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Free NCAA Pick Wednesday

#790 Vanderbilt -3.5 over South Carolina 6:00 PM CT

Bryce Drew’s Vanderbilt squad has slipped to 0-3 in SEC play after a promising 9-3 non-conference start that included wins over USC, Liberty, and Arizona State for three top 100 wins. Only two losses have come at home this season and both were close games while the two losses in the last week came on the road, including a nine-point loss at Kentucky last weekend. These teams met just once last season with the Gamecocks winning 71-60 in Columbia just over a year ago while Drew’s squad won by nine in the only home meeting he had in this series since taking over the program two years ago.

Frank Martin’s squad is surprisingly 3-0 in SEC play after a 5-7 non-conference start. Known for defense, the Gamecocks have pushed the pace of play this season but not with better results as this has been a high turnover team that shoots poorly from long range. The 3-0 start has featured some good fortune in SEC play with a two-point win at Florida despite committing 22 turnovers, plus an overtime home win over Mississippi State. On Sunday South Carolina beat Missouri by 10 but that was a challenging situation for the Tigers as that game originally was scheduled for Saturday but moved to Sunday as Missouri dealt with a major winter storm and travel issues.

South Carolina is just 1-2 in true road games including losing at Wyoming this season and the Gamecocks also have a home loss to Stony Brook for two puzzling defeats. The past three wins are the only top 100 wins of the season for South Carolina and this is an absolutely critical spot on the schedule for the Commodores as a loss here could easily mean a potential 0-7 start to SEC play playing Mississippi State, Tennessee, and Kentucky in the next three conference games. Vanderbilt is young but possesses great size and has battled a tougher SEC schedule to this point to create the contrasting records. Vanderbilt has featured great 3-point defense numbers and efficient interior scoring while far less prone to turnovers as home court should hold Wednesday night.

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Free NCAA Pick Tuesday

#711 Providence +3.5 over Boston College

Providence was a 21-win team last season that beat Boston College by 20 in a November home meeting. The Friars played three straight overtime games in the NCAA Tournament, losing to eventual champion Villanova in the Sweet 16. Alpha Diallo and Isaiah Jackson are returning starters from that squad with Nate Watson also a returning contributor taking on a starting role in the paint this season. A pair of talented freshman have joined the starting five to give Providence great size with all starters at least 6’5”.

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Providence is 6-2 including a neutral site win over South Carolina while the losses came in a tight game with Wichita State and against red hot Michigan. Providence has good numbers on both sides of the ball as an effective outside shooting team and a very good interior defense team. Boston College is 6-1 but without playing a top 50 foe yet this season. The best win was a narrow home escape against Minnesota when the Gophers had coast-to-coast travel. Boston College lost to IUPUI while five of six wins this season have come by 12 or fewer points despite playing only two top 200 teams all season.

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The Eagles are an awful 3-point shooting team at below 30 percent while one of the nation’s worst free-throw shooting squads at just 66 percent. Boston College does limit its turnovers but this is an inexperienced squad with three underclassmen in the typical six-man rotation with the Eagles offering very little depth. Boston College lost 13 home games the previous two years and already has a home loss this season as Conte has provided a minimal advantage and Providence should be a serious upset threat on Tuesday.

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Free NCAA Pick Tuesday

 

#534 Missouri -1.5 over Temple 8:00 PM

Missouri added Illinois transfer Mark Smith this season along with returning seniors Jordan Geist and Kevin Puryear. Cuonzo Martin led this team to 20 wins last season and the NCAA Tournament while playing much of the year without key players and this year’s team has similar potential currently being led by Jeremiah Tilmon who has flourished in an enhanced role so far this season.

 

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Missouri is only 3-2 so far this season but the losses came to Iowa State and Kansas State, teams that figure to be top 25 caliber teams all year long. The win over Oregon State in St. Thomas is a decent result and this will be just the second home game in Columbia all season. This squad has posted good defensive numbers through a top 75 schedule so far.

 

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Temple is 5-1 but only a narrow home win over Georgia stands out. This will be the first true road game of the season for the Owls who played in Brooklyn last week, losing to VCU and beating California, a win that sounds much better than it appears to be at this point. The Owls as usual have a solid defensive profile for Fran Dunphy in his 13th season with the program. The past two seasons Temple is just one game above .500 however and while there is continuity as all five starters were on the roster last season it may again be a limited group with poor outside shooting potential.

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Free NCAA Pick Thursday

#517 Fresno State +10.5 over TCU 8:00 PM CT

Fresno State is one of the last programs to play a division I game, as they defeated Alaska-Anchorage on November 6 and this is the only game on the early season slate until November 22. The Bulldogs went 21-11 last season and only once all season did Fresno State lose by more than 12 points. Two senior starters are gone for Fresno State and new head coach Justin Hutson should have a lot to work with for another competitive season.

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TCU won 21 games under Jamie Dixon last season but the 12-0 start featured one top 50 win. Two frontcourt seniors are now gone including Vladimir Brodziansky who was one of the top players in the Big XII last season. Jaylen Fisher also had to have another knee surgery and will miss the early part of the season. TCU has struggled in a light early season schedule beating Cal-State Bakersfield by just five points and beating Oral Roberts by just 17.

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This is a very young group with TCU playing four freshmen in the early season eight-man rotation and turnovers have been a big issue for the offense. TCU has shot 66 percent from the line so far this season as points will be left off the board for the Frogs tonight laying a double-digit spread despite a big decline in offensive effectiveness so far this season. The Bulldogs have three senior starters for a big experience edge and a lot is going to be poured into this big opportunity for Fresno State and the first big game for Hutson leading the program.

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Free NCAA Pick Wednesday

#749 Northern Arizona +8 over Nebraska-Omaha 7:00 PM CT

After a strong 2016-17 season Nebraska-Omaha fell off a cliff last season finishing 9-22. The Mavericks were one of the worst defensive teams in the nation and didn’t shoot well enough to keep pace with its fast tempo. This year’s team hasn’t looked much more promising, allowing 104 points in the opener at Minnesota before beating division III Buena Vista on Friday. Laying points with the Mavericks is a big risk and this Friday Nebraska-Omaha has a prominent non-conference game with Colorado up next.

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Northern Arizona was just 5-27 last season but the Lumberjacks took on a grueling non-conference schedule with a really young team that featured only one senior on the roster. This year’s team has some experience plus freshman Cameron Shelton who has made an immediate impact as a starter. There is good size and depth on the roster and the 15-point win over Jacksonville in the opener was a very positive sign of progress.

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Losing by 16 at South Dakota is certainly excusable and that was a three-point game in the second half for a closer contest than the final score. There appears to be clear improvement in Flagstaff this season and this is a lot of points considering how easily most foes have scored on Nebraska-Omaha.