We suffered our first “bad beat” of the college hoops season last night when Fairfield failed to score in the game’s final four minutes, falling to Virginia in an ugly affair, 54-45. I was laying eight, so lost by a late point. The good news is the line closed at -9, so for those of you who got in a little late, hopefully you got the push.
Yesterday we went fishing for some good mid-major, David vs. Goliath specials; today no such searching is necessary. College hoops announces its presence in a major way right out of the gate with a pair of marquee matchups on neutral floors. In the night’s opener, Michigan State faces off against Kansas. Michigan State looked lethargic in their opener against UConn – BUT it was on a naval base in Germany. Be cautious in overlooking the Spartans. Kansas gets their first real action of the year tonight, and despite their lofty ranking, I am curious to see where their offense is going to come from without Thomas Robinson. My preference in this game is Michigan State with the three points, but my official pick will focus on the real marquee game, the matchup between the fiercest rivals with no regular playing history or geographic relevance; Duke and Kentucky.
Duke Blue Devils -3 vs. Kentucky Wildcats (Total: 139.5)
This whole odd rivalry center on a single moment; “The Shot”, a seminal moment in college hoops now 20 years old, the Christian Laettner miracle in the 1992 East Regional Final. Kentucky fans, the most rabid in college basketball, have never forgotten or forgiven. It seems irrational to most, but tonight is seen as yet another chance to exact some revenge for the Big Blue faithful (who have won THREE national championships since then, mind you.)
This game will be played at a high level, and I expect Kentucky to look much sharper than they did against Maryland, however, I also expect Duke to defend much better than Maryland did. Duke is known for their ability to create ball pressure and make it difficult to initiate the offense. Kentucky’s most visible weakness is their questionable point guards. I expect Duke to be very disruptive and to force not just turnover but also bad shots.
I also expect them to shoot a TON better than Maryland did. Seth Curry is a knock down shooter from 25-feet and in. Maryland shot the ball so horrifically, if it wasn’t for Alex Len’s dominance, they would have gotten run out of the building.
Which brings me to my final point; isn’t Mason Plumlee at LEAST as good as Alex Len? All I keep hearing about this game is Kentucky’s immense talent edge. Isn’t Plumlee’s proven at least as good as Nerlins Noel’s unknown at this point in time? Is Noel’s upside higher? Certainly. Is he better today? I don’t think so.
I think Duke is on an even plane talent-wise, and on a whole other level maturity and basketball IQ-wise. I like the Devils to beat Kentucky and slow down some of the unrealistic expectations for this insanely young Wildcat team. They will be very, very good, but not tonight.
Give me Duke laying the three points on the neutral floor.
Free Pick: Duke Blue Devils -3