We hit a rare bump in the road last night when we backed the NC State Wolfpack at home against their in-state rivals, the North Carolina Tar Heels. The Wolfpack hadn’t beaten North Carolina at home since 2013, and I felt the time was right for them to take out those years of anguish on this Tar Heels team that Roy Williams admitted was the least talented team he had ever coached.
So, I laid a little wood and backed the much more accomplished home team. And when NC State started the game by jumping out to a 7-0 lead, I certainly felt like they were up to the challenge of finally knocking off their hated big brothers. But Carolina did a great job staying composed and managed to fade the early run and made a game of things, and actually took the lead into halftime.
— Carolina Basketball (@UNC_Basketball) January 28, 2020
NC State settled for bad looks all evening long and saw Carolina finish the final ten minutes of the second half on a big run and lost for the seventh consecutive time on their home floor to UNC. It was certainly a frustrating night for NC State as they had been climbing up the rankings in the ACC after winning three of their previous four league play games and had the rare opportunity to beat the Tar Heels at home and came up woefully short.
For North Carolina, Roy Williams seems to have this team playing with a little fire in the last two games as they have won back to back games for the first time since December. While it would take a huge finish for the Tar Heels to get enough wins to get an NCAA tournament bid, when you look ahead on the schedule, it is actually fairly light considering how good the ACC is this year.
If this Tar Heels team wins the games that they should and can find a way to knock off say, Duke or Virginia at home, or Louisville or Florida State on the road, all of the sudden, this team will be in serious consideration for an at-large bid.
This is especially true of they can find a way to get Cole Anthony back on the floor before the end of the regular season. Don’t give up on this Carolina team just yet, they might surprise us here late in the season. For today’s pick, we will head to the Big 10, where the Rutgers Scarlet Knights host the Purdue Boilermakers.
- Purdue Boilermakers (11-9) at Rutgers Scarlet Knights (15-5)
- 5:00 PM PST
- RAC, Piscataway
- TV: BTN
The Rutgers Scarlet Knights got their first taste of the top-25 last week, debuting in both the AP and Coaches Poll at number twenty-five. Rutgers has won five out of their last seven games in Big 10 league play, and they are just one game behind Illinois and Michigan State for first place in what I think is the best league in the nation. They will look to stay undefeated in Big 10 play tonight as they host Purdue.
?? | FIFTH STRAIGHT SELLOUT
When we take on Purdue tomorrow night, it will mark our fifth consecutive sell-out for the first time in the HISTORY of The RAC.
And we’re not done yet.
? PREVIEW » https://t.co/0ByWegl0PE
— Rutgers Basketball ? (@RutgersMBB) January 28, 2020
For Purdue, the Boilermakers have been a hard-luck team all season long. Their SOS schedule is 12th in the country, as they have played thirteen games against the top-100 this season. The analytics continue to love this team despite the losses really starting to rack up, as kenpom has them ranked at 23rd heading into play tonight. The Boilermakers will be looking for just their second true road win of the season tonight.
It is hard to say the Boilermakers have been unlucky, as this game is much more about skill and talent, than luck. But when you look at who they have played, and where they have played them, they have had quite a few things break the other sides way this year.
They lost in overtime against Florida State, in Florida no less, against a Seminoles team that could win the ACC. They lost again, this time in double-overtime, in Ann Arbor, against a Michigan Wolverines team that has wins over Gonzaga, Creighton, and Iowa. Purdue lost to Texas, Marquette, Butler, and Maryland, all by ten points or fewer.
Now, there is a big difference between winning outright and losing games close, but this Boilermakers record would look a lot different if a couple of those games went the other way. Imagine if this team finished off Florida State and Michigan in overtime and picked up a win over let’s say Maryland, a game that was a one-possession game with four minutes left to play. Then their mediocre record of 11-9 is now 14-6 with three wins over top-50 teams to go with the five they already have. That’s not just a tournament team, that is a high seeded one.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights
This Rutgers team is probably the best team you haven’t watched play yet this season. Do yourself a favor and tune in tonight, because you are going to hear a lot about this team in March, and you want to get on this bandwagon early. The Knights have won nine out of their last eleven games and have wins over top-50 teams like Wisconsin, Seton Hall, Penn State, Indiana, and Minnesota.
Rutgers hasn’t lost to a team outside of the top-80 since November, and their last three losses, going back nearly two full months ago, have all come against teams in the top-25. The Knights have been particularly impressive at home this season as they are 14-0 on their home floor. In Big 10 play, they are 5-0 at home, with an average margin of victory of eight points.
Who Do I Like?
While I am certainly compassionate to Purdue’s run of bad luck this season, I also know that they have a total of one road win this season, and that came against Ohio, a team outside of the top-200 right now. So, while I do think this team is much better than their record would lead you to believe, I also know that winning on the road in Big 10 league play has been close to impossible this season, and the Boilermakers haven’t done it once in four tries.
When you look at this Purdue team in terms of their against the spread record, it isn’t pretty. The Boilermakers are just 1-6 ATS in true road games this season. For Rutgers? ATS they have been elite all season long as they are an impressive 13-5-1 against the number.
I am backing the home team in this one. While the number does scare me a little bit considering how close some of Purdue’s losses have been this year, they also have losses on the road by twenty-six to Illinois, fourteen to Nebraska, and ten to Marquette and none of those teams rate out significantly higher than this Rutgers team does this season.
So, I will lay a little wood and expect a competitive game that sees Rutgers pull away late and close out strong, winning and covering. Home teams in Big 10 league play have won nearly 80% of the time and I expect that trend to continue tonight. Give me the Rutgers Scarlet Knights laying -3-points tonight at home!