NCAA Basketball Picks: Loyola vs. Connecticut

Willie Bee

Tuesday, November 26, 2013 1:50 PM UTC

Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013 1:50 PM UTC

Slowly but surely, the list of unbeaten teams is dwindling on the college basketball front. An even 50 started this week without a blemish in the loss column, and we know that number will decrease by at least one Tuesday evening when a pair of perfect squads square off in the Nutmeg State.

Online sportsbooks say the side to lose its first game of the season will be the Loyola (MD) Greyhounds who continue a 4-game road trip with a trek into Hartford to take on the Connecticut Huskies. In this double-canine clash, it's the Greyhounds that are assuming the role of underdogs, though no official spread has been released.

ESPN3 will bring the action to your PC, tablet, iPhone or other similar device for the 7 PM (ET) tip at XL Center. Like the spread, a total has yet to come out; keep an eye on SBR's live NCAA Basketball odds to catch that number if and when it is released. at XL Center.

Huskies Rising In Both Polls

The Huskies are up to No. 13 in the latest writers poll, 14th according to the coaches, as they prepare to take on the Greyhounds for the first time ever. They began the season 18/19 in the two rankings, and the third choice on the preseason college basketball futures odds in the new American Athletic Conference behind defending national champ Louisville and Memphis. 

The Cardinals and Tigers each suffered their first losses last week, and Kevin Ollie's group is off to their first 6-0 start since the magical 2010-11 season that ended with the NCAA Tournament crown. The Huskies (6-0 straight up, 3-3 against the spread) just cut down the net in the 2K Sports Classic last Friday at Madison Square Garden, their home away from home, with a couple of thrilling wins by a combined three points over Boston College and Indiana.

Loyola (4-0 SU, no official lined games) has seen its share of close wins, two of the Greyhounds' wins coming in overtime. Orlando "GG" Smith, Tubby's kid, is certainly enjoying his first season at the helm after six years working for former Greyhounds coach Jimmy Pastos.

Napier-Cormier Battle Should Be Fun

A pair of senior guards make this game worth the price of admission. For UConn, it's Shabazz Napier again after he led the Huskies last season in scoring last season and was second in the column as a sophomore. Dylon Cormier is the man at Loyola with a 29.8 PPG average, third-best in the country and equal to his previous two seasons combined. 

Napier doesn't just lead Connecticut in scoring (16.8 ppg), the 6-1 guard out of Roxbury, Mass also tops the list in rebounding (7.8 rpg) and assists (6.0 apg). He scored 27 of UConn's 59 points in the squeaker vs. Indiana, and is naturally drawing more comparisons to Kemba Walker who led the Huskies to the title in 2011 when Napier was a freshman. 

Cormier has played 152 of a possible 170 minutes for Loyola, one reason for four 20+ point efforts, three of those in the 30+ column. Taking nearly 37% of his team's field goal attempts is another factor. Napier, despite being a boxscore-stuffing freak, has taken about half that many shots for the Huskies (19.1%). 

Can UConn Avoid Proverbial Letdown?

In a nutshell, yes. But without a line listed for our NCAA Basketball betting purposes, saying yes is the easy way out. 

True, the Huskies have the Florida Gators on deck, which puts UConn in both a look-ahead spot a well as a letdown situation after winning the 2K Sports Classic. Still, I believe neither of those situations will apply, and Connecticut's real challenge tonight will have nothing to do with focusing on Loyola and everything to do with stopping Cormier when the Greyhounds have the ball.

The Huskies have had three close games on neutral courts, and three easy ones at home which is where they'll be this evening. I like UConn to score a relatively comfortable victory tonight.

My pick: No Line, Lean Connecticut minus points

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