College hoops fans have waited several months since the beginning of April and now, the new season is here. School-based roundball hits the nation’s Division I schools this weekend. Friday was a by-the-books day as all of the seeded teams avoided upsets. Now let’s have a look at Saturdays action.
Charleston Cougars @ Louisville Cardinals
The Louisville Cardinals are defending their national championship with a roster that has some returning pieces and a fair degree of depth. Gorgui Dieng and Peyton Siva are gone, but Russ Smith, Montrezl Harrell, Luke Hancock, Kevin Ware, and others are back for head coach Rick Pitino. In this specific game, though, Hancock will not be able to play due to an injury, and Chane Behanan will be sitting out due to a suspension. The Cardinals won’t be at full strength, but the players they have on the floor should be able to maneuver past Charleston, which has not been able to remain in the top tier of the Southern Conference. This game might be more of a reflection on Charleston’s lack of power than on Louisville’s abundance of quality. Lay the points on the college basketball odds with Louisville.
NCAA Basketball Pick: Louisville -22 at William Hill
Bryant Bulldogs @ Gonzaga Bulldogs
This is a warm-up for a Gonzaga team that is not likely to be able to match the feats of last season’s team. Kelly Olynyk is now in the NBA with the Boston Celtics, having left the Pacific Northwest after his freshman season to cash a professional paycheck. That loss will limit Gonzaga’s upward mobility this season, but in this opener, Bryant – a program that is only five years old and is playing in the Northeast Conference – should not really trouble a team with Gonzaga’s credentials. Bryant did win 19 games last season, but a cross-country commute and a game in an intimidating gymnasium should be too much for the visitors to overcome. Gonzaga will want to get its season off to a good start, and the GU players – knowing that they all must step up in the absence of Olynyk – will be highly motivated to put together a complete team performance. Bryant could make this game interesting for 25 minutes, but Gonzaga should be able to establish full control midway through the second half and pull away for a reasonably comfortable victory. Add them to your college basketball picks.
NCAA Basketball Pick: Gonzaga
Temple Owls @ Pennsylvania Quakers
The Owls very nearly upset the Indiana Hoosiers in the round of 32 in last season’s NCAA tournament. Head coach Fran Dunphy regularly gets his teams into the March Madness brackets, and while his teams have had problems getting to the Sweet 16, that’s certainly a good problem for many coaches to have. Temple’s problems are better problems than the ones faced by most of the 340-plus programs that play Division I college basketball. Temple should have a much better team than a Penn squad that went 9-22 last season. The “Big Five” passions of Philadelphia-area college basketball could get Penn to play at a high level for 30 minutes, but Temple should eventually be able to find the answers to Penn’s questions here, so add them to your sports picks.
NCAA Basketball Pick: Temple -5 at Bodog