We rely heavily on the idea that college basketball teams bounce around from good performances to bad from one night to the next, with regularity. That being said, here's three free picks for tonight.
North Carolina -3 vs. Louisville
Perennial national powers meet for the first time as conference foes when the 11-4 Tar Heels host the 14-1 Cardinals. The NCAA basketball odds we checked with opened this game with Carolina favored by 3.5 or four points, but many then dropped the Heels to -3.
UNC had won five games in a row, both SU and ATS, until last time out, when as an eight-point favorite it got upset by Notre Dame Monday night 71-70. The Heels shot just 37 percent from the floor, and made just four of 16 shots from 3-point range.
On the season Carolina is shooting 45 percent, while holding opponents to just 35 percent shooting.
Louisville has won three in a row, after beating Clemson Wednesday night 58-52. But the Cardinals couldn't cover as 16-point favorites against the Tigers, and in fact, haven't covered a spread since back on Dec. 9 in a win over Indiana. Since then Louisville is 6-1 SU but 0-6-1 ATS, because it's been favored by such big numbers.
On the season the Cardinals are shooting just 43 percent from the floor, while holding foes to 36 percent.
This should be a close one; North Carolina is basically favored by the home-court advantage. Ultimately, in thinking the Heels might bounce back after a poor performance last time out we'll go with the home team, at the short spread.
Free NCAA Basketball Pick: Tar Heels -3 at The Greek
Baylor -1.5 at TCU
The Bears had won six in a row, and 11 of their first 12, but have lost their first two Big 12 games. Last time out, Wednesday night, Baylor lost at home to Kansas 56-55. The Bears shot just 34 percent from the floor.
The Frogs, meanwhile, had won their first 13 games this season, but have also lost their first two conference games. Last week TCU fell at home to West Virginia 78-67, and Wednesday it lost at Kansas State 58-53. The Frogs trailed by 10 early in the second half Wednesday night, got within three with about 11 minutes to go, but couldn't quite complete the rally. In shooting just 41 percent from the floor and going 14-for-24 from the FT line TCU just missed on the cover as a four-point dog.
TCU has lost 20 Big 12 games in a row, but this year's team might be a little different. The Frogs are shooting almost 48 percent from the floor, holding opponents to 35 percent shooting, and they're just deeper and more talented than in recent previous seasons. So we like TCU's chances of snapping that conference losing streak today.
Free NCAA Basketball Pick: Horned Frogs +105 on the moneyline at BetOnline
Butler -3 vs. Xavier
Two teams doing the yo-yo thing as of late meet when the 11-5 Bulldogs host the 11-4 Musketeers.
Xavier started 8-2 this season, then got upset by Auburn in overtime. The Musketeers followed that up with a pair of victories, then got upset by DePaul. But last time out Xavier bounced back and beat a hot Seton Hall team 69-58, covering as a seven-point favorite.
Butler, meanwhile, started 8-1 this season, then lost two in a row, then won two in a row, then lost at Villanova. No shame there. The Bulldogs then won at St. John's as four-point underdogs, but last time out they fell at home to Providence 66-62, losing straight up as six-point home favorites.
This game sets up nicely for our “reversal of fortunes” theory. Xavier played well last time out, shooting 50 percent from the floor, winning and covering against Seton Hall, while Butler lost outright as a favorite at home. Going by recent past performances the Musketeers might be ripe for a letdown, while the Bulldogs might be ready to bounce back. So we like the home team in this spot, at the manageable spread.
Free NCAA Basketball Pick: Butler -3 at 5Dimes