Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 10:45 AM EST odds are subject to change.
George Mason -8 over Queen’s
EagleBank Arena, Fairfax, VA
2:00 PM EST. George Mason’s two wins this year came against Longwood and American, not exactly the cream of the crop. The Patriots are now 2-4 on the year and completely under the radar because of it. However, George Mason has played some difficult teams. They lost to Auburn, Boston College, Belmont and Buffalo. Three of those four teams are ranked inside the top 100. The other team, Buffalo, is ranked 202.
In his first year at the helm, George Mason’s new head coach Kim English improved his team’s preseason No. 211 KenPom ranking to No. 113 by season’s end. That mark was the program’s best since Paul Hewitt’s 2012 squad — it wasn’t a Final Four run, but it was nothing to sneeze at, either. Still, if you ask English, last year left something to be desired. “It was a disappointing first year. We had some good wins against some good programs but fell short of our own program expectations.” English pointed to a lack of depth as a primary factor in his team’s struggles. Three players averaged 33 minutes or more per game, and the Patriots ranked 351st national in bench minutes. This year will be different, as GMU has the depth to propel a successful season.
Last year’s George Mason squad broke the program record for made 3s in a season. The Patriots ranked 15th nationally in 3-point attempt rate and converted long-balls at a respectable 35.8 percent clip, good for 62nd nationally. Two of GMU’s best 3-point shooters from last season, Devon Cooper (40.9 percent) and Davonte “Ticket” Gaines (40.2 percent), are back. In addition, English brought in Victor Bailey (career 34.5 percent) from Tennessee, a recruitment made easier by English’s time as a Tennessee assistant. Those three players will form GMU’s primary perimeter attack, while New Mexico transfer Saquan Singleton, rising junior Ronald Polite, and freshmen Justyn Fernandez have all looked very decent. The Patriots caught the college basketball world off guard when they went into College Park and knocked off Maryland last season. It’s safe to say nobody will be taken by surprise this year. English has raised the talent level of the program in just two short years and built a team capable of going toe-to-toe physically and athletically with any team in the league. Last season’s ninth-place A-10 finish should be easily eclipsed in 2022-23. If point guard play gets buttoned up and the athleticism translates to improvement on the defensive end, GMU could compete for a top-five conference finish. The A-10 is a great conference that GMU will be competitive in. We also love that GMU has dropped four straight because we get em at a discount because of it.
There are no discounts, only premiums to pay on Queen’s today. One of five new teams joining Division I this season, Queens University of Charlotte looks to continue its winning ways. The Royals have been a dominant force over the past seven seasons in Division II, amassing a gaudy record of 163-30 (.844). Over that span, Queens has punched seven straight tickets to the NCAA Tournament, gone to four Sweet 16s, and even made a Final Four run in 2018. Bart Lundy oversaw that dominance as head coach, but Milwaukee swooped in and poached him this offseason. New boss Grant Leonard is no stranger, though, having been an assistant at Queens since 2013. The step up in competition changes nothing in terms of the Royals’ expectations, however.
Queen’s isn’t your run-of-the-mill Little Sisters of the Poor Division II squad. This program has competed with legitimate D1 competition. In 2021, Queens played in a three-game season-opening tournament featuring George Mason, Howard and Belmont. The Royals beat Howard by 14, lost to George Mason by one, and lost to Belmont by 12, staying competitive the entire duration.
This year, Queen’s is 5-1 overall and 3-1 Against the Spread so if you play them today, you are way too late to the party. The novelty of a new team can often catch opponents off guard but George Mason played them last year, took them lightly and nearly paid the price. GMU will not get caught off guard this year. Queens plays in the A-Sun, a conference that is almost as low as it gets. They played La Salle and lost by 12. Its wins came against Marshall by one, Clinton College, Green Bay, Morgan State and Lynchberg. The Royals Strength of Schedule (SOS) ranks 313th in the country while GMU’s SOS ranks 138th. Mason also opened up as an -8½-point choice and really does take a step down in class here off a four game losing streak. All hands should be on deck.
George Mason -8 -109 (Risking 2.18 units - To Win: 2.00)