Happy New Year college hoops fans! 2013 promises to be an exciting year full of fantastic matchups, and at thesportsgeek.com we will look to take our winning ways from 2012 continuing all the way through March Madness. Today’s slate of games is an interesting blend of conference play and a few lingering non-conference matchups.
The Missouri Valley has three more matchups that will hopefully begin to make some sense of who is for real in this league. In particular, Creighton goes to Illinois State in a game that will be a nice gauge of if the Redbirds are legit tourney contenders. The same can be said for Indiana State hosting Northern Iowa. NIU appeared to be a tourney team after their early season tough play in the Battle 4 Atlantis. Indiana State has leapt into the discussion with wins over Illinois State, Mississippi and Miami in the last ten days. It will be interesting to see who emerges tonight (and yes, I’ll have picks for both games at the bottom of the column!)
The Big Ten also has an interesting show-me game tonight when Illinois takes their 12-1 record to Mackey Arena and Purdue. The Boilermakers look to be one of the worst teams in the conference this season (Nebraska and Penn State excepted), but are only two point underdogs. That, to me, is a clear indication that Vegas suspects what many hoops fans also do; Illinois is a fraud as opposed to a legit contender in the Big Ten. If forced to pick, I think Illinois is actually a decent team and Purdue stinks – but this game scares me a bit. I’m going to wait to get a better feel for each team and will abstain from a pick tonight.
Instead, let’s move on to tonight’s free pick, and it involves the #1 team in the nation.
Duke Blue Devils -13 @ Davidson Wildcats
Duke enters the game at a perfect 12-0… yawn… Or at least that seems to be the recent collective reaction from the Duke players. They slept-walked through their last outing, an uninspired win over Santa Clara and had it set to cruise control on their win against Elon College. They failed to cover in either game, so it’d be easy to look at Duke as a team waiting for ACC play to hit the gas pedal.
But bet against the Dukies at your own peril. This team has the best collection of wins in the nation; Louisville, Minnesota, Temple, Ohio State, VCU and Kentucky. Add it up and that’s wins over three Top Ten teams, more than a fistful of lottery picks and a team that just beat Syracuse on a neutral floor. Even better, only one of those six wins was at home. Impressive.
Davidson, meanwhile, is certainly not shy about scheduling and could very well win the SoCon this season. But don’t confuse this with the Steph Curry glory years. Davidson is just 6-5 this season, and most of their losses are worse than you might think; Wisconsin Milwaukee, Drexel, and Charlotte. Only the Gonzaga loss would count as a real “quality” loss and it was by double digits.
I think Duke begins the New Year with some focus and precision and comes out and takes Davidson apart tonight. The Wildcats and Coach McKillop run an efficient offense, but don’t have the athletes to counter Duke’s size (Plumlee and Kelly) or cover their battery of lethal shooters (Curry , Sulaimon, etc).
I like Duke to cover the 13 points easily tonight and finally LOOK like the #1 team in the nation again.
Free Pick: Duke Blue Devils -13
BONUS PICKS: Indiana State +6, Creighton -2.5