Yesterday’s packed slate of college basketball action proved to be even more eventful than I imagined. It began with a flurry with both Duke and Wichita State losing in overtime; to Utah and Seton Hall respectively (HUGE wins for both of those programs). The action never slowed after that. Indiana stormed back from 15 down with ten minutes to play to overtake Notre Dame (and notch us a nice winner). Meanwhile Kentucky was losing on a neutral floor to Ohio State – an absolutely stunning result considering Ohio State is just a week away from getting hammered by UConn and entered the game at 5-5 and 13-point underdogs.
Meanwhile, two more unbeatens fell from the ranks. Purdue was handled by Butler while Iowa State tried to once again furiously rally against an instate opponent but came up a basket short against Northern Iowa (who now owns wins over Iowa State and North Carolina).
It was such a packed day, Virginia’s double-digit win over Villanova will go largely unnoticed. But if you caught the Cavs and saw their stunningly improved offense yesterday, you caught a glimpse of a team that could very well win the ACC and be a #1 seed in March.
Let’s see if we can notch a Sunday winner to cap off a winning NCAA hoops week.
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Today’s Free Pick:
Pitt Panthers -5 vs. Davidson Wildcats
The Pitt Panthers are never known for their dazzling non-conference schedule. This year is no different. They lost their ACC/Big Ten Challenge game to a very good Purdue team, and have largely blown out their other opponents. They had some bad luck with the Gonzaga game getting canceled due to bad gym conditions in Okinawa, but still, their resume is pretty sparse.
Meanwhile, Davidson never ducks anyone. They went out and played North Carolina. Sure, they lost by a million, so they have some experience against major conference foes, but it wasn’t a real great look. And their remaining schedule this season isn’t up to normal rigid standards but is decent. They have a one-point home win over Charleston and a six-point home win over Mercer – both solid mid-major clubs. Pitt has a little more physical talent than either, so it is cause for a little concern. However, this is still a pretty talented team and one that should contend in a good A-10 conference for a title.
If this game was on a neutral floor – NCAA Tournament style, I’d favor Pitt heavily. Ironically, although I think Pitt is the better team, Davidson has a much better shot of getting to the Dance. They should compete at the top of a good A-10 with VCU, Dayton, Rhode Island and a bunch of good, not great, teams. Pitt meanwhile has to start with Duke, Carolina, Virginia before even considering Louisville, Syracuse, Notre Dame, NC State, etc…
But for today, none of that matters. Look for Pitt to play well defensively and on the glass, but to struggle shooting the ball today on the road. We’ve seen this recipe a lot this season: slightly better team goes on the road to slightly less talented team… and goes home licking their wounds. Home court is a powerful elixir in college sports. Look for Davidson to get a rare opportunity to knock off a power-conference opponent at home and to take advantage of it today. They may not win outright but at +175 it may be worth a value flyer. Either way, getting five points at home is a pretty healthy margin for a quality team that has legit NCAA aspirations.