St. Joe’s vs. Princeton Pick NCAA Basketball – December 14th

Defy the Villanova Wildcats at your own peril.  I took the massive point pile and the in-city rival Temple Owls last night only to be summarily smacked in the mouth by the defending champs in a 21-point beatdown.  Villanova probably won’t run the table – the Big East is too good, and because they are the rare conference with a balanced schedule, they have to play true road games against a lot of good teams; Xavier, Creighton, Butler; even Seton Hall, Providence, Georgetown, Marquette – someone will jump up and beat them and probably two or even three teams.  But that’s about it.  You can put them down right now as the most obvious and automatic #1 seed in March.  Barring catastrophic injury, the defending champs will enter the Dance with a legitimate chance to truly be the rare “defending” defending champ.

It was an otherwise light and rather uneventful night of college hoops, and sadly, so is tonight as we continue to anxiously await the fantastic slate on Saturday that is highlighted by Kentucky and North Carolina in Vegas.

In the meantime, it takes a little more work to sift through the schedule and find value this week, but I think we have a pretty good hidden gem tonight.

Today’s Free Pick:

St. Joe’s Hawks at Princeton Tigers -9 (5pm EST – ESPNU)

Quick note – this game is an early start time, so it you like the pick, it needs to be registered by 4:59 EST.

Neither one of these teams is much to note this season, despite some pretty good name recognition from past successes.  Princeton is not even in the Top Three in the admittedly improved Ivy League, and they enter today at 4-4.  However, their losses are to VCU, BYU and Cal – all respectable opponents and none by humiliating margins.  All their losses, including @Lehigh are by nine points except the 11 point loss to Cal.  However, there are no real good wins to balance out the slate. Their best win is a Hawaii squad decimated by scandal, and their wins also include someone named “Rowan.”  I am assuming that isn’t the dude from Scandal, but they didn’t offer up much more resistance…

Meanwhile, St. Joe’s also enters at 4-4 with a similar profile.  The losses are to Ole Miss, NC State, Temple and Villanova – and only Villanova was a blowout.  The others were in the same 9-13 range as their counterpart tonight.  The wins are similarly unimpressive.  One point wins over Toledo and Drexel and wins over Columbia and Illinois.

My point is, this is about as mirrored a matchup as you can get.  Which makes either team getting nine points pretty good value.  The game is at Princeton, but let’s not get it twisted, St. Joe’s ain’t walking into Durham or Rupp tonight.  I’ll take the points gladly.  St. Joe’s was decent last year, and though they lost their top players, still has some veteran players that have been through plenty of road games against good A-10 competition.

Look for a close game tonight, as Princeton isn’t head and shoulders more talented than St. Joe’s – if they are at all.

Free Pick:  St. Joe’s Hawks +9

Chris Scheeren / Author