College basketball is ringing in the New Year in style, with an overflowing assortment of games to feast on today. ESPN will be introducing the nation to the new American Athletic Conference with a trio of games starting at 5pm with Louisville trying to bounce back from an emotional loss at Kentucky by visiting UCF (and trying to avenge the football team’s lone, and season-ruining, loss to the Knights). Conference play also begins in the Big Ten with Ohio State traveling to Purdue, and Iowa visiting Illinois in a game that could have far reaching implications as both look to be contenders for NCAA bids.
There’s a ton of great action to choose from, but I’m going to try to rebound from yesterday’s terrible loss (ugh, Virginia – that was abominable) with two games in particular. So let’s dig in to today’s free picks.
Today’s Free Picks:
Ohio State Buckeyes -7 at Purdue Boilermakers
Yes, it is tough to win on the road in conference play, but I think Purdue is going to be significantly outmatched today. Ohio State is a legit Final Four contender. They have tons of scoring on the perimeter with Lenzelle Smith Jr. and LaQuinten Ross and of course, fantastic leadership and savvy in point guard Aaron Craft. Defensively this team pressures the ball as well as anyone in the country, and outside of Syracuse I haven’t seen a smarter team at defending the weak side and always rotating into good help position. It is going to be very difficult for Purdue to get quality shots today.
Purdue has played well against some good teams like Oklahoma State, but hasn’t knocked any of them off. I think they can hang around perhaps for a bit, but in the end, Ohio State is just going to be too good defensively to overtake. I like the Buckeyes today, even laying some points on the road.
Marquette Warriors at Creighton Bluejays -9
Creighton opens life in the Big East with a visit from long-time perennial contender Marquette. Yes, the Warriors are having some struggles this season, but I was a bit surprised to see them getting nearly double-digits, even on the road at a good Creighton team.
One thing Buzz Williams’s teams have always hung their hat on is tough, physical defense. I’m not sure Creighton is as ready for the bruising Big East style of play as their record indicates. I’m sure Doug McDermott will get his tonight, but he is going to have to really work for it. I like Creighton slightly in this game, but I’ll take the huge pile of points and the physical Warriors to make a statement that this season isn’t lost quite yet. They have five losses, but four of them are against NCAA teams and none by more than a handful of points including two 2-pointers. Expect them to compete tonight in Omaha.