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Providence vs. Notre Dame Pick NCAA Hoops – Nov 23rd

With just a few exceptions, the elite teams in college hoops have looked elite. Some of the lower Top 25-40 have struggled with the parity that abounds, but at the very top, it’s been dominant stuff. Duke and Kentucky are mowing through people. North Carolina, Wisconsin, Wichita State, Gonzaga and Texas have all answered the bell against early quality competition.

There aren’t any real heavyweight battles today as the best games are probably Connecticut vs. West Virginia and Miami (FL) vs. Charlotte. But there are some intriguing matchups between teams that project out as possible/likely Bubble Teams – so some wins today over similar competition could add a valuable chip to the at-large scales come March. Let’s dive into my favorite of these games and try to get back on the winning track after a rough weekend.

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Today’s Free Pick:

Providence Friars vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish -2.5 (@ Mohegan Sun Arena, CT – 2:30 PM EST)

These two teams are no strangers to one another being long time Big East foes. Notre Dame has since left for the ACC and the Friars are still in the “Big East” though it faintly resembles the “Big East” of Notre Dame’s era. Alas, the point is these two programs met every year for a quite a while so some of the usual interconference unfamiliarity shouldn’t be there this afternoon.

Both teams are off to very pleasant starts. Providence’s might be the more surprising of the two; one because they lost their do-everything superstar Bryce Cotton from last year’s narrow entrant to the NCAA Tourney after a long drought. Secondly, because of HOW they’ve won. Say what you want about Florida State being a mess (fair, they’ve also lost at home to Northeastern), but an 80-52 win on a neutral court is an impressive salvo that the Friars are going to survive without Cotton. That win was fresh on the heels of an 88-51 win over a Navy team that took Michigan State to the final minutes.

Meanwhile, Notre Dame is living up to my billing as pleasant sleeper. The return of Jerian Grant adds some offensive punch to a veteran team. 6’10’’ Zach Augustine is finally living up to the promise and Pat Connaughton provides veteran toughness and outside shooting. This is a nicely balanced team, albeit one that lacks a little explosiveness. They have beaten Navy by 39 and easily handled a UMass team that will contend in the A-10 by a score of 81-68 yesterday.

I’ll give the edge to Notre Dame in this game today on the basis of their ability to know what a good shot looks like and to knock them down when they take them. Both teams stats are a little inflated due to several games against inferior competition, but shooting 59% from the floor isn’t easy to do in an empty gym. That’s what the Irish are doing this season including 43% from distance. They have good ability to space the floor with good shooters at every position and Grant gives them the NBA-level shot creator they lacked last season. Look for the Irish to outshoot the Friars today and to stack up a second straight quality win.

Free Pick: Notre Dame -2.5