Texas A&M Slight Favorite Over Providence in West Region Opener

aggiers hoops

Jay Pryce

Tuesday, March 13, 2018 2:33 PM GMT

Tuesday, Mar. 13, 2018 2:33 PM GMT

Two battle-tested teams collide in the 7-10 West Region opener between Texas A&M and Providence on Friday (12:15 p.m. ET). The Aggies are 3.5-point favorites. That’s generous. 

No. 7 Texas A&M Aggies vs. No. 10 Providence FriarsFree NCAAB Pick: OverBest Line Offered: Intertops

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Providence (21-13 SU, 14-18 ATS) earned a fifth consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament with an at-large bid following a 20-win season and third-place finish in the ultra-competitive Big East. The program has bowed out in the first round in three of the last four.

This group is arguably the most experienced and battle-tested of all. It has squared off against seven tournament teams this year (Houston, Rhode Island, Xavier, Villanova, Butler, Creighton and Seton Hall), going 6-9 SU and 9-6 ATS. The Friars rank seventh in strength of schedule nationally. They earned a program-first three wins over top-5 teams — Xavier twice and Villanova.

Providence wilted under a slew of injuries and sickness in the first half of the season, forcing head coach Ed Cooley to field nine different first-team lineups. The squad is much better when leading scorers forward Rodney Bullock (14.0 ppg), guard Alpha Diallo (13.0 ppg) and guard Kyron Cartwright (11.8 ppg) share the floor. The team went 19-8 SU when the big three started, as opposed to 2-5 SU with one out.

Texas A&M (20-12 SU, 13-16 ATS) is dancing for the second time in head coach Billy Kennedy’s seven-year tenure. It last made the tourney in 2016, losing to Oklahoma 77-63 in the Sweet 16. It is one of eight SEC programs invited, a league record. Football conference, eh? Including the championship, the Aggies went just 9-10 SU (8-11 ATS) in conference play.

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#7 seed @aggiembk is taking on Providence in the first round of #MarchMadness on Friday! 👍🏀 #BTHOprovidence #12thMan pic.twitter.com/VqGofHOlrq

— Texas A&M University (@TAMU) March 11, 2018

Like the Friars, the Aggies are also a hardened bunch, ranking eighth in the country in strength of schedule. They did not fare as well against AP Top 25 opponents, going 2-5 SU and 3-4 ATS overall.

Defense is Texas A&M’s strength. Like most Kennedy squads, it excels in at man-to-man and is big and long, swatting 9.8 percent of opponent 2-point jumpers (5.8 is the national average). The Aggies exploit their size advantage on the other ends as well, attempting 42.2 percent of their shots at the rim. Execution here pretty much determines their chances for a victory. The team is 4-9 SU and 2-11 ATS this season when putting up 70 points or less.

Our numbers pit this game closer to pick ‘em, and we lean Providence on the money line. The best value bet, however, is with the game total. Since the New Year, the Aggies have faced off against seven defenses yielding greater than 42.5 percent from the floor. The final score averages 150.8 points, surpassing 138 in all but one. Providence owns a 44.1 opponent field-goal rate.

Both teams are defense-first, but Texas A&M isn’t afraid to push the pace despite a gluttony of big players. It ranks 120th in tempo. The Friars will play along. The ‘over’ is 6-2 when Providence tips off with a game total less than 144 this season, a combined 146.1 points sailing 6.8 points past a 139.4 average total. This number should be more in the mid-140 range. Pick ‘over.’

Check out SBR’s college basketball odds page for updated lines. Also, head over to the March Madness Betting Headquarters for vital handicapping information, picks, and a list of the best sports books and live betting options for the tournament season.

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