December 12th, 2015 (11:45 AM ET)
There are 4 college basketball picks today!
In addition, one NFL pick is being released a day early.
The rest of Sunday's selections will be added between 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM ET.
1) Take Saint Mary's at +6.5 spread against California for 3% of the bankroll.
The Cal Golden Bears are a team that is loaded with talent; there is certainly no denying that. They were hyped up in the offseason and expectations were set extremely high for this young team. As is almost always the case when a team is built up and under heavy media attention and criticism; they have failed to live up to their lofty expectations thus far. They currently stand at 7-2 overall and while that is certainly respectable, their best wins this season have come against the likes of UC Santa Barbara and East Carolina, which certainly cannot be considered resume building wins. The Bears face a real challenge in this contest against an extremely talented and underrated St Mary's team.
While many had expected them to be in a rebuilding year, the Gaels have played very well thus far going 6-0 with solid resume wins coming against Manhattan, Stanford, UC Davis, and UC Irvine. In their last outing, this team picked up their best win on the young season beating UCI by a final of 70-60. Cal is certainly the bigger and more well-known program and don't think that the St Mary's players don’t realize that. This is a big time matchup for them and we expect them to play like it. If California gets caught sleepwalking through this game, they could certainly find themselves on the losing end as the Gaels are not pushovers by any means. They are solid defensively and efficient and balanced on offense, where eight players average at least 8 points. Their strength is their backcourt with two players who are interchangeable at the point or the wing. Boston College transfer Joe Rahon is sixth nationally in assists, averaging 7.7 per game and sophomore Emmett Naar is 21st with 6.2 per contest. Naar also leads the nation in 3-point accuracy shooting an impressive 64 percent from deep. (16 for 25 on the season).
Given the strength of their backcourt, there is no wonder why the Gaels rank 20th in the nation in assists, averaging 20.2 per game. They are also 2nd in the nation is assist to turnover ratio at 1.92. Cal is nowhere near as efficient with the basketball as they rank 221st in the nation in assists, averaging just 12 per contest and their assist-to-turnover ratio is almost even at 1.10 which is good for 149th in the country. With Emmett Naar leading the way, St Mary's also ranks sixth in the NCAA in 3-point field goal percentage at 43.5 percent and 11th in 3-pointers made per game with 10.7. It's important to note that defending the three ball has not been Cal's strong suit as they are 283rd nationally defending the 3-pointer.
California has shown their ability to lapse defensively and they have not been good from the foul line this season, shooting just 65.8% from the charity stripe. They are also a team that commits way too many fouls (19.9 per game) which gives their opponents a free trip to the line. These things are critical when it comes to covering spreads and against an offense as well-oiled as St Mary's is at the moment, these issues should be what allows the Gaels to keep things close. Cal certainly has the edge in talent, but St. Mary's is playing the much better basketball at the moment. This is Saint Mary's biggest matchup of the early season and we expect them to make this game competitive and stay within this number.
2) Take Cincinnati at +4.5 spread against Xavier for 3% of the bankroll.
The cross-town rivalry between the Cincinnati Bearcats and Xavier Musketeers is one of the most intense in all of college basketball. There is certainly no love lost between these two teams and each time they matchup, there is also a guarantee of a hard-fought, physical matchup. This will be the first time that this series has been played in this venue since the infamous bench clearing brawl that resulted in the suspension of 7 players involved in the altercation. There is no doubt we are all in for another highly entertaining rivalry game.
This series has been dominated by the Musketeers in recent years and at the moment Xavier is in the midst of their best start under head coach Chris Mack. Xavier’s has made things look easy on the offensive end having outscored their last 3 opponents by nearly 32 points per game. Cincinnati on the other hand has not been as flashy; however they have been dominant in their own right, with their margin of victory coming by an average of 22 points per contest. They are 8-1 on the season with their lone loss coming by just 2 points against a solid Butler Bulldogs team.
What's different about this matchup this season is the fact that Cincinnati has completely rebuilt their offense and are now scoring points in bunches ranking 51st in the nation is scoring. That has been something that has been missing from the Bearcats arsenal and had been a big reason for their struggles in this series. Their defense has always been top notch and this season is no different. The Bearcats are one of the top defensive teams on the road, essentially shutting down opponents allowing just an average of 55.7 points per away game and holding teams to just an average of 36% from the floor. They are also one of the best teams in the nation at creating turnovers as they average nearly 10 steals per contest. They are also terrific at protecting the rim ranking 15th in the nation as they average just over 6 blocks per contest.
