For those of you who stayed up late for yesterday’s pick, you certainly weren’t disappointed. Sure, UCLA won and got an easy cover to give us our fourth straight college hoops win and push the streak to 8-1 ATS in the last seven days (44-23 ATS season), but that is incidental.
The real treat was getting to watch UCLA play offensive basketball. The Bruins showed once again why I’ve been yammering they are the best and easily the most FUN team in all of college basketball, hanging 104 points on the road against a decent Colorado team. Bryce Alford shot 9 of 14 from distance to score 37 points, and they got balanced contributions from there with four other players scoring double digits. And if you just looked at a box score, you’d just shrug off Lonzo Ball’s impact: 11 points, 8 assists, 2 board. Meh.
But if you WATCHED the game, his fingerprints are all over this team. Bryce Alford shot just over 31% last season. This year, he is one of the most lethal and efficient scorers in the nation. The only real difference is getting him off the ball and the quality of looks he is now seeing.
If you are late to the party, hurry. It’s the prettiest college basketball I have seen in years and the closest thing to the Warriors on an amateur level. And I say HURRY, because the band’s breaking up in April with at least four major departures to graduation and the NBA.
There was NOTHING on Friday’s college basketball slate, so I took a reluctant night off. Let’s get back cracking with some picks for a loaded Saturday of college hoops action.
Today’s Free Pick:
Xavier Musketeers at Butler Bulldogs -5
I was on record early as really liking this Xavier ballclub. I still like them, but let’s just say it’s more “like” than love at this point. They haven’t shown well in road games this season, getting SMOKED at Villanova this week and dropping games at Baylor and Colorado and struggling at Georgetown. Myles Davis is back, and that should provide a lift though he showed a lot of rust in the Villanova game. I expect both he, and the team around him to get better. I originally thought this team could challenge to win the Big East. Now, they are going to need Myles to provide a lift to finish any better than fourth.
Meanwhile, Butler just keeps on “Butler-ing.” It seems like they should have their own word, defined as a propensity for knocking off top teams in games where it doesn’t look like they should have a chance. Their hit list now includes: Villanova, Cincinnati, Arizona, Northwestern, Indiana and Utah. They lost relatively easily at Creighton this week, but that was a ROAD game against a Top Ten team. Today is a HOME game against a Top 15-20’ish team. Big difference.
Butler is 4-1 ATS in their last five home games and they have beaten Villanova, Cincinnati and Providence each by a minimum of eight points. NO reason today should follow that same pattern. Xavier’s road losses to ranked teams have both been blow outs and they are 1-3 ATS in their last four road games, only covering narrowly at Georgetown (or pushing, depending upon the line).
I still think both teams can win two games in March, but I’ll take the home Bulldogs to win and cover.
Today’s Free Pick: Butler Bulldogs -5
UCLA Bruins at Utah Utes -3
I believe Michael Jackson said it best when he said, “don’t stop ‘till you get enough.” That same sentiment applies to the UCLA Bruins. The nation’s best team is also one of its best wagers at 10-5 ATS. Their ONLY loss this season was the road buzzer beater AT Oregon, ranked Top Five in most preseason polls, and they are the #1 ranked offensive efficiency team in all the land after the virtuouso performance in Boulder earlier this week that also made us some money.
Michael also said, “I just can’t stop loving youuu…” What? Like you never popped in the King of Pop on Pandora before…
That also applies to my sentiments towards this UCLA team. I admit it. I love ‘em. I’m not by nature or upbringing a UCLA fan. I’ve never lived West of the Mississippi and grew up more an ACC/Big Ten/Big East guy. But this 2016-2017 team is SPECIAL. Just WATCH them play and it looks different than any other team in the country. They are NBA Spurs/Warriors like in their ball movement, shot making and efficiency. It is truly remarkable. I’ve been banging the drum for several months now and will keep backing the Bruins until the Vegas lines start to recognize what is happening in Westwood.
Could it happen tonight? Utah is certainly a good team; an underrated team few are paying attention to, and are excellent at home. Expectations were lower this year after Jacob Poeltl left for the NBA, but the “other” Coach K has Utah rolling just the same. They enter tonight 12-4 (3-1), with wins over Colorado and Arizona State in conference. But they lost comfortably at Xavier, on a neutral to Butler, and got smoked in Arizona. Their best non-con wins are Utah Valley and Stephen F. Austin (who is 5-7 this year – nothing resembling last year’s NCAA darlings).
In summary, Utah has done NOTHING this season to indicate they are ready for what is coming to town tonight.
I’ll take the Bruins and would have laid six or seven and felt the exact same way.