UMass vs. Ohio Pick NCAA Hoops – December 18th

Last night’s Jimmy V Classic in Madison Square Garden certainly delivered in terms of competitive matchups; Cincinnati and Pitt, and then Memphis and were settled by a grand total of just three points.  You can’t get much better than that… well, maybe you can…

The second game, Florida v. Memphis was pretty well played, but the opening act made one want to avert their eyes from the television.  Someone tell each of these respective schools they no longer play in the Black and Blue Big East.  Cincinnati won the game 44-43 (so much for the new “free flowing offensive rules in college basketball, eh?), in a game that firmly answered all the folks wondering why Pitt, despite being undefeated, had also gone unranked.  THAT is why.  I like a hard-fought, well-played, defensive struggle as much as the next guy, but that game CLEARLY lacked the middle ingredient.

In other college hoops news, Charlotte, one of several early season mid-major darlings showed it’s ‘mid-majorness’ last night, getting absolutely hammered 100-62 by a good, but not great, Florida State squad.  Perhaps their early season play against Georgetown was more a reflection of the Hoyas than of promising things to come…

Tonight’s slate lacks the star power of last night’s Florida v. Memphis tilt, but there are a few good games on the docket tonight, so let’s plow on to today’s free picks.

Today’s Free Picks:

UMass Minutemen -3 at Ohio Bobcats

I am always a little wary when it feels like Vegas is BEGGING me to take a certain team, in this case UMass on the road.  The Minutemen are undefeated and ranked for the first time in decades and they’ve beaten a pretty decent schedule of opponents already;  Clemson, Nebraska, New Mexico, LSU and BYU.  None are world-beaters, but all have talents level similar too or exceeding Ohio.

They have shown they can win grinding, half-court games like the 67-62 win over New Mexico.  They’e shown they can run and win in a shootout like the 105-96 win over BYU.  They’ve simply shown they can WIN.

Ohio is a perfect 6-0 at home.  Which begs the question – why have they waited this long to play anyone?  It is highly unlikely a MAC school is earning an at-large bid at any cost, so why not go out and bolster yourself against quality competition before conference play?  They have beaten Valpo and Northern Iowa – reasonable opponents, and have gone of the road and gotten throttled by Oakland (yes, they hung with Michigan State, but they are 2-9 overall) and lost at a mediocre Denver team.

There is a huge advantage to playing at home in college basketball, but there is also a huge advantage in being the clearly better team.  I think the latter applies to UMass tonight.   I’ll agree there is a difference between a neutral floor and a true road game, like tonight will be – but the Minutemen have shown an ability to leave home and win, something not a ton of teams in the country have displayed to this point.

I like UMass to get past Ohio tonight and run their record to a perfect 11-0.

Free Pick:  UMass Minutemen -3