Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 11:00 AM EST.
Streaming: ESPN 2
San Francisco +18½ -103 over GONZAGA
8:00 PM EST. The Zags are the top-ranked team in the country and they’re playing a team that has done jack since the mid 50’s. There is nothing to write or discuss about Gonzaga because it’s redundant. You’ve read it, heard it or saw it that this team is as good as any in the country but few are aware of just how good the Dons are. This is not a fade on the Zags, it is instead getting behind a tournament-worthy, quality opponent that few know anything about. We also love that the Dons of San Francisco have failed to cover in four straight, thus decreasing its stock even more.
Dons HC Todd Golden and his staff gained national notoriety for their innovative use of analytics, particularly with the use of the one-and-one free throw rule, consistently choosing to play the numbers and foul foes with questionable track records at the line as a way of gaining an extra possession themselves. Sometimes it worked, others it did not, but the outside-the-box mindset is a great way to gain incremental advantages within the game. It’s not just micro decisions like that, though – Golden clearly understands the macro advantages of things like shot selection, limiting inefficient mid-range jumpers on offense and making a concerted effort to force them on the other end. On paper, the Dons have a loss to UMass Lowell. That’s not a good look but upsets happen. The Dons also lost to Cal, Oregon and Rhode Island so what we have here is a team with zero pedigree and four losses in 11 games. The point is that the Dons body of work does not stand out. Overlooked is that the Dons have a win against then #4 Virginia. They also have three speedy guards and solid depth across the roster. USF will be constantly searching for incremental edges, statistical or otherwise, and anything gained in the margins will sum with a talented roster and smart staff to give the Dons a squad capable of rising all the way to 2nd in the WCC. And if anyone had the formula to steal one from Gonzaga last year, it was the Dons. We get them today taking back an incredible amount of inflated points.
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San Francisco +18½ -103 (Risking 2.06 units - To Win: 2.00)