Free NCAA Basketball Picks of the Day for Saturday

Matthew Jordan

Saturday, January 25, 2014 6:30 AM UTC

Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014 6:30 AM UTC

It's never too early to start thinking about at-large NCAA Tournament bids, and Saturday is a potentially big resume-building day for two teams squarely on the bubble as things stand: Marquette and Tennessee. Both could dearly use upsets of ranked teams on NCAA basketball picks to boost their case.

Villanova vs. Marquette

Villanova (12-4 ATS, 12-4 O/U at sportsbooks) enters this one at No. 4 in the polls but is likely to plummet no matter what happens in Milwaukee. That's because the Wildcats were utterly destroyed at home 96-68 by Creighton on Monday night. The Bluejays are a good team, but a 28-point home loss for the No. 4 team in the land? Creighton put on perhaps the shooting display of the season by hitting a Big East-record 21 3-pointers, led by Ethan Wragge's nine. It was Creighton's first win over a Top-5 team since 1970. It was the third-largest margin of victory by an unranked team over a Top-25 club in the past 20 seasons and the worst Villanova loss under Coach Jay Wright. Think the Wildcats will be slightly motivated for the Feb. 16 rematch in Omaha?

Was Villanova overrated? The Wildcats did beat ranked Kansas and Iowa to win the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament earlier in the season but haven't beaten anyone else of note and were routed at No. 2 Syracuse. JayVaughn Pinkston, a junior forward, is the team's leading scorer (15.3 ppg) but has struggled in Villanova's both losses, shooting a combined 4-for-12 for 14 points.

Marquette (7-10 ATS, 7-9 O/U at sportsbooks) was ranked 17th in the preseason AP poll and was the preseason Big East favorite as voted by the coaches but is nowhere near the Top 25 now at 11-8 (3-3 in Big East). Essentially, every good team that the Golden Eagles have played they have lost to: Ohio State, Arizona State, San Diego State, New Mexico, Creighton, Xavier and Butler. Their best win was either over George Washington or perhaps Monday's 80-72 overtime win at hugely struggling Georgetown. Marquette's Davante Gardner (14.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg) and Jamil Wilson (11.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg) could start for any Big East team but there's little else.

The good news for Marquette is that it has won 20 straight Big East home games and the Golden Eagles have lost just twice overall at home since the start of the 2011-12 season. One of those was this year to Ohio State. Marquette and Villanova played once last year, a 60-56 home Wildcats winfor our free college basketball picks.

NCAA Basketball Free Pick: Marquette +2.5 on NCAA basketball odds. The Golden Eagles remain formidable at home.

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Tennessee vs. Florida

Tennessee hasn't played in the NCAA Tournament since the Bruce Pearl era ended with a 30-point loss to Michigan in the first round of the 2011 Big Dance. The Vols would take a massive step back with an upset of No. 6 Florida in SEC action, but the Gators are 9-point favorites on NCAA basketball odds. How important is this? It's the only remaining road game left for UT against a team that's currently ranked. The NCAA Tournament selection committee takes note of such wins.

The Vols (10-6, ATS, 7-8-1 O/U at sportsbooks) are just 12-6 but don't have a terrible loss, with them coming against Xavier, UTEP, Wichita State, NC State, Texas A&M and Kentucky. They lost to the Aggies on a late 3-pointer after leading by 14 at the half and played well in the 74-66 defeat in Lexington. UT bounced back from that with an 81-74 home win over a solid Arkansas team on Wednesday behind a season-high 34 points from leading scorer Jordan McRae. He had the team's final 13 points.

Florida (7-6-1 ATS, 4-9-1 O/U on sportsbooks) looks like the class of the SEC with young Kentucky finding its way and the Gators will have a short turnaround after winning 68-62 in Alabama on Thursday night, just covering the 5.5-spread for sport bettors. In his second game back after missing two with a bruised knee, UF leading scorer Casey Prather had 14 points. It was the Gators' 10th straight victory and 14th in the past 15 -- the defeat in that stretch coming on a somewhat lucky buzzer-beater by UConn's Shabazz Napier.

Even when Tennessee struggles, it seems to give Florida problems. The Vols won the only meeting last season, 64-58 in Knoxville behind 27 from McRae. Due to the new SEC scheduling, it was the first time since 1964 the teams only played once in the regular season (they will face off twice this year). Tennessee also swept both games the season before.

NCAA Basketball Free Pick: Florida -9. The Gators have dominated at home this season, going unbeaten and winning their first two SEC games there by a combined 38 points.

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