It was a huge shake-up day in college hoops yesterday, and the poll will look dramatically different when they are released tomorrow morning. We are down to one real unbeaten team in the country (sorry Wyoming, beat UNLV or San Diego State and we’ll include you), after NC State took down Duke in Raleigh. Add in the Arizona loss (finally) earlier in the week as well as the impressive wins by Indiana, the blowout losses by Minnesota, Missouri and Illinois, and the Top 15 is going to look radically different next week that it does today.
Who will be sitting atop the poll has a lot to do with today’s marquee game at 1:30 on CBS, Michigan at Ohio State. Will the home crowd be enough to carry the Buckeyes to a win over the presumptive #1 team in the country? Or will the Michigan offense, spearheaded by the best backcourt in the country of Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr. be too much for the smaller Aaron Craft and the occasionally offensively-limited Buckeyes to defend?
I’ll give you my lean for that game at the end of the column, but first I want to dig into today’s featured pick, a pivotal contest in the ACC that will help shape the early bubble picture in that league.
Maryland Terrapins at Miami Hurricanes -6.5 (Total: 131)
We have a clear picture of the top two teams in the ACC after yesterday’s well-played game between the two team everyone expected to be very good preseason; Duke and NC State. The question now becomes, ‘who is the third-best team in the ACC’?
We also a have a pretty clear answer to who ISN’T. North Carolina. Despite yesterday’s win over Florida State (ditto for the Seminoles on the “no” vote), the Heels have been dreadful most of the season and look more like a bubble team than a top tier challenger to the Dukies or Wolfpack. The best answer to the question can likely be found tonight, when the Terps visit Miami in a dynamite college basketball matchup between two unranked but dangerous teams (8PM EST on ESPNU).
Miami has already notched some impressive wins, and despite the injury to arguably their best player, they have continued to look good in the last week, beating Georgia Tech and North Carolina. They also earn an early season win over Michigan State which will bolster their resume.
For Maryland, conference play will be crucial. Their only real non-conference win was over Kentucky, and that win looks worse and worse everytime the Wildcats go out on the court looking still disheveled. Their opening salvo in ACC play was a stinkbomb, losing at home to Florida State. They can ill-afford to lose home games in league play, but have a chance to make it up with a nice road win tonight.
I am not sure they actually get the WIN, but I do like them with 6.5 points. Look for future lottery pick Alex Len to exploit some of the injuries on Miami’s interior and for Dez Wells to have a nice game. Miami has a better-than-advertised team, but doesn’t have the same frenzied home court advantage that most of the conference mates possess. It won’t be anything close to a raucous arena tonight. I like Maryland to play with poise and to bounce back from their last poor outing.
Give me the Terps with the points, though I wouldn’t be stunned if they won the game outright.
Free Pick: Maryland Terrapins +6.5
Bonus Pick: OK, so I am not wild about only getting a point or two on the road against a ranked opponent, but unless Ohio State churns up a heroic effort today or Michigan gets a little antsy playing for the #1 spot in the polls and speeds up a little too much, I don’t see the Buckeyes beating them. Michigan is simply more dynamic and a TON better offensively than Ohio State. Trey Burke is the best floor leader in the country. Look for him to control the tempo and make good decisions; both scoring AND distributing to his talented teammates.
I think Michigan wins this game straight up, and grabs a firm hold on the top spot in the polls Monday morning.
Free Pick: Michigan Wolverines +2