Our strong week continued last night as we picked up another win when we backed the Buffalo Bulls on the road against Syracuse. I think Buffalo is a legit Sweet 16 caliber team this year, and to see them getting +4.5-points was just too much value to pass up on. So, I backed the Bulls and hoped they could knock off Syracuse for the first time in decades. I liked CJ Massinburg to outduel Tyus Battle and figured that the Bulls would find a way to score on the Syracuse zone.
In the end, that is exactly what happened. In a battle of elite guards, Massinburg got the best of Battle. Massinburg ended his night with twenty-five points and five assists on 50% shooting from behind the arc. Battle was held to just eleven points, barely half of his season average, and had three costly turnovers. The Bulls used a huge second half to pull away for the easy outright road upset victory.
The one major question mark surrounding this Buffalo team was its strength of schedule. The MAC isn’t overly strong this season and looks to be a one-bid league. So, if the Bulls wanted to pick up some resume-building wins, they would need to do it in the non-conference. And that is just what they have done. They had a true road win against West Virginia, a win over a 10-1 San Francisco Dons team, and now a true road win over Syracuse. At this point, the Bulls have made a great case for an at-large bid no matter what ends up happening in league play.
The Bulls have another opportunity for a true road win when they play Marquette in their next game. If the Bulls manage to pull off that upset, don’t be shocked if you see them ranked in the top ten nationally. For today’s pick, I will take a look at the game between the North Carolina State Wolfpack and the Auburn Tigers.
The Auburn Tigers will take their top ten ranking on the road this week as they head to North Carolina State to play the Wolfpack. The Tigers find themselves ranked in the top ten nationally and have nice wins over Washington, Xavier, and Arizona. The Wolfpack lurk just outside of the top twenty-five at 9-1 and have solid wins over Penn State and Vanderbilt. The Tigers are -1.5-point road favorites. The game total over-under is set at 158.5-points. Tipoff is scheduled for 4:00 PM PST from PNC Arena in Raleigh.
Just how good is this North Carolina State team this season? Their record is a great one at 9-1, with their lone loss coming to a good Wisconsin team. But according to kenpom they have the 349th rated non-conference strength of schedule. So, while their record looks great, they still have a lot to prove before they are considered an elite team.
The Wolfpack are an elite scoring team as they are averaging 89 points game, top ten in the country, and are shooting 52% from the field and 41% from deep. Kenpom has the Wolfpack as the twelfth rated offense in the country. NC State is led by a balanced attack where seven players are averaging at least seven points a game. Senior guard Torin Dorn is leading the way with sixteen points and seven boards a game.
The same questions we have about North Carolina State, we could ask about Auburn. The eye test tells us this team is a very good one. But if you did a blind resume between the two teams, you might not be able to tell them apart by their body of work. All of their “big” wins looked much better at the time than they do now. Washington was ranked when the Tigers beat them, now they are 7-4. Xavier was a one seed last year but are just 7-5 this year. And Arizona was one of the most talented teams in the country last season, but they are just 7-4 right now.
So, it is hard to tell just how good this team is right now. Yeah, they played hard with Duke and kept that game close. You could call that a moral victory for not getting blown out by the nation’s top team. But in their last game, they needed overtime to beat a UAB team that doesn’t have postseason aspirations, on a neutral floor. Now they play at NC State for their first true road game of the season and opened as -3-point favorites? HHMMM.
I bet this game last night when the Wolfpack was getting +3-points. And in the early morning action, the sharps have pushed this number to just +1.5. And where it stands now, I still like a play on the NC State. Home underdogs are always my favorite plays in college basketball, and I think the Wolfpack finds a way to defend their home floor tonight. When you glance at the AP poll and see the Tigers at number seven and the Wolfpack not ranked, you might think this is a mismatch.
But when you look at kenpom, you see the Tigers coming in at number twelve, and NC State coming in at number twenty-one. A much more realistic look at where these teams rank right now. So, I will back the home team and snatch up the points tonight. Give me the North Carolina Wolfpack and the +1.5-points tonight!