Before we get to today’s picks, how about those Villanova Wildcats!?! If you would have told me that a team will beat Louisville and Syracuse in back-to-back games this season, I would have assumed said team was either getting ready to cut down the nets or play for the National Championship – because that would be a Regional Final/Final Four type schedule. Instead, it was the 11-8 Villanova Wildcats, the same team that owns an 18-point HOME LOSS to Columbia… It’s shaping up to be a wacky and fun season and today has the potential to add even more excitement as some Top 25 teams square off head to head.
SO let’s dive into today’s free picks:
Michigan State Spartans at Indiana Hoosiers -8.5 (Total: 135)
Indiana was the preseason consensus #1, but a pre-Christmas loss to Butler and a home loss to Wisconsin have since cooled off the pollsters. But don’t be too deceived, this is still one of the elite teams in the country. Michigan State, on the other hand, wasn’t too heavily regarded entering the season but is starting to do what Tom Izzo’s teams always seem to do – win tough ballgames late and look like a menacing team just in time for the tourney.
Michigan State enters at 17-3, with their losses being an early loss to Connecticut in Germany to open the season, an early loss at Miami (which looks better and better every day) and a New Year’s Eve loss at Minnesota. Since that Minnesota game, they are 7-0 in 2013, with wins at Wisconsin and Iowa and a home win over Ohio State. However, all three of those games have something in common – they won by a possession or less. The other three wins were over terrible teams; Purdue, Nebraska and Penn State.
Today is a totally different animal – going on the road to face arguably the most talented team in the nation in rowdy Assembly Hall on CBS. I expect Indiana to play very well and to keep the game a wide enough margin that Michigan State’s icy reserve late in games doesn’t factor in to play.
I have a slight lean towards Indiana for today’s game, but 8.5 feels like a pretty good number. My official play today is on the UNDER 135.5. Indiana loves to play up tempo, and has the potential to score some points, but both these teams defend well. In fact, over the past five games, all conference games, neither team is allowing more than 60 ppg. That adds up to a total of around 118. That’s under the UNDER with room to spare. I think Indiana gets more than 60 points, but I think the total still sneaks under around 130 or so.
Free Pick: Total points UNDER 135.5
Rutgers +9 at Connecticut – Rutgers already has conference wins over Notre Dame, St. Johns and South Florida to sit at 3-3 in the Beast. Aside from Syracuse, no one has blown them out. UConn is 2-3 with no win more than seven points except DePaul (and that barely counts). I like Rutgers to hang around and give them a tougher game than Vegas expects. I’ll take the Scarlet Knights with the points.
Free Pick: Rutgers +9
Florida State at Miami (FL) -9.5 – There is little in FSU’s recent DNA that suggests they have any chance to beat the Canes in Coral Gables. They are fresh off lucky 3-point win over Clemson with a banked-in Michael Snaer three-pointer at the buzzer, and before that laid a 56-36 egg in a loss to Virginia.
Meanwhile, the Canes are fresh off the biggest regular season win in program history, and nationally televised 90-61 thrashing of #1 Duke… and therein lies the problem. Tonight is the CLASSIC trap game. Expect Miami to be a little flat and FSU to be a little keyed up to get the road “upset” over an instate rival. A rival they have OWNED by the way, winning eight of the last nine games head-to-head in this conference rivalry.
Free Pick: Florida State Seminoles +9.5