We notched another easy college winner last night with Georgetown jumping all over St John’s en route to a blowout victory and easy cover. The win pulls us back up over 64% on the season at 41-23 ATS. And last night, unless you like low major college hoops, that was the ONLY game on the schedule. That is definitely NOT the case tonight with at least three BIG TIME blockbuster games and a half-dozen other interesting matchups between quality teams.
The three big ones have both standings and perception implications in three of the best conferences in America. #1 Baylor gets their first major test of the season, heading on the road to take on an excellent West Virginia team and their vaunted press in Morgantown. I’ve caught some flack on Twitter(@TheMarchManiacs) from people wondering how I could still have Baylor ranked 8th. Tonight’s Vegas line is EXACTLY why. They are SIX point DOGS – meaning Vegas thinks West Virginia is the better team even on a neutral floor. I’m not so sure, but I would lay the six if they were at Kansas. Either way, I’ve been saying they will get clipped on January 10th for four weeks – this game is MUST WATCH if you like college hoops (and I’ll assume you do, since you’ve read this far into the column)
The other two big games feature good programs battling for the respect their opponents have already long earned. Xavier heads on the road to take on rival Villanova. The Muskies have made the transition from “dangerous mid-major” to legit Top Twenty program in American with aplomb over the last decade. They’ve gone to three Elite Eights, a few more Sweet Sixteens made the tournament 14 of the last 16 years. But they can’t seem to win a game in Villanova. They are eight point dogs tonight and get a Nova team that freshly lost at Butler…
Lastly, Florida State gets a home shot at Duke without Coach K. And as delicious as it sounds, it is also loaded. If they LOSE, it is a HUGE perception hit to the Noles, adding a little pressure to tonight’s fantastic matchup.
It’s gonna be a loaded night of hoops. Here’s my favorite play on the board.
Today’s Free Pick:
Kansas State Wildcats at Texas Tech Red Raiders -5.5
It’s really easy to dismiss this game solely on the names of the teams and the pretty pathetic non-con slate each cautiously carved through. Texas Tech’s best win prior to the one-point home stunner over WVU was either North Texas or Richmond. Kansas State’s were a little better; Boston College or Colorado State. Neither is anything approaching impressive. But Tech got the win over WVU and K-State got wins over Texas and Oklahoma and earned a massive amount of respect for their 90-88 ref-aided screw-job at Kansas.
The schedules are SOFT, but it worked. They are 29th and 30th respectively in KenPom, and both are in position to make the Tournament if they can hold the rope and remain .500 in conference play.
That makes a toss-up game like tonight VITAL for both, as their lack of quality wins will be an anchor come Selection Sunday. Right now, Lunardi (ESPN) has Tech in the First Four OUT, and K-State in the NEXT FOUR OUT, proving that as useful as KenPom can be, it can sometimes be fooled by simply dodging legit competition and not taking a BAD loss.
The whole point – this is a DEAD EVEN game, and in dead even games, we usually slide three points to the home squad. That makes K-State the better value. I also have more confidence in the Wildcats on the road after seeing how well they acquitted themselves in Phogg – one of the toughest places to play in all the country.
Kansas State has also been more impressive in their losses. They are one point in Maryland and one whistle away in Kansas from entering tonight a perfect 15-0. Texas Tech got thumped in Kansas, handled at home by Iowa State and lost at home to Auburn.
I’ll take the points and the Cats on the road tonight in Lubbock.