I said yesterday that I wasn’t completely sure if the Syracuse Orange were going to make the NCAA tournament this year. Outside of the one enormous win on the road against Duke, the Orange’s resume is mighty light on signature wins. In my estimation, they needed to win at least one more game down the stretch if they want to secure their spot in the Big Dance, and I had a feeling they weren’t up to the task. So, I looked to fade them as home underdogs against the Cavaliers of Virginia.
And after watching how Syracuse laid down in the second half at home, I am even more confident that this team is going to find itself on the wrong side of the bubble on Selection Sunday. The Cavs nailed eighteen three-pointers and after trailing at halftime, ran away from the ‘Cuse in the second half to pick up the blowout victory, and we easily cashed our ticket.
Next up for Syracuse is a very losable road game against Clemson, and then they head to Charlotte for the first round of the ACC tournament. Like I said yesterday, if Syracuse loses out, they would be just 19-12 and 3-7 in their last ten games on Selection Sunday, with only two signature wins. I’ve seen teams with much better resume’s than that, get left out of the dance.
For Virginia, their dominance of the ACC continues. The Cavs are just one win away from locking up their fourth regular-season ACC title in the last six years. The Cavs finish up the season at home against Louisville next Saturday. For today’s pick, I will head to the Big 12 and break down the game between the Kansas Jayhawks and the Oklahoma Sooners.
The Kansas Jayhawks are desperately trying to keep their streak of fourteen consecutive Big 12 regular season titles alive, an all-time NCAA record, as they travel to Norman to play the Oklahoma Sooners. The Jayhawks are just one game back of both K-State and Texas Tech, with two games left to play in the regular season. They will need to win out, and get some help, if they want to make history and win their fifteenth straight Big 12 title.
For the Sooners, they are sitting right on the bubble right now and would love to pick up a huge win tonight to solidify their tournament resume. The Sooners are 3-6 in their last nine and will have the chance to play spoiler in this Big 12 race as they play Kansas tonight, and K-State to wrap up the regular season next Saturday. This game is an even pick ‘em. The game total over-under is set at 142.5-points. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:00 PM PST from the Lloyd Noble Center.
When I look at this game, the first thing that comes to my mind is that these are both battle-tested squads. Kansas has had the number one toughest strength of schedule in the nation this year, and Oklahoma isn’t too far back, clocking in at number ten. Both of these teams have walked through the fire, and for the most part, have come out the other end better for it.
Kansas won’t end up getting the one seed they were expecting coming into the season, and the Sooners are at risk of missing the tournament altogether. But I will tell you one thing, nobody is going to want to play these teams in the tournament, as they are both going to be very tough outs.
A lot of people judge a basketball team by the teams they have lost to. And when you look at Kansas, they have some head-scratching losses on their record. They lost to Arizona State, West Virginia, and Texas. What they wouldn’t give to get that game against the Mountaineers back. But when I judge a team, I look at who they can beat, not who they can lose to. All teams can have off nights, but if you can beat truly elite teams, it tells me a lot.
And there aren’t many teams that can beat great teams like Kansas has this year. They have wins over Michigan State, Marquette, Tennessee, Wofford, Villanova, Oklahoma, TCU, Baylor, Iowa State, Texas Tech and Kansas State. All of those teams are going to likely hear their names called on Selection Sunday.
Oklahoma played a very tough non-conference slate, but they have managed to survive in the Big 12 by beating up on the bottom half of the league. The Sooners have wins over OK-State, TCU, Vanderbilt, Texas, and West Virginia. Against the top of the Big 12 this year? The Sooners have lost to Iowa State, Kansas, Texas Tech, K-State, and Baylor. Winning tonight would give Oklahoma their biggest win of the season and couldn’t come at a better time as they really need a boost right now.
Look, I know that Kansas has been awful on the road in Big 12 play. The Jayhawks are just 3-5 on the road in league games. But to see them as even money in this game is just a bad number. The Sooners actually opened as small favorites before the early morning betting sharps moved the number towards Kansas! Oklahoma has not been able to beat a team nearly as talented as this Kansas team is right now all season long, and I don’t think they are going to start tonight.
We know who this Sooner’s team is at this point. They are just good enough to beat the bad Big 12 teams, and not good enough to hang with the top of the league. I think they will put up a fight and keep the game competitive, but when the smoke clears, Kansas will walk away with the win. The Jayhawks are starting to pick up steam at just the right time as they have won five out of their last six games. When they managed to beat K-State convincingly at home two weeks ago, it showed me this team still has a lot of fight left in it. Give me the Kansas Jayhawks tonight at even money in Norman!