The Super Bowl is now behind us, and with the departure of football, there tends to be a nice influx of interest to the college basketball world. If that is true, the NCAA doesn’t do itself many favors with its post-Super Bowl scheduling. Tonight is pretty bereft of quality action, and only one game even features a ranked opponent.
Nonetheless, there are a few good wagering opportunities, and we will focus in on a few games off the radar and try to find a winning edge. Either way, I imagine we will have a better night than Vegas Sportsbooks had after the Ravens conceded a late safety that cost them hundreds of millions of a dollars as “will either team score a safety” carried a payout of between 8:1 and 9:1. Ouch!
Let’s get to today’s free picks…
Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Syracuse Orange -9.5
We’ve been picking a lot of Notre Dame games recently, and it isn’t because of any particular affinity for Irish hoops, rather it has been borne out of some advantageous lines as well as the fact (as in tonight) they seem to be on TV on nights where very little other college basketball action is taking place. Tonight they face a tough challenge heading to the Carrier Dome to take on a Syracuse squad which just a week ago was ranked #3 in the nation.
Syracuse has had their share of struggles this past week, losing to Villanova in overtime, and getting rocked at Pitt 65-55 on Saturday. The rankings haven’t been released yet, but I imagine those two losses will drop the Orange out of the Top Ten for the time being. However, I wouldn’t overlook the talent and the focus they will bring tonight at home to snap their losing streak.
Michael Carter-Williams will be a difficult matchup for Notre Dame. The Irish backcourt defends well, but is small. Atkins is barely six foot and their best defender and athlete, Jerian Grant, will be giving nearly half a foot to Carter-Williams. Expect ND to shift into some zone at time to account for this deficiency.
However, on the other end of the floor, Notre Dame was born to play against zone defenses, even ones as good as Coach Boeheim’s and Syracuse. Notre Dame can load the floor with shooters, and will have great offensive rebounding underneath with Cooley and Knight banging for boards. I think Notre Dame will be able to score enough points and pick up enough sloppy buckets to keep things close.
Syracuse is fierce at home, but has been playing relatively close games both home and away for the last and Providence. Give me the Irish with the points tonight.
Free Pick: Notre Dame Fighting Irish +9.5
For the last five years, George Mason and Old Dominion would have been one of the best small conference games of the year. Not this year. With the departure of VCU and the plummeting of Old Dominion to one of the worst teams in ALL of Division I (Literally – they are 2-19!), the CAA has hit the skids. Even so, Mason is still decent enough to dispatch the Monarchs with ease. Give me Mason laying only 6.5.
A second bonus pick, along the same lines of “this game is WAY worse than it sounds” – a pair of 10-11 teams meet in Morgantown when Texas travels to take on West Virginia. It’s been a dreadful season for both Huggins and Barnes, one that neither they nor their fans are accustomed to. Neither will be in the postseason this year barring a tremendous conference tourney run. But – I will say this – neither team fails to play hard or sits around moping; these two teams will get after it tonight.
West Virginia beat Texas in overtime earlier this season in Austin. Texas has also lost close to Baylor (OT), @ Oklahoma and to Kansas – all by less than five points. I like them to give another heroic effort tonight… and come up just short. But I like them to cover.
Bonus Picks: George Mason -6.5, Texas Longhorns +5.5