Best of Our Big East Conference Free NCAA Basketball Picks

Matthew Jordan

Wednesday, March 9, 2016 1:14 PM UTC

Wednesday, Mar. 9, 2016 1:14 PM UTC

The Big East might not be NCAA basketball pick's top league but they can stage its conference tournament at historic Madison Square Garden in NY. Let's see Wednesday's first-round games.

No. 9 Seed DePaul Vs. No. 8 Georgetown
This is the opener Wednesday night with a 7 p.m. ET tipoff. The winner takes on regular-season champion and heavy tournament favorite Villanova at noon on Thursday. How much job security does Georgetown's John Thompson III have? Obviously his family lineage helps as the school had its heyday under Thompson III's father. Georgetown is a very solid 263-132 under Thompson III, who has been there since the 2004-05 season, but the Hoyas haven't won more than a game in the NCAA Tournament since 2007 and they aren't going to even make it this season at 14-17 overall and 7-11 in the Big East. There's simply too much talent on this team to beat that bad and it appeared that Thompson's players quit on him at the end of the season as GU lost its final six games and nine of its final 10. The only win in that stretch according to NCAA basketball odds? Over sorry St. John's. To be fair, Georgetown was really hurt when senior center Bradley Hayes broke his hand in mid-February; he's not coming back. Hayes was a definitely presence in the post, averaging 8.5 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. It's probably not a coincidence that GU's last win was Hayes' last game.

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DePaul (9-21, 3-15) hasn't made the NCAA Tournament since 2004 and it's about a million miles from getting back there as it's a program with no buzz despite being in a very good high school basketball city like Chicago.  The Blue Demons' three conference wins were at Marquette, home against then-No. 11 Providence and home to St. John's. DePaul closed the season losing its final three games, each by at least 14 points. The team did have guard Eli Cain named to the All-Big East Freshman Team this week. He averages 10.2 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game. This likely will be the final college game for leading scorer Myke Henry (13.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg), a senior. DePaul lost 70-58 at home to Georgetown on Dec. 30 in the conference opener for both; in D.C. on Jan. 9, the Hoyas won 74-63.

GU has won the past four meetings overall in the series and should do so here again by double digits. DePaul is 2-6 ATS in its past eight games. GU is 5-2 ATS in its past seven following an ATS win.

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Free NCAA Basketball Pick: Gorgetown -9 (-105)
Best Line Offered: at Heritage


#10 St. John's Vs. #7 Marquette
Winner here faces No. 2 seed Xavier in Thursday's quarterfinals. Madison Square Garden is the second home for St. John's, but the Red Storm are one of the worst Power 5 conference teams in the nation this season at 8-23 overall and 1-17 in the Big East. That lone victory came on Feb. 17 against DePaul, the conference's second-worst team, 80-65. That ended SJU's 16-game losing streak; the previous school record had been just seven. First-year coach Chris Mullin, maybe the best player ever at St. John's back in the school's glory days in the 1980s, knew he had a major rebuilding job ahead of him. The Red Storm were an NCAA Tournament team in 2015 but lost everyone of note off that club. This is one of the youngest teams in the country and should be much better next season for NCAA basketball picks. For example, watch out for current freshmen Yankuba Sima (7.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 2.5 bpg) and Kassoum Yakwe (7.1 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 2.6 bpg); they should both become very good NCAA players.

Marquette (19-12, 8-10) has the Big East's best freshman and one of the nation's best in 6-foot-11 big man Henry Ellenson. He leads the team in scoring (16.8 ppg, third in Big East) and rebounding (9.8, first in conference). He was named to the All-Big East First Team, the only freshman in the conference to do that since Carmelo Anthony 13 years ago. Ellenson, who has 17 double-doubles on the season, will be an NBA lottery pick if he declares as expected. MU's season wouldn't be over with a loss here; it would likely get an invite to the NIT. Marquette swept St John's this season, but by just six and five points.

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Free NCAA Basketball Pick: St. John's +6.5 (-105)
Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes

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