Maryland Terrapins vs. Connecticut Huskies
UConn and Maryland will take over the Barclays Center in Brooklynn, New York on Friday night in what should be a high-competitive matchup (that will be broadcast on ESPN2).
The general perception here is that Connecticut is on the rise while Maryland will take a step back after losing star center Alex Len to the NBA but it’s a different, more recent loss that’s going to affect them on Friday night. Starting point guard Seth Allen fractured his foot last week, which means that the team’s most dynamic scorer, Dez Wells, now has to take over the ballhandling duties. I see that as a bit of a problem as UConn likes to play some high-pressure defense on the guards and that will either force turnovers or make Wells do more work than he wants/needs to do.
Expect a close game but I’m adding Connecticut to my NCAA Basketball picks as I see them being able to cover the five points. They’ll do enough in front of what should be a very partisan audience.
Pick: Connecticut -5 at Bookmaker
St. John’s Red Storm vs. Wisconsin Badgers
Expect a tough defensive battle in this one as the Red Storm meet the Badgers in the Sanford Pentagon. While the Red Storm are coming off a disappointing season, they feel as though the addition of highly-touted recruit Rysheed Jordan could be the missing piece that brings this team back to the NCAA Tournament and beyond.
The reason points will be hard to come by in this one is the Red Storm led the nation in blocked shots last season while the Badgers, always a hard-nosed defensive team from the Big Ten, allowed just 55.9 points per game and 39 percent field goal efficiency last year.
The Badgers get the job done as a team and lack star power whereas Steve Lavin’s Red Storm seem to have a higher level of elite talent. A lot is expected of Jordan but he’s not alone. JaKarr Sampson is the reigning Big East Rookie of the Year and D’Angelo Harrison’s 17.8 points per game were third in the Big East last season.
With the Badgers being in transition up front – they have to replace Ryan Evans, Jared Berggren and Mike Bruesewitz – I see this as a good opportunity for St. John’s to announce their arrival. They return all five starters and on a neutral site, are capable of pulling this mild upset outright. Add them to your sports picks.
Pick: St. John’s +4.5 at Bovada
Davidson Wildcats vs. Duke Blue Devils
The fourth-ranked Blue Devils are a big favorite on the college basketball odds on Friday night but given the significant advantage in personnel they have over the Wildcats, expect them to roll.
For starters, the Wildcats aren’t winning this game. Duke simply does not lose non-conference games at home as they’ve won 101 consecutive non-conference affairs at Cameron Indoor Stadium. So if you’re betting this game, it’s only a question of whether Davidson will cover; not win. Duke also dominates this series, winning 89 of 106 all-time meetings.
I actually think this point spread is low because there’s a perception that Duke has lost a lot of talent. Yes, Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly are all gone but this unit could be even stronger. Guards Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon are going to dominate in the backcourt and while some people feel there are question marks in regards to the frontcourt, I like Jabari Parker as well as Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood. Parker is considered the second-best freshman next to Andrew Wiggins, so he should be an elite contributor right off the bat.
As for Davidson, they no longer have the services of the SoCon’s Player of the Year, Jake Cohen. They also lost a couple of other key contributors.
I expect Duke to roll here. They’ve won 24 straight in this series and they’ll make it 25 on Friday while covering as well.
Pick: Duke -15.5 at Pinnacle