We had an odd day of college hoops, going 1-1-1 ATS capped off with Illinois and Oregon pushing in the late game. It was a good day of action across the country, but no win was more impressive than North Carolina scalping their third huge name opponent of the season with their 82-71 win over Kentucky. Over-zealous fans in Lexington were wondering aloud (and printing t-shirts) if this team could run the entire slate en route to a perfect 42-0 season and a national championship. Instead they have three losses already – which wouldn’t be that troubling if they hadn’t lost to EVERY ranked opponent they have faced this season.
Meanwhile, North Carolina continues to be one of the most fascinating teams in the country. They are still awaiting the eligibility of (presumably) two of their best players, but without them they have beaten Michigan State, Louisville and Kentucky; all legitimate Final Four contenders. Despite two unimpressive losses on the resume, seeing how GOOD Carolina’s “good” can be, it’s hard not to include them in the list of realistic title contenders; both in the ACC and nationally.
Today is a much lighter slate than yesterday’s packed afternoon, but there is one game that has my interest today. Not just because of the matchup but because of the rapid change in fortune for each team in the first month of the season…
Today’s Free Pick:
La Salle Explorers at Villanova Wildcats -14
This game means a lot more locally in the city of Philadelphia than most national fans realize. Even though the records are very disparate; 9-0 for Villanova and just 5-4 for La Salle, this could very well be an intense and closely-contested game. Villanova will be looking to redeem themselves after last year’s loss to the Explorers.
La Salle got off to a miserable start this season, dropping games to Manhattan, Penn State, Providence and Northern Iowa. Three of them are decent ballclubs, but for a team that returned its top six players from a Sweet Sixteen run the year before, it has been massively disappointing. They desperately need a BIG win to erase the sting of reality that began the season and to save their season. I think they’ll play like it today – though it could very well not be enough to upset the most pleasantly surprising team in the country.
Villanova burst onto the national scene after upsetting Kansas in the Bahamas. They followed it up with a win over Iowa and have showed no sign of letting up, beating the nonsense out of their last two opponents, Penn and a decent St. Joe’s team. There is nothing in their recent performance that suggests they are even slightly vulnerable to an upset – I am backing La Salle simply on a gut play that they are too talented and too desperate to get run out of the gym in a rivalry game today.