Providence vs. Connecticut Expert Pick and Prediction – January 31, 2024
PROVIDENCE VS. CONNECTICUT EXPERT PICK AND PREDICTION – January 31, 2024 — If there was any doubt about Connecticut’s staying power under Dan Hurley, that’s gone. The Huskies have shown their championship last season was no fluke, as they’re leading the Big East and looking like a possible top seed for March.
Providence, as always, finds itself in the land of the bubble. The Friars have essentially lived on the bubble for the past decade, usually finding their way in with a low seed. Providence has made seven of the past 10 NCAA tournaments, and only twice have the Friars been higher than a No. 9 seed. That’s life in the Big East for a team like Providence: good enough to compete, usually not good enough to be elite.
The Friars enter this game on a winning streak of their own, having won three straight. But other than Seton Hall, those wins weren’t exactly against tough competition. Providence dropped four in a row against the Big East’s upper echelon teams, and other than a win over Marquette, the Friars lack the kind of wins needed to impress the committee.
Getting one over Connecticut would certainly qualify, but the question is which version of the Huskies show up in Storrs. When Connecticut wants to be, it’s one of the most frightening opponents in the nation. When the Huskies aren’t on, they’ve allowed teams to hang around with them for far longer than they should.
(14-6 SU, 11-8-1 ATS)
(18-2 SU, 12-8 ATS)
When: Wednesday, January 31 at 8:30 p.m. EST
Where: Gampel Pavilion, Storrs, Conn.
Public Bets: 56% on Connecticut
Public Money: 71% on Providence
Odds courtesy of DraftKings, as of January 30th, 2024.
Providence vs. Connecticut In-Season Trends
Providence has been money on the road in the Big East. The Friars have played four road games and covered all of them, despite being the underdog three times. In those games, Providence beat Seton Hall outright and covered in defeat against Creighton and St. John’s. The Friars have also become much more of an over team since the year began. Providence has gone 7-12 to the over this season, but four have come in its past five games.
At 5-4 ATS in its past nine games, Connecticut has proven to be far more of a question mark. The Huskies have shown another gear that only great teams can reach, and they put it on full display against Xavier. But in the previous game, they survived by just a point against Villanova. Betting the huskies really comes down to whichever version of the Huskies you get. If they’re locked in, they’re covering with ease. If not, it’s a struggle.
When Tristen Newton shoots the way he did against Xavier, it’s hard to see anyone beating Connecticut. When he shoots the way he did against Georgetown, the Huskies are vulnerable. Newton was dynamite in the rout of the Musketeers, hitting 64% of his shots and going for 22 points, his second straight 20-point game. Against the Hoyas, he scored just nine points. Given how Providence’s big defensive weakness is defending shooters, Connecticut needs to be on from deep, which starts with Newton.
If Connecticut has a weakness for Providence to exploit, it’s either 3-point defense or steals. Both are Devin Carter’s forte, and he’s coming off playing 38 minutes in back-to-back games. The Friars need him on the court as often as possible.
This is a tough one to handicap because of how inconsistent Connecticut is. If the Huskies hit the gas from the beginning, it’s hard to see Providence keeping up with them. At the same time, Providence has played excellent basketball away from home in Big East play.
Given how Connecticut unloaded on Xavier last time, I think the Huskies fall to earth a bit in this game. I’ll back a lower-scoring game with a Providence cover.