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Virginia vs. Syracuse Pick NCAA – March 2nd

Wisconsin continued the weekend trend of top teams asserting their dominance just as the calendar turned to the final month of the college basketball season. Their easy handling of a desperate Michigan State team to clinch the Big Ten title had the look of a Final Four favorite. With the exception of Gonzaga, every top seed looked impressive, setting the stage for an interesting “who can beat Kentucky, maybe, possible, if…” debate. Kentucky, for their part, dismantled the last formidable foe (unless you are worried about a home game against the rotted corpse of the Florida Gators) Arkansas in dominant fashion. Duke, Arizona, Villanova, and Kansas all notched big wins as well…

Today’s slate of action is pretty light outside of the Big Monday Big 12 games; Baylor vs. Texas and Oklahoma at Iowa State. Other than that, it’s only Virginia at Syracuse that’s really worth noting, but things will heat up real soon as small conference tournaments and the automatic bid to the Dance that accompanies them tip off later this week.

It wasn’t a great week in college hoops for us, but let’s rebound this week with some winners.

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Today’s Free Pick:

Virginia Cavaliers -6 at Syracuse Orange (TOTAL: 114)

Before anyone gets the wrong idea that I dislike Virginia, let’s dispel that notion out of the box. I like UVA’s team. I think they have as good a shot as anyone outside of Kentucky to make the Final Four because defense is more reliable than shooting, and no one defends better than the Cavs. But they haven’t been good against the spread since Justin Anderson went down with an injury. They are just 2-5 ATS over their last seven games and that is giving them a win for a 12 point win over Pitt at an 11.5 line (I had the line at 12). That would make them 1-5-1 ATS. And tonight they go on the road to face a Syracuse team for whom tonight is a virtual NCAA Tournament game – it’s their last chance to make a mark this season since they are barred from postseason and conference tourney play.

They got boat raced at Duke this weekend, keeping with their great/terrible alternative efforts over the last eight games. They are 4-4 straight up and 3-4 ATS with perfectly alternating efforts. Virginia has only allowed 35.2% shooting from the floor in their last five games, but Syracuse has been effective as well, holding opponents to just 40% from the floor. Add those two factors together and we could be in for the kind of game that draws the ire of the “college basketball needs fixing” faction. It could be a tough offensive night.

In fact, 114 points seems like a TON considering the relative shooting percentages and the defensive bent of each team. Virginia has allowed 48.2 points per game in their last five outings. Expect the Cuse to struggle as well. I’m not sure they can win, but getting six points is intriguing at home. But the safer play tonight is UNDER the 114 total. Expect a game in the 50’s.

Free Pick: Point TOTAL UNDER 114