We stacked another pair of college winners last night, with Florida taking control late to cover with some room to spare and Texas cashing in one of the most automatic winners I’ve seen on the board in 2014 with a blowout home win over the Marcus Smart-less Oklahoma State Cowboys. The loss was the fifth in six games of Okie State, and drops them to 4-6 in conference with road games at Oklahoma and Baylor looming before their sophomore All-America returns. It brings into real jeopardy the Cowboys even MAKING the Field of 68… a precipitous and unlikely demise for sure…
However, there is no time to whine about the fallen when we have two absolutely fantastic games back-to-back on ESPN tonight for our viewing pleasure. Syracuse will have their hands full trying to remain unbeaten at Pitt (more on this game below) while Duke and North Carolina renew one of the bets and most intense rivalries in all of sports.
It’s going to be a great night of college hoops, and that’s not even mentioning the fantastic George Washington at VCU game (it’s on at 7pm on NBC Sports if you get it – it’s worth DVR’ing, both these teams are much better than casual fans realize).
We’re 11-4 ATS over our past 15 college games and a nice fat 18 games over .500 for the year. Let’s keep it rolling tonight.
Today’s Free Picks:
Syracuse Orange at Pitt Panthers -2.5
I’ve picked Syracuse games nine times this season. I’m 9-0 ATS in those games. And in the first eight, I picked the Orange. It was almost an unfair ATM as they kept cashing with ease, and the time I went against them they were laying 15 to Notre Dame less than 48 hours after the crazy emotional Duke game; again, EASY money. Tonight represents a unique circumstance though, as it is the first time this year you can take the Orange AND get points.
So should you? I say absolutely. Pitt has been good at home and they have a gaudy record. They also have no wins over ranked opponents and are 0-4 against Top 25 teams, with two of those losses (Duke and Virginia) coming on their home floor. Will they be super-amped for tonight’s game? Of course. But can Syracuse handle the pressure? I’m willing to bank on them one more time.
Pitt really needs this game for validation, and I expect them to play well. But with Zanna nursing a sore ankle, their interior defense will be a little weakened. I like the Cuse to make JUST enough plays to get another big win on the road.
Duke Blue Devils -2 at North Carolina Tarheels
Over the years, these two schools have played some of the most memorable regular season games in college basketball history. The ironic thing is that some of their fiercest, toughest games have come when one school was a little down. Perhaps that is the case with North Carolina this year. Yes, they are 16-7 and have some really nice high-profile wins over Michigan State, Louisville and Kentucky. But they also have losses to Texas and Belmont at home. Now they are on a five game winning streak with nice wins @ Notre Dame, and home wins over NC State, Clemson and Maryland. Before that, they were 1-4 with a home loss to Miami, a road loss to Wake Forest and a pair of double-digit spankings at Syracuse and Virginia.
This is a hard team to figure sometimes.
So I’m going to go with what I know. I know Duke is a good team. I know they have considerably more top-tier NBA talent, and I know they are a more poised and more veteran team. This will be a new experience for Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood. However it won’t be for Quinn Cook, Sulaimon and their solid, if not dynamic, backcourt.
I think Duke can handle the frenzy, and assuming they can, they should win tonight’s game. Could Carolina have another out of the head overachievement effort? Sure. But they just as likely could get punked by a better team.
I wouldn’t bet the house on this game, given the mercurial nature of UNC. But I do like Duke with a conservative play tonight to win on the road against a team they SHOULD beat.