College basketball never fails to deliver in the preseason, and tonight is no exception. After a great “Feast Week” full of top inter-conference matchups and non-stop tournaments tonight we begin the anticipated matchup between the two top conferences in the country this season, the Big Ten and the ACC. While the matchups might not be perfect (I’d have rather seen Ohio State draw a more suitably matched opponent), it does give us three games pitting Top 25 teams against each other and another half dozen competitive matchups.
Before we dig into the picks for tonight, a quick note on last week’s stock report. It was a rough week for the Big 12, especially at the top, as both Oklahoma State and Kansas failed to look like elite teams, both falling to big underdogs in their tournaments and both failing to put away non-tourney teams in the games ramping up to the loss. Watching Kansas let Wake Forest and UTEP hang around for 38 minutes was a little disconcerting for a team with that much talent.
Meanwhile, it is hard to understate the brilliance of the Atlantic 10 in the pre-con schedule. Dayton, UMass and VCU are all ranked, and St. Louis and Charlotte have shown they are legit tourney contenders as well. The national landscape will be bigger than just the traditional BCS conference giants this year.
On to today’s picks:
Indiana Hoosiers at Syracuse Orange -6.5
I have been high on Indiana all season, and have cashed in a few winners backing the underrated Hoosiers. However, tonight is not one of those nights. The last time IU saw Boeheim and his vaunted zone it was sending them to a disappointing season end in last year’s Sweet Sixteen. Indiana never contended in that game, and as much as I like their newer mix of talent, it is hard to argue that this year’s squad is better than last year’s which featured two lottery picks.
Syracuse has been extremely impressive in the early season, and they have the advantage of having faced a bunch of tough opponents and winning, as well as playing at home against a very young Indiana team tonight. I think the Orange defense will frustrate the Hooisers, and unless they get better than expected perimeter shooting tonight, they will struggle to score.
Give me the ‘Cuse even with the healthy 6.5 point spread.
Notre Dame at Iowa Hawkeyes -9.5
Iowa was another team I was high on entering the season, and I had them on my radar at the end of the last season pending Roy Devean Marble’s return. He’s back, and it appears that for the first time in a while, so is Iowa. They lost their first game last week in the Atlantis championship game to Villanova (who went from barely receiving votes to 12th in the polls – perhaps we are overreacting to the Kansas win in a ballroom in the Caribbean??).
I still like Iowa but this feels like WAY to many points to lay against a veteran Notre Dame team that has been to the NCAA’s several times with this group. Jerian Grant is an NBA talent, and if he doesn’t play passively (which has been his wont at times) he is a good matchup production-wise for Marble. Notre Dame is a little slower, but a lot bigger. I think their size and veteran backcourt gives Iowa a real run tonight. I wouldn’t be stunned if they won straight-up, but with the 9.5, I’, feeling pretty confident.