For those of you who read regularly, you’ll notice a theme to my early season columns (and perhaps the 67% accuracy picking against the spread as well…). That theme is ‘forget emotion, look at the team’s ability level.” It led us to victory picking UConn over the media-darling Harvard Crimson, and the same principle will serve us well again today.
The Indiana Hoosiers are one of the most under-recognized teams of 2011’s early season. They are 8-0, and by all accounts appear to be back to respectability in Tom Crean’s fourth season; which is probably not a moment too soon, considering they were 12-21 last season and 3-15 in the Big Ten. They have begun to garner respect, although they are still unranked, but are they really “back” enough to hang with the #1 team in the country??
Indiana’s 8-0 record is certainly cause for excitement down in Bloomington, but aside from a hard-fought win at North Carolina State, it is built largely on fattening up on cream puffs. Wins over Stetson, Chattanooga, Evansville, Savannah State and Gardner-Webb are all utterly useless from an RPI standpoint, but also from a “getting tested as a team” standpoint as well. To this point, Indiana might have played the worst non-conference schedule of any BCS school in the country (though in their defense, the Butler game looked good when they scheduled it).
Kentucky on the other hand; Kansas on a neutral floor, a trip to St. John’s, and a marquee home game against the other “best team in the country”, North Carolina. The Cats have been tested, and passed, more than a few times. The biggest danger in today’s game isn’t freshman Cody Zeller (don’t worry, Anthony Davis will literally erase him); it’s not taking the Hoosiers as seriously as they should on the heels of facing the Heels’ last Saturday.
Fortunately for Coach Cal and his young Cats, the raucous crowd at Assembly Hall won’t let that happen today. The atmosphere will give Kentucky their first taste of a true fervent road crowd. It will make this game a little closer than it would be on a neutral floor, but I still think Kentucky covers the six points relatively easily.
Indiana is a nice story; Kentucky is an elite team. That discrepancy is greater than six points. Leave the emption at home. Take Kentucky to the winner’s circle.
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