Perhaps there is a not-so-subtle changing of the guard happening in the Big Ten right under our noses. I dismissed the opening home loss for Indiana to Nebraska as a mere case of Indiana just wetting the bed and no-showing in a game they simply CANNOT lose if they are legit Final Four contenders. Then yesterday, Nebraska went on the road, again, and knocked off another sure-fire NCAA Tournament team with a win in College Park over Maryland. The Huskers are now 2-0 with two HUGE road wins to open conference play. Yes, Nebraska is still just 8-6 overall with losses in six of seven games in one awful stretch, but the first five were to UCLA, Virginia Tech and Clemson, then a win over South Dakota before losses to Creighton, Kansas and a “we’re pretty demoralized right now” loss to Gardner-Webb.
To add to the Big Ten chaos, Minnesota, fresh off absolutely choking away a home overtime loss to Michigan State rebounded to win AT Purdue, also in overtime. I poked fun of the Golden Gophers less-than-ambitious schedule last week, but at 13-2 AND a road win over Purdue, you’d have to consider them a tournament team as of today.
Conference play is just heating up (though no major league is in action today) and already nearly every major league has seen some eye-popping results. The gap between #10 and #100 is really slim this year, and frankly, even the top ten, Villanova excepted, has shown real vulnerability. It makes finding underdog values like BC getting a ridiculous ten points at home against Syracuse (they ended up winning by 15) a real daily possibility. It’s a big reason why I am sitting on a 34-18 ATS record heading into the New Year.
Let’s keep it rolling!
Today’s Free Pick:
Louisiana Lafayette Rajun’ Cajuns at Arkansas Little Rock Trojans -1.5
You are forgiven if you have no even remote interest in this basketball game. It’s a regular season Sun Belt Conference Game between two teams even the most strident college hoops fans might struggle to give the nicknames and mascots for (hint: ULL used to SW Louisiana State, if the “Cajun” thing now rings a bell).
Alas, I was going to take the day off – pass on this sloppy slate of games no one could care about, but hey, when you are toting a nearly 67% ATS mark on the season and riding a four-game winning streak and 7-2 ATS week, you dig a little deeper in the schedule. And I found a game I legitimately LIKE in the dregs.
Little Rock was one of mid-major darlings last year and the second-to-last remaining undefeated team in 2015-2016. This season has been a little rougher. The Trojans still enter a respectable 10-4 overall and 6-1 at home, but they tried to muscle up on the schedule a bit and it bit em. They got absolutely blasted by Florida, which is fair. The losses to Oral Roberts and Idaho, less so. They also have a two-point loss to Pepperdine.
Lafayette enters also 10-4, and 3-4 on the road. Their losses are a little stronger. They have a three-point loss to a solid Arkansas State team, as well as losses to Georgia and Minnesota. They also own a 12-point loss to Montana State. Their best wins are over, well, no one, save a blowout win by 26 points over the same Pepperdine team that beat Little Rock.
But let me caution you about using the transitive property to evaluate college basketball teams. Indiana lost to Fort Wayne. But Indiana also beat Kansas and North Carolina. Ergo, the Mastodons should be a top ten team…
Home court matters in college basketball and it matters in familiar conference rivalries. Little Rock has won the last three in this matchup and is 8-1 ATS in the last nine meetings between these two teams. They have comparable resumes; Lafayette with better losses, Little Rock with better wins including Tulsa, St. Bonaventure, and Central Michigan.
I’ll take the home team in the near pick-‘em matchup.