Tonight we get the long-awaited rematch of one of the best games of the 2016-2017 college basketball season with the UCLA Bruins hosting the Oregon Ducks. It should be a Final Four-feel - but who comes out on top?
It’s been a pretty good week of college hoops, but tonight, things get REAL. How good is tonight? Well, the Purdue at Indiana game is a mere afterthought. The main course is a two-entrée smorgasboard with North Carolina at Duke at 8pm and Oregon at UCLA at 10pm, so enjoy four of five hours of Final Four-level quality and INTENSITY tonight on ESPN.
We got a win last night, and it should have been an EASY win, but Baylor flirted with an epic collapse, turning a 13 point lead into a one point game in the span of two minutes and had to eventually survive two Oklahoma State attempts to tie with a three pointer at the buzzer. Regardless, a win is a win, so no complaining, but yes, we were definitely flirting with BAD BEAT territory and some well-earned whining…
Man, tonight is going to be fantastic. I’m officially abstaining from picking Duke games still, but will admit that a convincing win tonight will go a long way to lifting the ban, especially on home games.
Instead, let’s head out to the Pac 12 where two of the three worthy Final Four contenders square off in a rematch of one of the season’s finest games.
Today’s College Basketball Pick:
Oregon Ducks at UCLA Bruins -5
This pick is 100% about the line and NOT, I repeat NOT about a knee-jerk reaction to the most recent demolition of Arizona. I still really like UCLA. I went on record calling them the best team (and most beautiful stylistically) in the country about a month ago, and I am not 100% off that train. There’s still a good chance this team find the Final Four and it wouldn’t stun me if they won the whole damn thing. But, to say there aren’t at least eight other teams in the same category would be pretty disingenuous. There is NO favorite this season – at least not yet.
But laying five is a steep price, especially considering HOW each team has been playing lately. The win over Arizona for Oregon was jaw-dropping – but it was also ONE game that really got away from the Cats and one in which Oregon shot insanely well. They assisted on 26 of 30 baskets and played arueable the best basketball game of the 2016-2017 season.
But more importantly than a single sample is the larger one. The Ducks have lost ONCE with Dillon Brooks in the lineup. That’s it. Once. Included in that streak was his dramatic game winner against UCLA in Eugene back in December.
For UCLA, things haven’t been bad by any stretch, but the home loss by double digits to Arizona took some of the shine off their invincibility, as did the loss at USC. They struggled to a win at Utah and were just “OK” at home against Cal. This is still an excellent, efficient, exciting team. They just aren’t quite playing at the level they were when they went into Rupp Arena and won back in December.
I like a close, tense game. If there were no spread, I would probably go UCLA. But with five points, there is a lot of wiggle room for a UCLA win and an Oregon cover, making them the better value. When I say “Oregon has been playing better” I admit I am splitting hairs – both teams are winning games and look like Top 8 teams. The difference has been most evident in ATS numbers. Oregon is 8-2 ATS in their last ten, UCLA has been more underwhelming, going just 3-7 ATS.
I’ll take the points and the Ducks in what has the makings to be a Final Four-like game.
Today’s Pick: Oregon Ducks +5