Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 5:15 PM EST.
Penn +8½ over GEORGE MASON
7:00 PM EST. A new era begins in Fairfax (George Mason), as the administration has handed the reins to Kim English, a Tennessee assistant long touted as the next big thing in the coaching world. Time will tell if he’s as good as advertised, but beyond being highly competitive, it’s tough to get a direct read on the exact style Coach English will play. He has all kinds of stylistic influences in his background: played in one of the best four-out offenses ever at Missouri, a pick-and-roll heavy scheme under Frank Haith at Tulsa, an inside-out attack under Tad Boyle at Colorado, and a high-level motion system under Rick Barnes at Tennessee.
The nature of this Patriots’ team is such that a wide range of outcomes are in play. English being a first-year head coach is a huge part of that, as is the unproven nature of many pieces on the roster (Gaines, the point guards, the freshmen, etc.). That makes an accurate GMU prediction hard to nail down, but with D’Shawn Schwartz likely being a star in the A-10 and Josh Oduro around to solidify the paint, middle of the pack feels right. If English is the real deal and the players buy in immediately, there’s certainly upside for more. However, the Patriots are not ready to be spotting points like this to a team that can beat them outright.
Penn lost its opener by 35 points to Florida State, which is not a great look on paper, especially when you surrender an NBA like 105 points. That ugly looking loss provides us with an opportunity here to buy the Quakers at a discount. First off. Florida State is a beast this year that hit 50% from the field and went to the free-throw line 34 times, which is almost once every minute. It is simply impossible to overcome that but the Quakers put up a pretty sweet 70 of their own.
One must remember that the entire Ivy League Conference spent the 2020-21 season in the freezer, and therefore the market is a bit reluctant to get behind any Ivy League squad. That, too, influences the point-spread a bit more also so on top of getting whacked by 35 points in its opener, one can add another half point toa full point for Penn being off a full year or even more. Penn takes that to an extreme, though, sporting an entire starting lineup’s worth of players who essentially have not played basketball since 2018-19 (or earlier):
G Bryce Washington played a key role as a freshman floor spacer, knocking down 51 triples at 39.8%. He managed just eight appearances as a sophomore, though, before succumbing to a wrist injury.
G Jonah Charles was a highly-regarded recruit from Rutgers Prep who was in line to start in 2019-20 had he not missed the season with a foot injury (per Coach Steve Donahue in the 2020-21 version of Blue Ribbon).
G Jelani Williams has somehow not played since 2016-17 thanks to three consecutive ACL surgeries and the pandemic.
PF Michael Wang might be the most talented big man in the league, but he sat out of the 2019-20 campaign after having microfracture surgery on his knee.
C Max Lorca-Lloyd, the program’s best-ever recruit per 247 Sports, was buried behind Ivy Co-POY AJ Brodeur.
All of the above played in Penn’s opener so give the program a game under its belt after the long hiatus. Outside of Harvard, Penn might have the most talent in the Ivy League. Coach Steve Donahue has dominated the Ivy before with skill-rich rosters (see: Cornell torching the league from 2008-10, Penn in 2018) and after losing to FSU, the Quakers take a massive step down in competition here and figure to be in a position to steal one.
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Penn +8½ -110 (Risking 2.20 units - To Win: 2.00)