The weather may have been miserable this weekend (just as Duquesne, whose basketball team spent 22 hours stranded in a bus), but it has led to an some unintended great fortune for us college hoops fans with a few great games sliding today, including the 1pm EST FOX game between Providence and Villanova. It’s a chance to see one of the four best players in the country test himself against the conference standard bearer and one of the hottest teams in the nation.
Add in games between Virginia Tech and North Carolina, Syracuse and Virginia, Utah and Washington, and it ends up being a pretty sneaky good hoops day. But the best game on the schedule is a massive Big Ten matchup for the second straight day. Yesterday’s Maryland vs. Michigan State game looked like it would be for first place heading into conference play. But today’s Iowa and Purdue matchup might be even bigger. Yes, Indiana is also in first place (along with Iowa) and perfect in the Big Ten, but they have yet to play any of the top four conference teams (Maryland, Michigan State, Iowa or Purdue) so lets be patient with the Hoosiers. But an Iowa win today with give them TWO full games clearance over the aforementioned other three top teams. A Purdue win, and it is game on in one of the best conferences in America…
No other way to say it, it’s been a disastrous January for me on The Sports Geek – easily my worst month in seven years of college hoops writing. Yes, it’s a tough season, but no excuse for linking together so many losers this month. Ironically, I had four other plays going yesterday and finished with a winning day, but my featured game article was another narrow loser. I like Providence getting a TON of points at ‘Nova (Prov +13) and Syracuse getting ten at Virginia (SYR +10). But below is my favorite play of the day.
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Today’s Free Picks:
North Carolina Tarheels -10.5 at Virginia Tech Hokies
There is no arguing that Buzz has brought some buzz back to VA Tech hoops. They were expected to be in the basement of the Big Ten, but after upset wins over in-state rival Virginia and a nice roadie at Georgia Tech, the Hokies are harboring tourney aspirations. But I think today, even at home, is going to be a different animal altogether.
North Carolina is going to be #1 in the new polls tomorrow and they are evolving into a devastating team to game plan against. They play faster than nearly anyone in the country, and certainly LOOK different than anyone else in the ACC. They are averaging 84.3 points per game in ACC games. The second place scoring team, Duke, is averaging 79.4. They are averaging a positive point differential of +12.3. Second place, Louisville, is averaging +8.3. That is a full four point difference and nearly 33% better than anyone else in the league. They play quick and are explosive offensively. They are steamrolling teams and only one team, Georgia Tech (lost by 8) has come within single digits during their current ten-game winning streak that includes wins over UCLA, Clemson, and Syracuse. They also have wins over Kansas State, Maryland, Northwestern, Davidson, and Temple this season.
Virginia tech has made great strides, and have beaten some good teams. But aside from the Virginia rivalry game, when they have played top-tier competition, it has been ugly. Duke beat them 82-58, West Virginia 88-63, Iowa State 99-77. North Carolina falls into that same category – a devastatingly athletic and talented team with the firepower to run away and hide from the Hokies.
I like UNC to steamroll in Blacksburg today and am willing to lay the ten on the road.