Our hot week hit a road bump last night when we backed the Furman Paladins as road favorites against the South Florida Bulls. I felt that the Paladins elite offense wasn’t going to have much trouble scoring on South Florida. And if the Paladins scored anywhere near their season average of eighty-one points a game, the Bulls wouldn’t be able to keep up, as they have been awful on offense this season, scoring just sixty points a game.
I was right about one thing, South Florida can’t score the basketball, but last night, they didn’t need to. The Bulls had another bad scoring night, mustering just sixty-five points, but the Paladins had their worst shooting night of the year, and only scored fifty-five. After coming into the game with some of the best shooting stats in the nation, Furman shot just 35% from the field in the loss.
What can you do? It was a tough loss, and it was hard to predict that such a great offensive team would just go so cold for forty-minutes, but that is what happened, and we lost the bet. For Furman, the loss will be an ugly mark on their resume as they project to be hanging right around the cut line come Selection Sunday. And for South Florida, maybe this was the spark they needed to get their once-promising season back on track. For today’s pick, we will take a look at the game between the Duke Blue Devils and the Michigan State Spartans.
ACC/Big 10 Challenge
One of my favorite events of the year kicks off tonight as the ACC/Big 10 Challenge pits some of the best teams in the country against each other as we have six games scheduled today. The challenge always does a great job of pairing teams with similarly talented opponents, and this year we have six games featuring the likes of Northwestern at Boston College, Iowa at Syracuse, Michigan at Louisville, Florida State at Indiana, Rutgers at Pittsburgh, and Duke at Michigan State. For today’s pick, we will break down the game between Michigan State and Duke.
- #10 Duke Blue Devils at #11 Michigan State Spartans
- 6:30 PM PST
- Breslin Center
- TV: ESPN
The Duke Blue Devils head to East Lansing, Michigan Tuesday for a matchup of powerhouse programs when they clash with the Spartans of Michigan State. This is a unique matchup in that both of the teams have spent time ranked at number one in the country, and both teams immediately suffered losses that dropped them out of the top spot.
The Blue Devils are still reeling after seeing their 150+ game streak of home non-conference wins come to an end last week when Stephen F Austin came into Cameron Indoor and knocked them off on a buzzer-beater. The Blue Devils rebounded from the loss well as they picked up a double-digit victory over Winthrop in their last game, and they would love to knock off Michigan State tonight in a true road game.
For the Spartans, they started the season out as the nation’s number one team, before losing the opener to the second-ranked Kentucky Wildcats. Sparty has played a brutal schedule of games thus far, as they have wins over Seton Hall, Georgia, and UCLA, and they suffered a loss to Virginia Tech. A win over a very good Duke team would get them right back into the top ten nationally.
Duke Blue Devils
It was hard to imagine seeing Duke lose at home to Stephen F Austin, but this is college basketball and upsets happen. But historically, they just don’t happen to Duke. Part of that is that they tend to schedule soft in the non-conference at home, and part of that is that they are always an elite team every season that has one of the best home-court advantages in the nation.
But to see Duke fall all of the way from number one to number ten in the rankings, based on one bad night, is an overreaction. I am not going to say that the Lumberjacks are an elite team, but this is a good program that is always a threat to upset teams in March, and they are 8-1 on the season. This wasn’t Michigan losing to Appalachian State in football, this was a better than most people realize Stephen F Austin team that had a hot shooting night and took advantage of the Blue Devils youth and inexperience.
That doesn’t make this Duke team any less of a national championship contender. The Blue Devils are one of the best scoring teams in the country at nearly eighty-four points a game, they love to get after it on the boards, and they block a ton of shots. Tre Jones is one of, if not the, best point guards in the country, and he is filling up the stat sheet with a stat line of 15 points, 3.8 rebounds, 6.9 assists, and 2.1 steals a game.
And freshman Vernon Carey is going to quickly become a household name as he is averaging nearly a double-double a game at 18.4 points and 9.5 rebounds per contest. Duke has a lot of depth this year as they have ten players that have appeared in all eight of their games. Don’t doubt this team over one better than you probably think it is loss early in the year.
Michigan State Spartans
Coming into this season, it looked like Michigan State would be the class of the Big 10 this year. But we have quickly found out that the Big 10 is a lot better than most people expected this season. The league currently has three of the top six teams in the AP Poll, with Maryland, Michigan, and Ohio State all looking like Final Four threats, and the Spartans are fourth, coming in at number eleven with two early-season losses.
Similar to Duke, the early losses don’t scare me much. This team is well-coached as always with Tom Izzo running the show, and they have national player of the year candidate, in senior Cassius Winston, leading the way. Winston has seen his scoring, rebounding, and assists dip just a bit from last season, and that is a cause for concern, but he is still having a very strong season.
The Spartans are known for their fear of nobody as they always schedule tough in the non-conference, and I am not going to punish them for scheduling so tough. They could have scheduled soft and be 8-0 right now and ranked number one in the country. Instead, they scheduled brutal games against the likes of Kentucky, Duke, Seton Hall, and Virginia Tech and took a couple of early-season losses.
Who Do I Like?
To be honest, I like them both! Both of these teams are locks to be playing on the second weekend in March, and I won’t let any early-season losses distract me from the fact that these are both really good teams. That being said, I am shocked to see this number as such a big one.
The Spartans are always one of the best home teams in the country, but to see them laying -6.5 points against a Duke team that was ranked number one just a week ago, seems absurd.
What would this number be had Duke not lost on that last-second layup to Stephen F Austin? Even money? Sparty -1 or maybe -2? I just feel like this number is a gross overreaction. I intend no disrespect to Michigan State, I love their squad as well, but a bad number is a bad number.
There aren’t many times in Coach K’s tenure at Duke where he has ever gotten this many points. And there are even fewer times where they have gotten this many points, and I haven’t backed them. This Duke team is littered with NBA level talent, and there isn’t a team in the country where I wouldn’t back Duke getting +6.5 points, no matter where the game is being played.
So, that is what I will do as I snatch up the +6.5 points and expect a very tightly contested game that comes down to the final few possessions. Give me the Duke Blue Devils +6.5 points tonight from East Lansing!