Today’s Top Picks: The Big East Tournament edge you need to know, plus more best bets for Friday

Zion Williamson is a freak of nature, and he only reaffirmed this on Thursday night. My girlfriend does not watch a lot of college basketball before March, but she’d heard Williamson’s name plenty of times from myself and other places, mostly because of his shoe exploding.

Before Williamson returned last night and she joined me to watch Duke’s game against Syracuse, she asked me if he would definitely be the first pick in the NBA Draft. I then informed her that, unless he returns to his home planet, he’ll most definitely be the first pick. Then she saw him and looked a bit confused.

“He looks more like a linebacker or a defensive end than a basketball player,” she said. “Is he just like a big, bruiser type?”

I told her no, he’s much more than that. Then the game began, and a few minutes later Zion stole the ball and went on a one-man fast break before throwing down a thunderous dunk, and as he did, I could hear my girlfriend audibly gasp before turning to me and simply saying, “I get it now.”

Zion will be playing again Friday night, and he’ll be doing so against the same North Carolina team he was playing when his shoe exploded. I don’t have a pick for that game, though, but I do have three others I like quite a bit.

Here are my three top picks (odds via Westgate) for tonight’s college basketball action:

1. Villanova vs. Xavier: First-half Under 61

Big East Tournament in New York: 6:30 p.m. ET (FS1)

In my picks for Wednesday’s games, I told you about my affinity for first-half unders during Big East Tournament games at Madison Square Garden. They’re one of the most reliable bets I’ve ever discovered, and so far this season the Under has gone 5-1 in such games that I’ve picked. Of course, the only loss was the one I featured in this column, and it was one hell of a bad beat. After scoring 38 points through the first 15 minutes of the first half on Wednesday night, Providence and Butler blew up for 27 points in the final five minutes to go over by 1.5 points. It sucked, but I’m not deterred. In fact, I’m doubling up tonight.

Which side of Villanova-Xavier spread should you be on? Visit SportsLine now to see which side of the spread is hitting most in simulations, plus a strong total pick that’s cashing in 78 percent of sims.

2. Marquette vs. Seton Hall: First-half Under 65

Big East Tournament in New York: 9 p.m. ET (FS1)  

While I like it in both games, I feel like there’s a better value on the first-half under in this one. Both Marquette and Seton Hall have proven to be two of the better defenses in the Big East during conference play, and while Marquette’s offense is solid, it doesn’t push the pace all that often, and Seton Hall’s offense is just inefficient. This all seems to add up to a low-scoring start.

But what about the biggest game of the day? Visit SportsLine now to see which side of the Duke-North Carolina spread is cashing in 56 percent of our simulations, plus a strong total pick that’s hitting in more than two-thirds of sims.

3. Virginia vs. Florida State: Under 124.5

ACC Tournament in Charlotte, NC: 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)  

It’s a low total, but it’s a low total for a reason. According to KenPom, these are the No. 2 and No. 11 defenses in the country. While Virginia is also No. 2 in efficiency on offense, there isn’t a team that moves at a slower pace in the country than the Cavs, who average 59.5 possessions per game. Limited possessions and terrific defense will suppress scoring, and that was evident in the sole meeting between these two this season when they combined for 117 points.

How about in the SEC? Visit SportsLine now to see which side of the Kentucky-Alabama spread and total are strong plays in computer simulations.

Categories: National Sports

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