There were some interesting results yesterday in college hoops, and perhaps we are getting a more interesting glimpse into the chaos that could be in store come tourney time. For about a month it felt like Syracuse and Arizona, with Michigan State, Kansas, and a few others lurking in the wait. But now, Syracuse is still undefeated but has needed three miracle escapes in a row, against increasingly inferior teams, to remain as such. Arizona has looked vulnerable since losing a key cog (Brandon Ashley) to injury, and Kansas and Michigan State have each had humbling losses.
Meanwhile, quietly lurking in the shadows are the Florida Gators. This veteran laden team hasn’t lost in over two months and took it to their primary SEC challenger Kentucky last night. The Gators are 23-2 with a ton of quality wins and are making an interesting case for the #1 overall seed should Syracuse falter soon (perhaps this week at Duke?)
In the meantime, there are a few more “are the real Final Four contender teams” in action today. So let’s take a look at a pair of the highest profile matchups and see if we can build on a nice 13-5 ATS college hoops run.
Today’s Free Picks:
Villanova Wildcats at Creighton Bluejays -3.5
We all know how this first matchup went. Villanova was riding high before an inexplicable 30-point home loss to Dougie McD and the Jays. And the key word there is “inexplicable.” Creighton is NOT 30 points better than Villanova. It was a fluky day where one team got realllllly hot and the other team laid an egg. It happens all the time in the NBA – we see a team blow out a team then turn around a few days later and lose to that same opponent. In basketball, shot falling early can really alter momentum.
For that reason, I applaud the line tonight. It’s about where it should be. A lot of the early action has gone Creighton’s way. But I’m swimming upstream tonight. If you throw out the head-to-head result (and YES, I get that is a big allowance), Villanova is actually a great value at +3.5. They’ve won on a neutral floor against Iowa and Kansas, they’ve gone on the road and beaten St. John’s, Marquette and Gerogetown, and they’ve won nine of their last ten and sit at 22-2 overall.
Creighton is a solid 20-4, though their non-con wasn’t as challenging as ‘Nova. They have been hot lately as well, and using the metrics, you could make a good case for them as well. As I said earlier, this is a good line objectively. I’m going with a gut feel tonight – Villanova and Jay Wright’s kid are nothing if not TOUGH and gritty, and they are going to be pissed off about the last head-to-head meeting. They will come out focused and intense, and I think that will help them use their slightly superior athleticism to control the game.
I’m taking Villanova with the emotion (and the three and a half).
Wisconsin Badgers at Michigan Wolverines -4
Michigan and Nik Stauskas have cooled off a bit, dropping two of their last four after starting 9-0 in conference play. However, both of those losses were on the road and both came to desperate teams; Indiana and Ohio State in tight, well-played games. Tonight they return home to face a very good Badger team, but also a team that tends to play much better at home.
I think Michigan gets a game effort from the always-tough Badgers, but think they are a little better overall team and will use the home crowd to help secure the cover.
Look for Stauskas to get his Big Ten Player of Year hopes back on track with a nice effort against a Badger defense that requires a shooter like Stauskas to stretch it to a vulnerable distance.