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Notre Dame vs. Syracuse Pick NCAA Hoops – Feb 3rd

Before the yawner of a Superbowl, we got back on track in college hoops with a nice easy cover on the UNDER between Virginia and Pitt.  As projected, the game was a defensively oriented slug-fest, with UVA winning on a thrilling three-pointer with 0.1 seconds on the clock to knock off the Panthers 48-45.  The win was Pitt’s third blown opportunity for a quality win, as Syracuse, Duke and Virginia all beat them in tight games.  Add in the loss to Cincinnati (44-43 – sense a trend?) and it is becoming hard to see the Panthers as much better than a seven or eight seed, despite their lofty record.

But the biggest loss of the weekend has to be Arizona.  Not the Wildcats dropping their first game of the year in a tough thriller at Cal, but the Wildcats losing forward Brandon Ashley for the season to injury.  It is a crippling blow to what has been the nation’s best team all season.  Now, there are legitimate questions to answer in the frontcourt as a ton more pressure and minutes will fall on freshman Aaron Gordon and big man Caleb Tarczewski.

There will be some shaking up in the polls today, with four of the top six teams in the country losing over the weekend, so it will be interesting to see how it all shakes out.  One thing NOT in jeopardy is the #1 slot.  That will clearly belong to the Orange of Syracuse.

So will the newly minted #1 team in the land play like it tonight??  Let’s dig inside the game for tonight’s free pick.

Today’s Free Pick:

Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Syracuse Orange -14

I’ve already gushed about it in multiple columns, but after last night’s Superbowl dud, I’ll say it one last time.  It is so great when an enormous game like Duke v. Syracuse lives up to the massive hype.  That game was as good as college basketball gets – just a wonderfully played, intense and passionate game.

And that makes tonight’s game a MASSIVE trap game for Syracuse.  Forget all the numbers and metrics.  At the end of the day, we are talking about human beings; very young ones at that – who now must muster the same enthusiasm, excitement and effort less than 48 hours later.  It’s nearly impossible.

Does that mean the ‘Cuse take their first L?  I doubt it.  But laying fourteen points??  That seems like WAY too much.  The ‘Cuse have only won by more than that margin once in ACC play, as they seem to have settled into a nice groove of having games in control but not firmly tucked away and then executing down the stretch to get the ten point win.  That’s been the rythym of the ACC season to this point.

Notre Dame – there’s no other way to put it – has been a disaster this season.  They were ranked preseason in most every poll but have already lost ten games, lost their best player Jerian Grant to dismissal, and are just 3-6 in conference play.  They will be lucky to make the NIT, but they do get one bright shining chance to redeem their season tonight.  In fact, the ONLY way they can redeem their season is tonight.

I’m taking the Irish with the points, simply based on fatigue, emotion and trends of average margin for Syracuse.  It’s not possible to make the argument Notre Dame is “better” in any facet – but I like them to hang around.

Free Pick:  Notre Dame Fighting Irish +14