First off, a big mea culpa for two days of missed picks and a huge slight to the Hoosier state. I knew there would be some good hoops played in Indiana this year. IU is loaded and a potential national champion. Notre Dame is an intriguing team with a ton of veteran leadership and pieces that fit well together, and Purdue and Butler have enough talent to keep things interesting (Butler with better tourney odds simply because of how tough the Big Ten will be this season; think “SEC Football” good, only better at the bottom of the conference).
But I had no idea the Hoosier state would show out like THIS over the last week. It started with Indiana’s absolute behind-the-woodshed beatdown of the vaunted UNC Tarheels. I haven’t seen UNC take a beating like that since the Final Four game against Kansas five years ago. Indiana blurred them with a flurry of speed and defense, with shooting and athleticism and balance, and it was impressive. Then Notre Dame, a team I thought might be a little challenged defensively at times came up HUGE at home against Kentucky. Their backcourt of Eric Allen and Jerian Grant dominated the game and easily outplayed the more ballyhooed Kentucky freshman.
Consider it a lesson learned. The national landscape is a little different than we might have thought heading into the season, but it’s going to certainly be an exciting ride.
Let’s move on to today’s picks.
Tennessee Volunteers at Georgetown Hoyas -5.5 (Total: 126)
I don’t think anyone was fall out of their seat surprised by yesterday’s SEC/Big East Challenge winners/losers, but there had to be an eyebrow or two raised by Florida’s 37-point decimation of Marquette. Granted, Marquette is in rebuilding mode, but I don’t think they expected to be run out of the gym in that fashion. Likewise for UK. The Cats have a lot to learn and a long way to grow, but I don’t think Coach Cal expected them to lose by 20 to anyone in the country, let alone unranked Notre Dame.
It tells me one big thing. At this point in the season, especially with young teams, playing a true away game (not a neutral court) means big trouble. The examples are piling up; North Carolina at Indiana, Kentucky at Notre Dame, Marquette at Florida – all much more even matchups than the result. Young teams getting overwhelmed on the road.
I think that happens tonight to Tennessee. Georgetown is the real deal. This team is probably five points better than Tennessee on a neutral floor anyway. Given the home gym advantage, I expect this one to be double digits.
Free Pick: Georgetown Hoyas -5.5