It was a good night for us, going 3-0 ATS in our college basketball picks, but it definitely wasn’t a good night for Bill Self and his Kansas Jayhawks. TCU is in their first year in Big 12 basketball, and up until last night they had yet to win a single game in the new home. Until last night.
Kansas, who would have been #1 in the country last week had they not lost to Oklahoma State on Saturday, was beaten in a game they truly never were in. The same goes for Florida the previous night to lowly Arkansas. So what does all this mean? It means don’t even feign surprise when your (or mine) bracket completely BLOWS UP in March.
So far this season every potential #1 seed (except one) has lost a game that would be a worse equivalent to losing in the second round to an #8/#9, something that happens very infrequently. In fact, conventional wisdom says that if you simply slot every #1 seed into the second weekend of the tournament you’ll be right more years than you are not. This year that feels dicey at best. In fact, taking it a step further, nearly every top ten team has a “bad” loss already. In fact, if you are looking for a team with a clean resume, the only one you can make a real argument for is the team that is probably most punished publicly for their losses, Duke. The Blue Devils have only road losses to NC State and Miami, both perfectly reasonable losses. Certainly better than Florida or Kansas’s losses, and better than Indiana’s home loss to Wisconsin and Louisville and Syracuse’s losses to Villanova.
So are the Blue Devils cutting down the nets in March??
Um, let’s not get carried away just yet….
There is still a great month of drama ahead before we need to start worrying about brackets, so let’s instead focus on the here and now with a few picks for tonight’s games.
Clemson Tigers at Virginia Cavaliers -7.5
Virginia is a surprise bubble team after winning four straight, including wins over Florida State and NC State. However, they bookended that streak with a bad loss at Clemson and most recently, a road loss to Georgia Tech. Consider it one step forward and one step back for the Cavs. They need a win tonight to stay in the bubble talk, and I think they’ll get it.
Virginia has been good at home, winning six of their last seven home games by nine or more points. The only game closer than that was against NC State who is significantly better than Clemson. Clemson is also awful on the road, having failed to win an ACC game away from Littlejohn yet this season.
Give me the Cavaliers to handle their business and avenge their earlier season loss at Clemson.
Free Pick: Virginia Cavaliers -7.5
Indiana Hoosiers -7 @ Illinois Fighting Illini
Is there are more perplexing team in the country than Illinois? A month ago they looked like a top four seed after going to Gonzaga and winning and then knocking off Ohio State to run their record to 14-1. The last three weeks they have been an absolute disaster, dropping six of their last seven to fall to 2-7 in Big Ten play and find themselves squarely on the tournament bubble. There only win during their free-fall was a win over Nebraska. Their home games against Michigan, Northwestern and Minnesota weren’t even close, losing all by at least 16 points.
Tonight has a “last stand” feel to it for John Groce’s team, but I don’t think Indiana is an ideal opponent. Illinois goes as their start guard Brandon Paul goes. Guess who Mr. Paul gets to see tonight? That’s right, the most athletic and tenacious perimeter defender in the country (I love Aaron Craft too, that’s why I added “athletic” to the earlier description), Victor Oladipo.
Look for Oladipo to force a ton of bad shots and turnovers and for Indiana to be able to get some easy buckets in transition. I like the Hoosiers to consolidate the big win over Michigan with an efficient, business-like effort on the road in Champaign.
Free Pick: Indiana Hoosiers -7