Xavier has been a team that has lived off their offense this season. They are not the most efficient from the floor with their shooting, but their ability to crash the board and create second chance opportunities has been their strength this season. They will surely be in for their toughest test of the season against arguably the best defensive unit they have seen. Cincinnati is a much different team on offense this season and we believe that will be the difference in this contest. Both teams are capable of winning this rivalry contest and we expect it to be a closely contested one throughout. If that is indeed the case, the points should be the difference in this one.
3) Take Colorado at -5 spread against BYU for 3% of the bankroll.
The Colorado Buffaloes are a team for the most part that has flown under the radar this season and that is likely due in part to the poor season they had a year ago. Their opening season loss to the highly ranked Iowa State Cyclones on a neutral court, likely gave the perception that this team is still struggling as it had a season ago, only that is simply not the case.
Colorado was extremely competitive in their matchup with the Cyclones and since that loss they have managed to rattle off 7 consecutive victories. Unlike most teams, the Buffaloes win streak is not padded. They have earned their wins and picked up some nice resume building wins against teams like Auburn and Colorado State in true road games. They now have a chance to return home, a place where they hold a significant home court advantage and pick up another resume building win over the BYU Cougars.
Colorado has been very strong on the offensive end so far this season ranking 31st in the nation in scoring average, and this group has been dominant on the boards ranking 18th in the nation in rebounding average. Veteran big man Josh Scott has taken a step forward this season leading the team averaging 18.3 points and 9.8 rebounds per contest and could prove to be problematic for the Cougars in this contest.
BYU is a solid and high scoring team; however they have shown their struggles away from home this season with two extremely disappointing road losses. It's important to highlight that even though BYU has shown their ability to put points on the board in their contest at home, this team is averaging a full 10 points less offensively on the road. That will certainly be an issue tonight against a high powered offense like Colorado.
Another area where we believe the Buffaloes can exploit is the paint with Josh Smith. The Cougars struggled in the paint in their contest with another athletic big man in Jakob Poeltl and the Utah Utes. They did not have an answer for Poeltl and we don't believe they will have one for Smith in this contest either. The Cougars are also a poor free throw shooting team, hitting on just 60% from the charity stripe and their inability to knock down shots at the stripe and collect the "free points" will likely hurt them in this contest and could be the difference. Colorado is riding all of the momentum in this contest and we expect them to come away with a big win and cover here.
4) Take Texas at +7 spread against North Carolina for 3% of the bankroll.
This is arguably the marquee matchup on the card today and one that we expect the Texas Longhorns to get up for. The UNC Tar Heels were the preseason number one team heading into this season before dropping their first true road game in somewhat stunning fashion to Northern Iowa. While the Tar Heels have no doubt responded well and are coming off an impressive victory over a tough Davidson team, this is only their second true road test of the season and their last before a Jan 4th meeting with Florida State. If the Tar Heels play like they did in Iowa, they could be poised for yet another upset.
The Texas Longhorns haven't been flashy this season and at just 5-3, there has clearly been an adjustment under new head coach Shaka Smart. That being said, the Longhorns are 4-0 on their home floor this season and are coming off their most impressive game of the year. They recently came away with a 116-50 victory against in-state rivals, the UTSA Roadrunners. That was the Longhorns 8th largest margin of victory in school history and was no doubt a tune-up game for this contest.
It's important to remember that Texas has won two straight in this series and 6 of the last 7 against the Tar Heels. A big reason for the Tar Heels success has been their ability to rebound the basketball and dominate their opponents in the paint. They are not a talented 3 point shooting team so their ability to crash the boards and create opportunities in the lane is paramount. They may find things difficult in this contest against Cameron Ridley. Ridley is averaging 12.4 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.9 blocks and ranks third nationally in shooting at 72.4%. The Longhorns are also a solid team defensively as they are forcing turnovers on nearly 25% of their opponents’ possessions.
Both teams should get up for this meeting, but we believe this game means much more to a Longhorn team that is trying to find their identity under a new head coaching regime. This would be the signature win for Shaka Smart to prove to the program that they made the correct decision in bringing him in. UNC had shown some struggles on the road already this season and while they certainly received a boost getting Marcus Paige back in the lineup, they may still play a bit more cautious in this matchup to not allow another mis-step like what happened in Iowa. If that is indeed the case it will likely make things difficult on them to cover this generous number. Texas should stay competitive and give UNC all they can handle and cover this number in the process.
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