We split our NCAA picks last night to snap a five-game winning streak, but will be looking to stack on some more winners tonight as we head into a busy college basketball weekend. Before digging in to tonight’s picks, it’s worth taking a look at the Arizona v. Oregon game last night. We had the right side with the points as Oregon covered easily, but if not for a ridiculously bad shot (a constant Oregon bugaboo) and five missed free throws in the final 1:20, we might instead be talking about the sky falling in Tuscon. So…is Arizona really as vulnerable as they looked last night without Brandon Ashely? Or is it just a brief adjustment period and a tough game against a talented and desperate Oregon squad?
The truth will soon be evident, but I think it’s a little combination of both. I’ve been on Arizona since before the season started, but the loss of Ashley is a big one, and they appear to be a team that may have peaked a little too early (think Indiana last year). It’ll be tough for them to hold off Syracuse, Michigan State (who looked great with Adrien Payne back last night), Kansas and about a dozen other talented and dangerous teams in March.
Most of the big-time conferences are taking the night off, but there are two Big East games as well as the weekly Horizon game on ESPN. I’m 0-3 this season on Horizon picks, so I’m accepting I just don’t have as good of a handle on that league as in year’s past – so instead, I’ll stick with the lead dog in the Big East and check in on Jay Wright and the Villanova Wildcats tonight.
Today’s Free Pick:
Seton Hall Pirates at Villanova Wildcats -12.5
Seton Hall has shown some flashes this year, beating Providence in OT, hammering Xavier last week and notching a nice win over Georgetown. However, they’ve also looked really pedestrian at times as well; dropping games to St. John’s, Butler, Marquette and a 16-point home loss to Villanova.
Meanwhile, everyone waiting for the Villanova plummet back to “decent” as opposed to “elite” (and I was one of them), I don’t think it’s coming. Villanova rebounded from their humiliating loss to Creighton with three straight road wins over Marquette, Georgetown and Temple and hammered Xavier 81-58 at home in their last time out. Villanova is a good team with a great resume. They are probably the most and overlooked team in the #1 seed discussion. They are leading a very good major conference, own neutral court wins over Iowa and Kansas and have no bad losses in an RPI sense (the Creighton loss was BAD, but it wasn’t “bad” – if that makes sense).
They’ve also treated wagerers well this season, posting a sparkling 15-5 record ATS this season. Their last three home wins have come by an average margin of 27.3 points. And while Seton Hall is better than DePaul, they aren’t any markedly better than Xavier or Providence who were the other slaughter victims visiting Philly.
I am finally on board with this Villanova team. They are athletic and tough – this is NOT Jay Wright’s undersized Scottie Reynolds-led gunners from the late aughts. This is a physical and talented team poised for a nice March run. I think they’ll run over the Pirates tonight at home.