We notched a third straight winner last night with the Indiana Hoosiers easily dispatching an over-matched Creighton squad. People were sleeping a little on the Hoosiers in the pre-season, but don’t be the least bit surprised if they edge into being a Top 10 team by Christmas. They have four starters that will be getting paychecks to play basketball someday and it looks like Troy Williams has taken that next step, from “freakish athlete with a sky-high ceiling” to “legit All Big Ten” caliber player. The backcourt of Yogi Ferrell and James Blackmon Jr. is as gifted scoring as any backcourt in the country. They have a starting five on par with just about anyone in the country, and if Hanner Mosqurea-Perea hadn’t been dismissed/transferred, I’d put them dead-even with Maryland in terms of talent. Depth may eventually be an issue, but there is no reason their ‘core-four’ can’t beat Maryland and Michigan State and any other Big Ten team that comes calling.
We’re perfect since the official season tip-off, so let’s see if we can keep it going (I dropped two games prior to the tip-off, so not a perfect start – just for the record).
Let’s turn our focus to Madison Square Garden tonight. There’s a great opening game between Georgetown and Wisconsin, but we are going to focus on the nightcap and see if we can push the mark to four straight.
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Today’s Free Pick:
VCU Rams vs. Duke Blue Devils -10 *** Game @ Madison Square Garden, New York
The last time we saw Duke, they were getting punked on a big stage, out-rebounded and out ‘athleted’ but Kentucky. But let’s be fair; Kentucky is going to do to that to nearly everyone this year and Duke shot the ball terribly. Kentucky’s defense, of course, deserves a lot of the credit, and I’m not 100% sure that Grayson Allen might not similarly struggle against elite, NBA-level talent teams (North Carolina), but I do know he isn’t going to put together many 0-9 shooting halves this season.
Brandon Ingram will find his place and settle in, perhaps starting tonight. He looked a little deferential against UK. He won’t against VCU. Likewise for Luke Kennard. I like the freshman sharp-shooter to begin to contribute heavily off the bench. The bigs will be fine, and should shine tonight with the size edge they have over VCU.
Keep in mind, this VCU is not going to be the VCU we have become accustomed to over the past seven years. There’s no Eric Maynor to stun the Dukies. There’s no Shaka Smart to spearhead the HAVOC. In fact, VCU’s best player, Briante Webber, has graduated and Shaka’s Top 100 recruits followed him to Texas. The cupboard isn’t as well stocked as in the past, and think the talent discrepancy shows tonight.
Duke is very at home at MSG, which has been appropriately monikered “Durham North.” Duke plays here at least once or twice every season and they rarely lose there. In fact, they’ve won 18 of their last 21 games in MSG, made even more impressive by the fact that generally the games at MSG are against top-caliber opponents.
They’ll win tonight with little doubt, and I think they cover the healthy margin.