Happy Thanksgiving everyone! If you are a college hoops fan, you have a lot to be thankful for today with an absolute feast of fantastic games on the schedule. The artist-formerly-known as the Old Spice Classic tips off today in Orlando with Xavier and Alabama and then keeps its foot on the gas all day with Wichita State vs. USC, Notre Dame vs. Monmouth and Iowa vs. Dayton. A few of those names might not leap off the page, but aside from Xavier, no team today is a double digit favorite.
We also get the semifinals in the Battle 4 Atlantis, featuring a great game between Gonzaga and Texas A&M and an interesting Syracuse vs. UConn renewal of an old Big East classic (doubt we’ll get six overtimes today, but you never know…)
And if all that isn’t enough, add in Stanford vs. Villanova, West Virginia vs. Richmond, Cal vs. San Diego State and Arkansas vs. Georgia Tech and there is enough quality hoops slated to last the entire Turkey Day. So grab a big plate and get ready for leftovers. We have a date with the television.
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Today’s Free Picks:
Wichita State Shockers -2.5 vs. USC Trojans
I get it. Wichita State looked really average in getting beaten at Tulsa (who is way better than casual bettors realize) and USC is a perfect 5-0. BUT, there is a reason why Wichita State was a preseason Top 15 team and USC was picked near-last by fellow Pac-12 coaches. Wichita State is the better team, and I think they’ll show it today in Orlando.
Andy Enfield has struggled mightily in his two seasons in Los Angeles after guiding FGCU to a miracle Sweet 16 run. Some have hypothesized this is the year they begin to turn the corner, others have foretold his inevitable doom. I think the truth is somewhere in between, but there is no doubt a game like today could help solidify that they IS some progress being made as SC (and help Enfield get a fourth year). But I just don’t think they have the guard play to out-duel Baker and Van Vleet.
I am frankly surprised this line isn’t five or six. But alas, I’ll take the super-slim line and expect to win with some breathing room today.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Monmouth Hawks -8.5
This is another head-scratcher to me. Notre Dame only laying eight and a half?? I checked several places to see if my early-morning eyes were deceiving me, but they are not. This FEEELS like free money – which in its own odd way if my only cause for pause. Am I missing something here?
Notre Dame is clearly undervalued. I’ve said from the beginning, the drop off this season will not be as precipitous as some expect. Demetrius Jackson is ready to become a star, and Auguste and Vasturia give them enough scrap and offense to hold the rope. Notre Dame is a legit Top 25 team. Monmouth has started the year a respectable 2-1 with a win over a lousy UCLA team and an 11-point loss to the above-mentioned USC. However, I am going to trust their coaches who have them seventh in the MEAC, behind Quinnipiac and Rider and Manhattan… I don’t see them beating the Irish and frankly can’t believe this isn’t a 14-15p point line on a neutral court.
Evansville Purple Aces at Providence Friars -2.5 (Total: 149.5)
This is the hidden-gem game of the day, and is available on ESPNU at 9pm EST if you have a chance. Kris Dunn might be the best player in the country causal fans aren’t familiar with and has his sights set on lifting an otherwise-average Providence team to the Big Dance. Evansville is similarly under the radar. Everyone knows Wichita State and most fans know Northern Iowa, especially after the last few seasons success and their win over #1 North Carolina last week. But lurking just behind those two in the Missouri Valley is a really solid Evansville team.
Evansville is led by do-everything senior D.J. Ballentine who is averaging over 20ppg for the third straight season. He is a lock for first team all MVC and could push Van Vleet/Baker for the POY Honor. Look for him to have a big game in a showcase outing against NBA Lottery Pick, Dunn.
I’d lean Providence, since this game is in the Dunkin Center, but my play on some POINTS going up on the board. Evansville is averaging close to 90 and Providence close to 80. Neither team is shy about letting shots fly, so expect some fun tonight. I like this game to get to the 160+ range, making the OVER a nice value play.