We moved to 3-1 ATS on the young college hoops season with another winner last night as Auburn easily handled their business at home against an out-manned Georgia State team. They nearly doubled the covering margin and once the teams came out for the second half, the result was never really in jeopardy. Bruce Pearl’s team still has a ton of work to do to get to where he wants them to eventually be, but it is an encouraging start for the Tigers who will have a chance in the ridiculously parity-laced SEC (non-Kentucky division, of course).
The most impressive win of the night was Villanova going into Mackey Arena and narrowly edging a very good Purdue team. I had been hesitant on Villanova for the early season, wanting to see how they look without long-time floor general Ryan Arcidiacano on the roster. Suffice it to say they passed their first test with FLYING colors. Let’s see what Kentucky looks like tonight, but I have a sneaking suspicion the ‘Duke/Kentucky and the Rest’ preseason perception might need to be adjusted to include Villanova (and maybe Indiana as well…)
It’s a loaded slate of hoops today (and has been going on since last night – continuously) with too many highlights to list. But I am focusing my pick on THE highlight of the schedule, and the climactic finale of the Marathon; Duke and Kansas.
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Today’s Free Pick:
Kansas Jayhawks vs. Duke Blue Devils -2.5
It doesn’t get much better than a neutral floor matchup between Kansas and Duke in the Mecca of Hoops, Madison Square Garden. Duke enters the season as the overwhelming preseason #1 team, a tantalizing blend of veteran top-tier talent and an influx of insane freshman future-pro talent.
The problem tonight? Most of that influx of talent is unavailable. No Harry Giles. No Marques Bolden. No Jayson Tatum. All their prized freshman size and talent on the bench. Which leaves Duke looking a lot like last year’s team – needing a TON of points out of Grayson Allen and leaving them very thin on the bench (Coach K will play six tonight, seven reluctantly) and lacking the interior depth and defensive fearsome presence.
I’m honestly surprised they are still a healthy favorite. I think Kansas clips them tonight. Yes, they gave up WAY too many points in the opener to Indiana (103 in OT). But Indiana is a high-octane offense and is going to top 80 points a lot this season. They were also playing their first game and playing in Hawaii. I expect a more concerted defensive effort tonight from Kansas and a better result. Frank Mason will be the best leader and playmaker on the court. Josh Jackson will be the most talented player. And Kansas has plenty of maturity and athleticism to throw at the short-handed Devils.
Duke will be the best team in the country when they get healthy. But for tonight, they are basically 2015-2016 Duke. And that was FAR from the best team in the country.