potentially great, Purdue team. Both teams have one easy non-challenge under their belts, so I expect tonight to be a pretty well-played contest between two teams with Final Four potential.
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Today’s Free Pick:
Georgia State Panthers at Auburn Tigers -7
I am leaning Purdue tonight at home, but that game is more of a “watch and enjoy” game for me than a hard wager. Instead, I’m moving to a far less glamorous game but one with a better line. Georgia State has some name recognition, residual from coaches-son R.J. Hunter’s NCAA buzzer beater from two years ago. But RJ Hunter is long gone, so is Kevin Ware, and really, so is the “Panthers are a dangerous upset team” mojo. They could contend in the Sun Belt, but Auburn is a substantially better team right now.
Bruce Pearl needs to make some progress in Auburn this season and at least flirt with a postseason bid, or else the natives are bound to get a little restless. He’s had time to remake this program, but they haven’t turned the corner quite yet, to say the least. They were picked 11th preseason last year and lived down to expectations, going 11-20 and 5-13 in the SEC. This season they are picked 10th.
They lost four of their top players off last year’s squad, but I am not sure that is a terrible thing. They ha a nice recruiting class in the offseason and have a couple solid graduate transfers joining the mix this year as well. It will be a completely different looking team, but considering they had the 235th ranked offense in D1 and the 305th defense, a change is welcome. They looked good in their opener, albeit a walkover game, and will look to build on that small success tonight.
Most importantly, they are at home, and Georgia State is a low-major program in a bit of a rebuild. That sets up nicely for Auburn to get a good, comfortable home win. It is hard to go off previous year’s numbers in college sports given the massive turnover, but GA State is 8-20-1 ATS over their last 29 games, 1-7 ATS on the road, and 0-6 ATS against SEC schools. They’ve had their chances to step up and slay a giant and have fallen well short over and over again.