It’s going to be a great day in college hoops. So while you are feasting on turkey and some winning NFL picks from thesportsgeek.com, be sure to flip around and catch some amazing November college hoops. So without further adieu, I’m going to give you a full slate of winners from the best preseason college tournament field in ten years, this year’s Battle 4 Atlantis.
Missouri Tigers vs. Stanford Cardinal +3.5
The opener pits an improved Stanford team fresh off their NIT victory in 2012 against a silently loaded Mizzou squad. The Tigers will make their SEC debut this year, and despite the loss of All American Marcus Denmon, this team still has the talent to push Kentucky and Florida to win the SEC. I like Phil Pressey and Alex Oriaki (transfer from UConn) to both play big today and to have a good game against the Cardinal.
This line opened at EVEN a day ago. I got on it then. It has since widened to -3.5 to -4 in favor of Mizzou. I STILL like this game, and I still like the Tigers. They are a sleeper Final Four team, and, assuming both they and Duke advance, we are in store for an incredibly high-caliber game tomorrow….
Which brings me to Game Two on our slate;
My Pick: Missouri -3.5
Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. Duke Blue Devils -3.5
Minnesota is another one of those unranked but incredibly dangerous teams lurking in this year’s deep and balanced college landscape. Think Georgetown or Pitt. Tubby Smith’s Gohpers may not have quite as much talent as those two squads, but they have a veteran leader and big time scorer in the vein of Otto Porter and Tray Woodall in Trevor Mbakwe. The NCAA granted Mbakwe a 6th year of eligibility and I expect him to take advantage of it.
But I’m not sure he will be able to this afternoon. Duke is big and athletic, especially the underrated Mason Plumlee. I expect him to give Mbakwe a ton of trouble. Duke, like a typical Duke team, can put a ton of ball pressure on teams and turn the turnovers into quick scores; often lethal 3’s in transition. Seth Curry is as good a marksman as any in the country and freshman Rasheed Sulaimon gives them an explosive scoring option – perhaps their best perimeter player by the time March Madness rolls around.
I like Duke to win, and to cover the three and a half points.
My Pick: Duke -3.5
Memphis Tigers vs VCU Rams +2.5
The evening session starts with an awesome matchup of two of the best non-BCS (for now) foes in the country. Memphis will be packing and heading to what remains of the Big East next year, meanwhile VCU took a bump up in competition joining the loaded Atlantic 10 (which has 16 teams…). This is a BIG game for both teams for two reasons. The first is the obvious, a high-profile win. The second, and maybe more important is the path it sets them on for the next two games. A win gets you a matchup with likely Louisville and then Duke/Missouri. Even losing one or both of those games boosts your RPI. A loss, which is certainly no shame, funnels you into Northern Iowa and then a possible game with Minnesota or Stanford.
Make no mistake about it, this game is HUGE for each team and their chances for earning a quality seed in the Big Dance. Memphis has yet to be tested this season, playing a pair of cupcakes. Meanwhile VCU has already taken a hard-fought loss to a quality Wichita State team, and handled Florida Gulf Coast with more ease than the Dukies…
This is the toughest game to call of the entire tournament, as both teams have some promise and both teams have some holes. In the end I’ll take the better execution and discipline of Shaka Smart’s VCU Rams over the athleticism of Josh Pastner’s Memphis Tigers.
My Pick: VCU Rams +2.5
Northern Iowa Panthers vs. Louisville Cardinals -8.5
The final game is the only “mismatch” of the tournament. Louisville has been absolutely overwhelming for opponents so far this season, and in my opinion, is the BEST defensive team in the entire country. I like them overall against Indiana, Kentucky, Duke and some of the other top teams in the country, and are my #1 team in the country as of today. Of course, three games in the Bahamas can change perceptions quickly… but I don’t think that will happen tonight.
Northern Iowa is a good ballclub, and should contend for second place in the Missouri Valley, along with Wichita State and Illinois State. But knocking off Louisville is a far cry from knocking off Toledo in overtime (their last game).
Louisville is bigger, deeper, and has one of the best point guards in the country with Peyton Siva and best shot blockers in Giorgi Deng. I like Louisville to jump on No. Iowa early and to use their insane defensive pressure to stretch out a healthy and comfortable lead.
My Pick: Louisville Cardinals -8.5
It’s going to be a great slate of games, and I’ll be back tomorrow with a full slate of Battle 4 Atlantis picks as well. To recap today, I like the following plays:
Missouri -3.5, Duke -3.5, VCU +2.5, and Louisville -8.5