It’s been a good start to the college basketball season, as we notched winners in our first two picks. Yesterday, it was the Dukies rolling to an easy 50-point win (they’ve won by a combined 129 points so far this season). Their talented freshman are blending deftly with the veterans, and though it is just two games at home against inferior competition, they look like a team with more than enough talent to win the loaded ACC this season.
It’s a fair sentiment that the college basketball season doesn’t really start until Tuesday, but while we anxiously await Duke vs. Michigan St. and Kentucky vs. Kansas, there are some interesting games flying under today’s radar. Let’s dive into my two favorite plays of the day.
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Today’s Free Pick:
Valparaiso Crusaders at Missouri Tigers -5
Glancing at the names, this feels like a mismatch. But dig a little deeper and that matchup is MUCH closer. Missouri is going through a massive rebuilding year. They’ve lost their top three scorers and their coach, and will be lucky to finish in the top ten of a better-than-advertised SEC. They will have to get some huge lifts from a pair of transfers (Deuce Bello from Baylor and Keith Shamburger from Hawaii) if they are going to hover above .500 this season.
Meanwhile, Bryce Drew’s Crusaders were better than expected last year, going 9-7 in a solid Horizon League despite playing almost exclusively freshman. Well, now those freshman are seasoned sophomores, and should be poised to contend for a conference championship (though Green Bay is very good).
This game is in Missouri, which should be an advantage for the young Tigers, but they’ve already lost a home game to Missouri-Kansas City (um… yeah). Meanwhile, Valpo looked real sharp against East Tennessee. I like Valpo to give the Tigers all they can handle, and don’t be surprised if they beat them outright.
Coastal Carolina Chanticleers at UCLA Bruins -17
The Chanticleers are another small-conference program that the casual fans may not be too familiar with, but this team has NCAA Tourney experience. They return four starters including the fantastic backcourt of Elijah Wilson and Warren Gillis. Should UCLA win this game? Of course. Are they 17 points better? I’m not so sure. If I’m Alford, I’m stressing over and over to my very young Bruins team that they are playing an opponent that CAN beat them.
UCLA has talent and better size and athleticism. I think that’ll allow them to outlast Coastal. But it won’t be easy.