We took a pair of tough hoops losses yesterday. My NBA pick was thwarted by a Paul Pierce “Fairytale ending in Boston” three pointer with 10 seconds to go that took our pick from winner to loser and the Celtics then inbounded the ball and expired the clock. The College pick was nearly identical; Carolina had a comfy ten-point lead, which was their working margin most of the day, then Bonzi Colson hit a contested three pointer, Carolina inbounded the ball and dribbled out the clock. I took my second loss in the last ten picks and both were decided by a single possession late.
But if my petty basketball bad beat complaints annoy you, there’s a really good chance you were on the Falcons last night, in which case, I’M SO SORRY. That will go down as one of the worst losses; gambling or otherwise, in the history of sports. As a matter of fact, if you DID have significant cash on the ATL, there’s a good chance you won’t see this column as you have no internet access after slipping into a catatonic state…
Of course, if you bet Pats, Irish and Clippers, you are laughing and delighting at the universe’s affinity for you…
Let’s start a new week with a new winning streak.
Today’s College Basketball Pick:
Louisville Cardinals at Virginia Cavaliers -4.5
If we learned nothing else this weekend, it is that is hard to be exactly precise in guessing WHICH team will show up on a given night. Is Arizona really 35 points worse than Oregon? Is Kentucky worse than Florida? Does Oklahoma State or Kansas State have any business winning in West Virginia or Baylor?
But there is a fairly strong trend that seems to be emerging in the ACC, and that is that momentum tends to shift quickly with the simple shift of the venue. It’s the ACC, so there aren’t really any “bad” teams, but even the “really good” ones seem to wilt a bit when then leave home. Louisville is ranked sixth in the country, but in their road tests against ranked opponents, they are 0-2. Sure, they pulverized Boston College and Pitt, but against Notre Dame and FSU, they left town with an L.
There is also some lingering “Louisville looked great this week, and Virginia lost to Syracuse” perception. Both are true. But neither is a reason to assume that Louisville strolls into Charlottesville and wins. In fact, the exact opposite has already happened this year with UVA winning convincingly at the YUM Center. Virginia isn’t a real great matchup for a Louisville team that likes the game a little more ragged and open, and tempo is generally more easily controlled by the home team.
I think UVA will once again frustrate the Cardinals, who are talented but not a naturally good perimeter shooting team. UVA, like almost anyone else in the ACC, has some amazing wins and an odd loss (Pitt).
Virginia shoots about 4% better from the floor than Louisville and is the #1 defensive team in the entire country in terms of points allowed. Considering the ridiculous schedule they have played, it’s a pretty impressive feat. Sure, tempo helps, but they are also near the top in defensive efficiency, which allots for tempo, so don’t dismiss the stifling nature of the Cavs.
I think this matchup suits Virginia extremely well stylistically in addition to the math. I’ll eat the four and a half at home with the Cavs. Quick note – 4.5 might require some shopping. Most books have already gotten to -5 after opening at UVA -4.
Today’s Pick: Virginia Cavaliers -4.5