What a difference a year makes, huh? I am genuinely surprised that Kentucky, with a healthy Tyler Ulis, got dropped in the manner they did last night in Pauley Pavillion. Perhaps I fell victim to the early season showing against Duke, where Kentucky looked like the best team in the nation. I figured some of their recent struggles, all in wins against inferior competition, were just a team getting a little bored and playing possum, just like last year’s squad. I definitely didn’t see them getting blitzed and allowing a stunning 87 points last night. The scary thing for Kentucky faithful? UCLA isn’t that good. They may (probably will) make the tourney, but this isn’t a Top 4 seed type team.
Michigan State, who has been impressive, will move to number one in the country, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone who genuinely think that is the BEST team in the nation. Parity is reigning supreme, and it is going to be a bumpy ride to March. I’m going to be focused on some value underdogs, especially when I can get some points in true home games.
That said, let’s move into today’s free picks.
Today’s Free Pick:
Pitt Panthers -7.5 at Duquesne Dukes
Pitt was handled pretty routinely by a good Purdue team this week, a disappointing result not because of the opponent (Purdue is legit) but because they lost handily at home. Things get even trickier tonight as Pitt plays a true road game against an in-state ‘little brother.’
Duquesne enters tonight at 7-1 and an impressive 28-point shelling of Penn State. Yes, Pitt is far better than Penn State, but Duquesne has already laid one big conference in-state foe by the wayside and will have their sights set on a record-validating upset again tonight. They have beaten Western Kentucky in addition to the embarrassment of Penn State and look like a program on the upswing. The A-10 is very good and deep this season, so they may not be quite ready for primetime, but this is not the walkover game it has been in years past.
Duquesne’s backcourt of Derrick Colter and Micah Mason average nearly 40 ppoints per game and the team is shooting 51%. Expect that number to dip a bit against a better defense tonight, but Duquesne still has the talent to be efficient.
I think this is a big-time trap game for Pitt and I wouldn’t be stunned if they lost outright. But I’ll definitely take the seven and a half at home.
Free Pick: Duquesne Dukes +7.5
Oregon Ducks -2 at UNLV Runnin Rebels
Maybe UNLV’s lone loss, a two-pointer to UCLA, isn’t so bad after all. The rest of their resume is unblemished and now they are getting points at home? Looks like a deal to me. UNLV has beaten Indiana already and tonight gets a team with some talent but also a team that has inflatd their record by not venturing away from home. This is their first real game away from their own gym. Expect some struggles.
Oregon was expected to struggle a bit and rebuild this season. I still think their early returns are a bit inflated and that this is a ten-loss team when it is all said and done. I think they’ll take their first one tonight at UNLV. Oregon has two good home wins, Valpo and Baylor, but again, every single game has come at HOME. This should probably be about the same line in the opposite direction, but I’ll take the two points as a little last-second nail-biter buffer.