I suppose the first thing I am thankful for is that yesterday is over. The delicious smorgasbord of turkey, stuffing and sports tasted a little less tasty in my house with every college hoops pick clanging off the rim. It’s a bummer for the folks who run the Orlando tournament as well, as the co-favorites, Wichita State and Notre Dame both took losses in the opener (which, I suppose, silver lining is that it sets up an awesome 5th place game) and now leaves the tournament hoping for a Xavier vs. Dayton final – which is a nice old rivalry for Midwesterners, but runs the disastrous possibility of a USC vs. Monmouth dénouement. Ouch.
All in all, what a bizarre day of college basketball. Aside from the two surprising results I mentioned above, Cal got rolled by San Diego State, Gonzaga lost to Texas A&M and Arizona needed overtime to beat 0-6 Santa Clara. Not a good day for three of the supposed top teams out West. When the newest polls are unfavorable to teams west of the Mississippi, it ain’t because of East Coast bias….
Alas, there is still a ton of great hoops left this weekend, so let’s see if we can make up for a Thanksgiving Day massacre with a few winners to balance out the plate.
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Today’s Free Picks:
Xavier Musketeers -1 vs. USC Trojans (Total: 152.5)
Most people, me included, expected to see X vs. Wichita State in a battle of fantastic programs from non “Power 5” conferences (though with X now in the Big East, it’s hard to think of them as a plucky mid-major anymore). However, USC took advantage of Van Vleet’s absence from the lineup to move to 5-0 on the season and a perfect 5-0 ATS as well. They will get their toughest test of the season today against a Xavier squad that beat Alabama handily yesterday and has already gone into Michigan and won by double digits.
Xavier has six players averaging nine points or more and is out-rebounding teams by close to 15 per game. USC has some talent, and freshman Bennie Boatwright announced his presence big-time yesterday with 22 points and a nice all-around floor game. However, I like the balance and experience of Xavier to prevail today. Trevon Bluiett is making the transition to leading scorer after showing a ton of promise as a freshman. Remy Abel has been around forever and the senior transfer is providing a nice steadying influence. James Farr and Jalen Reynolds are giving them much-needed toughness, defense and rebounding.
Xavier has a little more than USC, who has been undeniably impressive in the early season. This is a team largely picked in the bottom two or three in the PAC-12, so regardless of today’s outcome, it’s been an awesome start to a potentially job-saving campaign for Andy Enfeld. I think X clips them today in a well-played and competitive basketball game in Orlando, FL.