Another weekend of college hoops and another bevy of top ranked teams took a tumble. Such is life in the tumultuous 2016 college basketball season as the top two ranked teams in the country lost to unranked opponents on the same day for the first time in a decade. Notre Dame is technically “unranked”, but I wouldn’t necessarily say it is a “bad” loss. Oklahoma shooting 26% from behind the arc as they futilely bombed away against Kansas State was a little worse. Ironically, as seemingly every team in the country has a handful of similar resume potholes, I don’t think either took a significant hit to the #1 seed chances – even though UNC lost TWICE last week!
So, Villanova becomes the presumed #1 team in the land today… the same Villanova with a pair of humiliating losses by wide margins to Oklahoma and Virginia and the same Villanova that lost in the opening weekend of the NCAA tournament for the past six years, despite being a #2 seed once and a #1 LAST YEAR. You are forgiven and understood if you lack the requisite confidence in ‘Nova to get excited about March just yet….
It’s a wild, wild, wide open season and the good stuff is just cranking up. Nearly every night has HUGE bubble games and games with significant consequences, and we’ll be looking to turn the beat around and stack some winner up down the stretch.
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Let’s dive into today’s free picks:
Texas Longhorns at Oklahoma Sooners -8.5
Texas has to be one of the more pleasant surprised in the country this season. Most figured it would take Shaka a few years to get things turned around, especially with the early departure of Myles Turner for the NBA. However, at 7-3 in the Big 12 and the win over North Carolina, the Horns are well-positioned for a post-season berth in The Dance. They are only one game back of West Virginia in the conference race, and have already beaten the Mountaineers in Morgantown. As a matter of fact, they have road wins at Baylor and West Virginia. Can the add the Sooners tonight??
Well, not so fast. Oklahoma did suffer an ugly loss this weekend, but they are back at home now where they are perfect on the season and not likely to shoot 26% from deep again. The have already handed Kansas and West Virginia on this court – but neither were blowouts. I don’t think tonight will be either. Oklahoma is good, possible very good, and still has a real shot at the #1 overall seed (that Villanova blowout win is a nice chip in the pile, as are wins over KU and WVU. But Texas isn’t the easy out they looked to be two months ago. They have competed in their tough road games, the ones they didn’t win outright, and I expect them to compete again tonight.
I’ll take OU to get the win, but Texas to cover with the healthy pile of points propping them up.
Louisville Cardinals at Duke Blue Devils -4
Look, I saw Louisville’s nice effort over the weekend too. But I am far from convinced that the current players getting the postseason ban bombshell thanks to the efforts (allegedly) of Coach Charlie Sheen, er, Rick Pitino. They played well in spite of the disappointment this weekend. But let’s not forget that Boston College is 0-11 in the ACC. Louisville has been excellent this season, and leads the conference standings after knocking off UNC last week.
Duke, meanwhile, has struggled lately. They’ve lost four of seven including losses to Clemson, Notre Dame, Syracuse and Miami. The public tends to delight in Duke’s swoons, but with that can come a slight overrating of just how “bad” the Blue Devils actually are. In truth, this is still a very talented basketball team with three bonafide big-time scorers in Allen, Ingram and the emerging Kennard. They certainly miss the interior defense and toughness of Amile Jefferson. A lot will be on Plumlee’s shoulders tonight to monitor the paint and get a body on Louisville’s aggressive rim-wreckers.
But Duke is STILL playing at home at Cameron Indoor, and as Pete Gillen once famously remarked, “Duke is Duke.” I like them to win over an emotionally-bereft Louisville squad tonight. The money is all rushing to The ‘Ville. I’m going to the other way with the home team who seems to have snapped out of their funk in their last two solid efforts.