Florida State vs. Louisville Pick NCAA Hoops – Jan 20th

The polls came out Monday, and there was some obvious shake-up but not the seismic movement that felt possible. Oklahoma is the obvious number one, and it is hard to fault Kansas remaining at #2. They have a ton of good wins, including over #1 Oklahoma (who promptly at Iowa State that same night), and the loss to start the season to Michigan State is long forgiven and the loss at West Virginia was a really good game (and of course, they lose last night to unranked Oklahoma State by a ton).

The two gripes I had with the poll were Virginia remaining as high as they are and Clemson remaining completely ignored. Yes, Clemson has appalling non-conference losses. But they also have three straight wins over ranked opponents and are 5-1 in arguably the best conference in America. Duke, Miami and Louisville are all potential Top Four seeds, so to completely ignore the Tigers feels a little foolish. Likewise, I get that Virginia has been highly regarded all year long. But they now have FOUR losses to unranked teams, including three in the last week and a half. It felt like time to drop the Wahoo’s from their lofty Top 15 perch. FORTUNATELY both got a chance to settle it, with Virginia winning but not covering as ten point home favorite. The hard-fought UVA win doesn’t negate my above point, but makes it easier to justify in the polling.

Other than that, it’s fair to say life between ten and fifty is pretty fluid. Pitt, Clemson, George Washington, Gonzaga, Notre Dame, LSU and VCU are all unranked. Would anyone be surprised if they dropped a Duke or Kentucky in the opening round of the Big Dance? It’s the most parity-driven major conference season I’ve seen in the near-decade I’ve been writing about college hoops. It makes for an exciting season and for a ton of interesting lines. We’ve had some ups and downs handicapping as the turbulent season has taken shape, but we are finally getting some nice conference analytics as a decent sample size has occurred. So let’s get back to basics and use some data to guide today’s free pick.

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Today’s Free Pick:

Florida State Seminoles at Louisville Cardinals -9.5

This just doesn’t feel like the year to be eating a ton of points just because one team is ranked and another isn’t. The new week is two days old, and three of the top five teams in the country have all lost, and only one to a ranked opponent. One of them, Xavier, lost at home. And the two teams linking up in ACC action tonight aren’t separated by a ton.

Florida State has quality wins this season over VCU, Florida and Virginia. They have a tough loss to Iowa and have lost to Clemson and Miami on the road. Only North Carolina has run away from them, and they aren’t the only team that will say that by the end of the year. Florida State has been a competitive team in ACC play and I don’t see any reason tonight won’t be the same. Of course, they are just 1-2 on the road, so I expect Louisville to win outright.

Meanwhile, Louisville has a similar profile. Nice win over Pitt, competitive losses to Kentucky and Michigan State, a road loss at Clemson and a couple of home ACC wins. However, their schedule outside of those aforementioned games has been pretty soft. If you look at total resume strength, these two teams are nearly identical.

I toyed with the idea of making the official pick Virginia Tech getting 12 at Notre Dame, with a nearly identical logic train, and I still like them with the points. But I’m staking the first pick of the week after a two-day hiatus on the Seminoles to cover in the YUM Center tonight.

Florida State is 11-3 ATS in their last 14 road games. Louisville is just 1-5 ATS in the YUM Center, perhaps some evidence of a team whose perception slightly outpaces their actual talent level. The biggest feather in their cap is a tough loss to a Kentucky team that has proven to be far more mortal than anyone thought the day after Christmas…

Free Pick: Florida State Seminoles +9.5