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College Hoops Wednesday Preview: Picks and predictions on Florida-Kentucky, Providence-UConn, St. Johns-Xavier and more



With college football officially in the rear-view mirror and 10 days between now and the Super Bowl, it's officially the time for college basketball to shine.


With it, we have a LOADED slate of college hoops tonight, which includes the top two teams in the country (UConn and Purdue), Kentucky facing Florida at home, and a slew of games with bubble and NCAA Tournament implications.




Here is your full preview, with point spreads provided by DraftKings Sportsbook.



Now, to Wednesday's games:


No. 24 Alabama (-6.5) at Georgia - 6:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network


Alabama recovered from an inconsistent non-conference stretch with a 6-1 SEC record up to this point, with their only loss being a blowout to Tennessee on the road. Mark Sears has been great for the Crimson Tide, averaging 20 points and 3.9 assists per game. Jabri Abdur-Rahim is the main scorer for the Bulldogs with 13.4 points per game.


Alabama’s great play in SEC play and tough non-conference schedule have put the Tide firmly in the top half of the seed line with Lunardi having Alabama as a three seed. The Bulldogs are not in the NCAA projected field right now, but a win here could start the conversation for the Bulldogs. Alabama is the better team and has won two straight since their loss against Tennessee.


Expect the Crimson Tide to win and on the road. Georgia’s proven to be a tough team, but the Tide have the talent edge.


Betting Pick: Georgia (+6.5)


 

Northwestern vs #2 Purdue (-13) - 6:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network


Northwestern travels to Purdue, where they will face a team they beat earlier this year in Evanston. It was the Boilermakers first loss of the season. Boo Buie is the main attraction for the Wildcats and scored 31 points with nine assists in the win. Purdue is obviously led by Zach Edey and he scored 35 points and had 14 rebounds in their previous matchup.


The Boilermakers have won five straight since their last loss to Nebraska, while the Wildcats have won two straight and three of four games. Purdue is firmly on the top line as one of the four No. 1 seeds, while Northwestern should be in the Big Dance, but is not nearly as safe, with Joe Lunardi having them as a 7-seed in his latest bracketology.


This win would do a lot to keep Northwestern even more safe but expect Purdue to win and cover. They want revenge and should get it at home.


Betting Pick: Purdue (-13)



St. John’s at Xavier (-1) - 6:30 p.m. ET, FS1


The Red Storm are coming off a blowout win against Villanova that broke a previous three-game losing streak. Joel Soriano is the biggest key for the Red Storm down low. He leads the team in scoring at 16.4 points per game, in rebounds at 9.7, and in blocks at 1.7. He is coming off a 21 point and nine rebound performances against Villanova too. They visit Xavier and the Musketeers, who have struggled this season to find any sort of consistency. Quincy Olivari is a solid player and leads the team in scoring at 17.8 points per game, but the team has struggled next to him. The Musketeers are also coming off - quite literally - one of the most embarrassing losses in program history on Sunday, a 43-point destruction at the hands of UConn.


St. John’s is currently in the NCAA field but is playing with fire with Lunardi having them as an 8-seed currently. The Musketeers are nowhere near the tournament right now and it’s the exact type of game that St. John’s can’t afford to lose at this point in the season. Xavier has a very good home court advantage, but the Red Storm are the better team across the board, especially with Soriano and got a much-needed bounce back win already, so expect them to continue.


Betting Pick: St. John’s (-1)


 

Florida at No. 10 Kentucky (-5.5) - 8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN


The Gators face Kentucky in Lexington in a rematch of both team’s SEC opener, which Kentucky won 87-85 in Gainesville. Antonio Reeves is the most consistent player on offense for the Wildcats, averaging 19.5 points per game. He scored 19 points in these two team's previous matchup, and he had 24 points Saturday against Arkansas as well.


Walter Clayton Jr. is the leader for the Gators with 15.9 points in the backcourt and then he scored 23 points in their previous matchup earlier this month.



Kentucky is firmly in the tournament with Lunardi having the Wildcats as a 4-seed and potential to jump even more. However, with Florida being in his "Next Four Out," a loss will hurt Kentucky’s positioning, while it could also be the signature win the Gators desperately need to get into serious tournament consideration.


Still, Kentucky is the better team and if Florida could not do it at home against the Wildcats, then they won’t do it on the road.


Kentucky pulls away late to win.


Betting Pick: Kentucky -5.5


Providence at No. 1 UConn (-13) - 8:30 p.m. ET, FS1


Providence has recovered with a current three-game winning streak following a four-game losing streak. They are coming off a very emotional win against Ed Cooley and Georgetown, 67-63. Devin Carter has been the big key for the Friars with Bryce Hopkins injured, averaging 18.6 points per game. He also leads the team in assists at 3.3 and in steals at 1.7.



The issue for the Friars is that they have a trip to the hottest team in the country in No. 1 UConn.

The Huskies have won eight straight games since a surprise loss to Seton Hall. The Huskies have looked nothing short of dominant since. Tristen Newton and Cam Spencer have been the biggest keys for UConn with Newton leading in scoring at 15.8 points, in rebounding at 6.4 per game, and in assists at 5.8. Spencer averages 14.9 points and leads the team in steals at 1.5 per game. The return of a healthy Donovan Clingan in recent days has helped as well, as the 7'2 center from Bristol, CT adds a feared defensive presence in the paint.


UConn and Purdue are in a race for the top seed in the tournament and UConn needs to take care of business to stay in that race. Providence is a 10-seed, according to Lunardi, and they need to continue to win to avoid falling to the bubble. A win here would do a lot to keep them safe. UConn has been on fire recently and is head and shoulders a better team than Providence. The Friars need the win, but UConn is too much and should pull away late to cover at home.


Betting Pick: UConn (-13)


Boise State at No. 19 New Mexico (-11) - 10:30 p.m. ET, FS1


The Mountain West has been one of the best conferences in college basketball and this matchup is just another example of that. Boise State has won three of their last five games, while New Mexico has won five straight games since losing to UNLV at the beginning of January on the road.


Tyson Degenhart is the key for the Broncos. If he plays well then Boise State usually plays well. He leads the team in scoring at 15.6 points per game and then leads the team in steals at 1.3. He also just scored 24 points in their last time out. Jamal Mashburn Jr. and Jaelen House are the two keys for the Lobos. They are tied for the lead in scoring at 15.6 points per game, while House also leads the team in steals at 2.9. House led the way in their last time out with 21 points.


Lunardi has Boise State on the bubble, currently in the Last Four In and they need as many wins as possible to stay in the tournament conversation. New Mexico is a 7-seed by Lunardi and is safe for now, but a loss would not help. Boise needs the win more than New Mexico, but the circumstances are better for the Lobos in this game. The Pit is one of the best environments in all of college basketball and that swings in favor of New Mexico.


The spread is big, and Boise State is a solid team. Expect New Mexico to win and pull away late because they are the better team, but the Broncos should cover.


Pick: Boise State +11


Follow Jake Faigus on Twitter - @Jake_Faigus 




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