It was another night that introduced questions surrounding a few more teams we thought we coupld rely upon in March. Kansas passed their test, beating West Virginia is Lawrence by ten, but both North Carolina and Xavier threw up clunkers. North Carolina escaped with a win, and ESCAPED is the appropriate word, as they trailed Boston College most of the night before surging late to secure a three-point win and avoid becoming the first team to lose to the Eagles in conference play. The “win” snapped Carolina’s two game slide, but it has been a very disappointing two weeks for the team that had a legitimate claim at # in the country just two polls ago…
Meanwhile, we took a loss along with Xavier last night who just couldn’t ever get on track on the road at Creighton. It was the Muskies second double digit road loss in Big East play and makes their #5 ranking feel awfully tenuous. Considering the gauntlet that lies ahead of them in the next three weeks, it will be interesting to see if Xavier can maintain a top three or four seed line.
The game of the night was the thriller in Mackey Arena as Purdue and Michigan State left absolutely everything that had on the court in an overtime 81-80 Purdie victory. It was about as good as college hoops gets from an effort standpoint, and both of those teams are going to be very difficult outs in March…
Let’s see if we can notch a winner with tonight’s free pick.
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Texas A&M Aggies -5.5 at Alabama Crimson Tide
All seasons, but especially this one, have a few ebbs and flows for nearly every team in the country. Sure, there are the rare seasons like last year where teams like Kentucky (and Wisconsin and Duke and Arizona) look great for the entire year, but most years, even good teams have a few down weeks.
So, is Texas A&M a team that just had a lull, or are the last two weeks a true regression to the mean?
They peaked at #5 in the rankings two weeks ago. Since then, they are 1-3 with a home loss to South Carolina and pair of road losses to Arkansas and Vanderbilt, the latter by 17 points. No one really THOUGHT A&M was a Top Five team prior to the season, so is it fair to assume that maybe they weren’t that good in the first place?
I think it is. This is still a good basketball team. They will likely be a #3-#6 seed when it all shakes out and have just as much chance as anyone to survive the first weekend. But this isn’t a #1 seed and it isn’t an elite basketball team. In fact, they have been very vulnerable on the road all season long, dropping games at Arizona State and needing late buckets to beat sub-.500 Tennessee and Mississippi State.
Alabama isn’t world beaters by any stretch this season, but, like most of the SEC, they have been tough on their home floor. They own wins over South Carolina and Tennessee and dropped a heartbreaker to LSU. They also have some decent non-con wins over Clemson, Wichita State (without VanVleet) and Notre Dame to go with narrow losses to Oregon and a pair of blowout to Dayton and Xavier. Avery Johnson’s team has done nothing if not challenge themselves, and that should help be undaunted by a visiting ranked A&M squad they will be confident they can beat.
Texas A&M is just 1-4 ATS since their national ranking peaked, a strong indication that they may not be the dominant team some were starting to paint them to be. I think they’ll have their hands full tonight on the road. They may well pull out the win, but I’ll take Bama with the points confidently.