Well, sometimes you just gotta run good. Last night I bet against my strongest betting trend of the season when I backed the Maryland Terrapins against the Minnesota Golden Gophers as road underdogs. I have been hammering home teams in the Big 10 all season long, but Maryland is the one team that I have been able to back profitably on the road. And while the Gophers were great at home earlier in the year, they had lost three out of their last four at Williams Arena, and I smelled upset.
When the Terrapins went down by sixteen points at halftime, I was kicking myself for not following my own trend and backing the home team. But then Maryland reminded me while I love backing them this year as they went on a furious run to get right back into the game. However, with just over a second left in the game, the Terrapins looked like they were going to see their huge comeback come up short as they still trailed by two points. Cue the run good. And this……
DARRYL MORSELL WITH THOSE BALTIMORE STONES
GAME SET MATCH pic.twitter.com/Rz12bULvdO
— Maryland Basketball (@TerrapinHoops) February 27, 2020
Darryl Morsell hit what can only be described as a parking lot three with just over a second left on the clock, to give Maryland the win, and us the cover. The Terrapins have made coming back from big deficits their M.O. this year, and with the win, they have all but locked up at least a share of the Big 10 regular-season title. While Maryland may not end up on the one line on Selection Sunday, I certainly think they are a Final Four caliber squad.
For Minnesota, that shot likely cost them their dancing shoes as they badly needed a signature win, and had it in their grasps, only to see Darryl Morsell break their heart, and end their season. The Gophers are now just 13-14 on the season and would need to win the Big 10 tournament, or at very least run the table in the regular season and make a run to the Big 10 tournament finals to be seriously considered for an at-large bid. For today’s pick, we will look to keep the run good alive as we head to UCLA, where the Bruins host the Arizona State Sun Devils.
- Arizona State Sun Devils (19-8) at UCLA Bruins (17-11)
- 8:00 PM PST
- Pauley Pavilion, Los Angeles
- TV: PACN
The UCLA Bruins have caught fire here in the second half of the season and are making an improbable at-large bid. The Bruins have won nine out of their last eleven games, including five straight. And there have been several quality wins during that run as they have beaten the likes of Colorado (twice), Washington (twice), and Arizona. UCLA has won its last five home games and will look to protect their home floor tonight against a talented Arizona State team.
The Bruins will fight for the top spot when they face the first-place Sun Devils in Westwood.
— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) February 25, 2020
For Arizona State, the Sun Devils have been just as hot as UCLA, as they have gone from tournament longshots to Pac-12 conference favorites. You hear a lot about Arizona, Oregon, and Colorado in the Pac-12, but it is the Sun Devils that are in first place right now in the conference. However, they need to win tonight on the road to hang onto first place in the standings, as the Bruins are just one game back.
Who saw this run coming from UCLA? I will be the first to admit that I didn’t. When the Bruins brought in Mick Cronin in the offseason to take over the most storied program in college hoops history, I thought it was a great hire. But Cronin had made a name for himself as a defensive master, and he inherited a roster full of flashy offensive-minded players. So, I felt like this transformation was going to take at least a year, likely two or three, for Cronin to install his system, and bring in his type of guys.
And when the Bruins started out the season by going 8-9, and 1-3 in league play, it felt like those were the expected growing pains. But Cronin has turned things around in a hurry recently as his Bruins are starting to play his trademark defense and they are rampaging through the Pac-12. Shockingly enough, if UCLA wins this game tonight at home, they will be tied for first place in the league.
Arizona State Sun Devils
While the run by UCLA was nearly impossible to predict, I always expected the Sun Devils to be near the top of the Pac-12 standings by the end of the year. Bobby Hurley has done a great job of building this program in Tempe, and even though they came out of the gates slow, as they were just 10-7 a couple of months ago, I always expected that at some point they would get things turned around and make a push for an NCAA tournament bid.
Now, did I think they would win the league outright? Maybe not. But this team certainly has a lot of talent. And while the Sun Devils run has been very impressive, the schedule lent them a bit of a helping hand as six out of their last nine wins have come at home. While they do have road wins against Cal, Stanford, and Washington on the road, they also have road losses to Arizona, Oregon, and Washington State.
Who Do I Like?
When these two teams matched up in Tempe, the Sun Devils dominated the action. Arizona State shot 50% from the field and nearly 60% from three. But when you look at how UCLA has played, specifically on the defensive side of the basketball, since that game, its almost like the Sun Devils are going to be playing a different team tonight. After giving up eighty-four points to the Sun Devils, the Bruins have held Arizona to fifty-two, Washington to fifty-seven, Utah to fifty-eight, and Colorado to sixty-three.
One of these red-hot teams has to lose tonight, and I like the home team to take care of business. While Arizona State has been nearly perfect at home, they have been somewhat shaky on the road, even during this recent hot streak. Their last loss came on the road in Pullman, against a bad Washington State team, so they have shown they can lose to inferior competition on the road.
And while they have won their last three road games, they all came against teams that won’t be making the NCAA tournament. I think the Bruins have figured things out and will protect their home court tonight. When we look at the number, I am not sure I would want to lay much more than the two and a half points, as this game is going to be tightly contested, and Arizona State just doesn’t get blown out very often.
But when you look at this recent run of success for UCLA, they beat Colorado by seven, Utah by eleven and sixteen, Washington by ten, and Cal by ten. Only the overtime win over Washington State was a one-possession win, and that one was still by three points, so they would have still covered a number like two and a half. Give me the UCLA Bruins tonight as home favorites, laying two and a half points, as they sneak past ASU in a thriller!