Here are my three best NCAA Basketball picks out of Wednesday's busy night featuring 10 games involving Top 25 teams on Wednesday, though none involve two.
Marquette vs. No. 7 Villanova
This looks like a mismatch on paper as Villanova is the class of the Big East and a 15-point favorite at sportsbooks against a struggling Marquette program. The Wildcats (19-6, 6-2) could be in line for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament if they win out. That's not all that inconceivable because the only two ranked schools left on Villanova's schedule are No. 24 Georgetown (Saturday) and No. 22 Butler (Feb. 14). Nova enters this game on an 18-game home winning streak and it's generally blowing people out there. In conference play the Wildcats' closest home win has been 12 points. They come off a 68-55 win at DePaul on Jan. 31. Villanova leads the Big East in 3-point field goals made per game with nine and it is 12-1 while averaging 79.7 points this season when hitting at least seven. Since the start of 2013-14, the Cats are 39-1 (.974) when scoring 70 or more points in a game. Marquette (10-11, 2-7) is having a rough go of it under first-year coach Steve Wojciechowski. The Golden Eagles enter on a five-game losing streak, the school's longest since the 1990-91 season. Marquette is playing competitively, as its Big East losses are by an average of less than six points. Villanova swept both games last year: 94-85 in OT in Milwaukee and 73-56 in Philly.
NCAA Basketball Free Pick: 'Over' 131 at The Greek. It has hit in nine of Marquette's past 13 vs. teams with a winning record. The 'over' is 5-2 in Villanova's past seven at home.
East Carolina vs. Connecticut
Barring a run to the American Athletic Conference Tournament title, it looks like UConn won't get a chance to defend its national championship come March. The Huskies (11-9, 4-4) weren't expected to be a title contender this year after losing Shabazz Napier but still an NCAA Tournament team. They enter off back-to-back loss at Cincinnati and Houston. Losing to UC is understandable but not at Houston, which is just 1-8 in the AAC. UConn struggles to score, averaging only 65.4 points per game. If leading scorer Ryan Boatright (17.5 ppg) doesn't have a big night then this team generally loses. East Carolina (9-12, 2-6) has made just two NCAA Tournaments and not since 1993, and that's not going to change in 2015. The Pirates do come off probably their best win of the season, upsetting Cincinnati 50-46 to end a three-game losing streak. ECU averages just 65.2 points per game and hasn't even reached that total in the past four games. This is the first meeting between the schools since 1978. It's the Pirates' fourth straight game against a team that reached the NCAA Tournament a year ago. ECU held Tulsa, Memphis and Cincinnati to an average of 60.7 points per game and just 28.3 percent shooting from 3-point range. A final point to keep in mind when forming your NCAA Basketball picks is that ECU leads the AAC in 3-point field goal defense.
NCAA Basketball Free Pick: 'Under' 124.5 at Bovada. It has hit in 21 of ECU's past 29 games. It is 6-1 in UConn's past seven vs. teams with a losing road record.
No. 20 Ohio State vs. Purdue
First of two regular-season meetings between the Big Ten rivals. Behind freshman star D'Angelo Russell, OSU (17-5, 6-3) is one of the best offensive teams in the nation, ranking No. 16 in scoring (80.0 ppg) and No. 3 in field-goal percentage (.507). The Buckeyes enter on a three-game winning streak but this could be a bit of a trap game as OSU comes off double-digit home wins against ranked Indiana and Maryland. In fact, the 80-56 rout of the Terps was Ohio State's largest margin of victory as an unranked team over a ranked opponent since rankings began in 1948. Russell leads the Big Ten in scoring in conference games with a 21.8-point average. However, on the road this season in conference play OSU is shooting only 43.6 percent compared to 51.5 percent at home. Purdue is an NCAA bubble team, but the Boilermakers (14-8, 6-3) are trending in the right direction, having won three straight games, including over ranked Iowa and Indiana. Purdue has two 7-footers in A.J. Hammons and Isaac Haas who could give the Buckeyes major problems. The Boilermakers lead the Big Ten in league-games only in field-goal percentage defense (.387). OSU has won six straight in this series.
NCAA Basketball Free Pick: 'Under' 139 at The Greek I think Purdue pulls an upset here as well. The 'under' is 7-1 in the Boilers' past eight at home.