The Big Ten defended its ACC/Big Ten Challenge crown, winning for the fifth time in seven years (the other two were ties) and continuing its somewhat surprising dominance over their more basketball-traditional conference opponents. Most of the games were competitive, but Purdue winning at Pitt and Northwestern winning at Virginia Tech might have sealed the deal. Maryland losing at North Carolina was a well-played game and not unexpected, and Indiana being decimated by Duke wasn’t terribly surprising (though it had to be further disappointment for Indiana faithful).
So does this mean the Big Ten is the better conference??
Let’s not get too carried away with any bold proclamations. Were the matchups different, we could very well have seen a different result. But the biggest takeaway is that, yes the Big Ten is VERY good this year, and that we could realistically see a Final Four comprised mainly (or exclusively) from these two conferences. Yes, Kansas and Kentucky are primary contenders, as well as Iowa State, Oklahoma, Gonzaga, etc. But from the field of North Carolina, Duke, Maryland, Michigan State, Purdue, Virginia and even fringe contenders like Syracuse and Louisville, there is a ton of talent to go around.
Let’s see if we can notch a winner today in a slightly sparse crowd of college action.
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Today’s Free Pick:
Kentucky Wildcats -5.5 at UCLA Bruins
Let’s assume this line is predicated on some uncertainty over the status of UK Point guard Tyler Ulis. No official word has been given either way at the time of this writing, so if you like this play, perhaps you want to wait and see what shakes out. But for me, I’m all in with Big Blue no matter what and especially at this stunningly low price.
I know these are two completely different teams than last year, but do you REMEMBER what Kentucky did to UCLA last year?? 41-7 at halftime and a merciful 42-point beatdown. It could have been 100-20. Calipari, in rare Coach Cal fashion, slammed on the brakes. I don’t think it’ll get as far out of hand tonight; this Kentucky team isn’t as good yet (especially if Ulis is out – though I really think he is going to play based on what they were saying a week ago), and the game is at Pauley Pavillion, but this year’s UCLA team isn’t very good either.
The Bruins already have three losses, including one to a sub-par Wake Forest and decent Monmouth team. They struggled against UNLV and Cal Poly, winning by a total of seven points. Kansas, a team similar to Kentucky in talent and athleticism, beat the hell out them, and that was before Diallo got eligible.
Simple fact is that UCLA is outmatched today. I’d lay ten and not blink. TO get them at just -5.5 is a steal, and I’m jumping all over it.