Perhaps the wagering gods owed us one yesterday. After Saturday’s tough underdog overtime narrow loser, we got a back and forth spread teaser to fall our direction with a few late Melo Trimble free throws. I didn’t think we’d have to sweat it that much given both Maryland’s recent play and improvement and Ohio State’s proclivity to get blasted against top tier competition, especially on those CBS televised games (Indiana and Maryland) but a win is a win is a win, so I’ll take it.
A few under the radar results from yesterday included the Wichita State road win at Evansville. It might not make many ripples nationally, but Evansville is a really good ballclub and a double digit win in their gym to go 10-0 in MVC play is impressive. Wichita State fell off the grid after some early non-con struggles, but remember that Van Vleet was hurt or even out for many of those struggles. I wouldn’t want to see this team in my bracket as a five or six seed, I’ll tell you that for sure…
It’s a light Monday in college hoops with most of the best games occurring in the low-major leagues (is there ever a bad excuse to watch Monmouth this year??) but there is a big time ESPN game with a line I ;love, so let’s dive into today’s free pick.
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Today’s Free Pick:
North Carolina Tarheels at Louisville Cardinals -1
Louisville got a lot of attention for exceeding early expectations and racking up a gaudy record leading up to conference play. However, their most impressive pre-con results were valiant losses at Michigan State and Kentucky with very few quality wins bolstering the resume. In fact, since conference play has began, things have unfolded in much the same fashion. This weekend’s home blowout loss to Virginia was the latest example that the Cardinals are GOOD, but certainly far from GREAT.
Meanwhile, North Carolina just keeps on rolling. Their two losses this season came early, and neither was a great one; at Northern Iowa and at Texas. However, Marcus Paige didn’t play at UNI and losing at Texas at the buzzer doesn’t look at bad after some of the other victims they have since knocked off in Austin. North Carolina is the most devastating offensive team in the country, and if I had to rank every team in the country just on HOW GOOD they are right now, forget record and resume, they would be my #1 team in the country without a lot of hesitation.
North Carolina enters tonight on a twelve game winning streak and 8-0 in ACC play. Skeptics and detractors will point out that UNC hasn’t faced a ranked opponent yet in league play, and that is a fair observation (as well as schedule abnormality), but the fact that only one game, a roadie at sneaky Virginia Tech, has been decided by less than eight points. They have blowout wins at Florida State and Syracuse, so they have fared well away from home as well.
Louisville meanwhile is a solid 6-2 in conference play, but this weekend’s loss to Virginia was telling. They too have faced a lopsided ACC schedule, and while wins over Pitt and @ Georgia Tech and Clemson are quality, the best teams they have faced have all beaten them.
Right now, North Carolina is just on a different plane than the rest of the league, with the possible exception of Virginia at their peak or a healthy Duke (who isn’t right now). I think Louisville is a 5-6 seed when it all shakes out; in the same tier as Notre Dame and Miami – solid ballclubs but perhaps not as good as their early record hinted at.
I’ll take UNC on the road to notch yet another ACC win and keep the good times rolling in Chapel Hill.