Bobby Huggins and West Virginia put themselves on the national landscape yesterday with a nice upset win over #17 UConn in their tourney final. I’m not sure if the game speaks more to an improved Mountaineer squad or a still-searching UConn team, but it does give West Virginia a nice chip to stack in their pile in their quest to return to a place of former familiarity; the NCAA Tournament. Meanwhile I capped off a good week with a rough weekend as we dropped another nailbiter, this time Notre Dame falling by a single point to Providence.
We will get our first real look at a pair of interesting teams today. Arizona is a big favorite against Missouri today at 5pm EST, but at least we get a chance to see the presumptive foremost Kentucky challenger against a Big Five power conference team on a neutral floor. I don’t expect them to have any difficulty dispatching a rebuilding Missouri team, but it will be good to see them on the floor with major conference athletes. It’s just one of a day full of great games out in Maui – so grab a seat and enjoy!
A lot of team with soft unbeaten records face off today; Oregon and Michigan, Arizona State and Maryland, Villanova and VCU, Oregon State and Oklahoma State, and Alabama and Iowa State, so there are tons of good games to choose from today. Let’s take a look at my two favorite plays on the board.
** The first game is a 4pm tip, the last is a 11:30pm EST tipoff
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Enjoy a great day of tourney action to kick off one of the best weeks of the college basketball season!
Clemson Tigers vs. LSU Tigers -1.5 – Paradise Jam, US Virgin Islands
LSU let me down the other day, wetting the bed against a lesser-talented Old Dominion squad, but I’m not going to let that one loss become personal – this is still a pretty good team and a fringe NCAA Tourney team with a few breaks. They can ill-afford to give away another less-than-great loss in the preconference slate and I expect a better effort today in the Virgin Islands.
Clemson is off to a 2-2 start with losses to Gardner-Webb and Winthrop as well as a close win over Nevada. That’s a brutal start to a season for a team that has a grueling ACC slate still to come. I think the Clemson Tigers are looking at a sub-.500 season and a quick spot on the hot seat for coach Brad Brownell (the timeout call when none remained against Winthrop isn’t a good line item on the resume either…).
LSU is the superior team. I like them to win and cover on a neutral floor.
Rider Broncos at Kansas Jayhawks -13
I like Kansas to rip Rider apart tonight fresh off a week of stewing over the Kentucky debacle. Rider is a decent MAAC squad, but is still just outside the Top 100 in the country. They have some nice players but nowhere near the talent of the Jayhawks.
I love the motivation factor being enough to cover a 13 point spread. On a normal outing, maybe KU clears the bench enough to let Rider sneak into a backdoor cover. Not tonight. Look for Rock Chalk Jayhawk to roll by twenty-plus.
BYU Cougars vs. San Diego State Aztecs -3
If you are willing to stay up late tonight, you have a real treat in store for you in the nightcap out in Maui. BYU brings their high octane offense to the Island to face off against Steve Fischer’s notoriously stingy Aztecs.
San Diego State is shooting a woeful 35% from the floor thus far, but it still 3-0 with a quality win over a likely-tournament team in Utah. They will need to improve on their efficiency tonight to beat BYU, but I think they will. They have some offensive talent and a fourth game together should yield a little more cohesion tonight.
BYU can score some points, but it heavily reliant on Tyler Haws. Think of him as this year’s Jimmer-lite. He isn’t quite the dynamic talent Jimmer was, but he will be a similar focal point of the offense (though less likely to shoot from 30+ feet). His green light will be more Kobe than 2011 BYU Jimmer. So still a pretty ready green light…
BYU gets a lot of their points by pushing tempo and getting out in transition. San Diego State excels in controlling tempo and slowing down the game. I’ll take the Aztecs defense grabbing the upper hand and getting the win.