We suffered a set back last night when we backed Davidson, getting +2.5-points against the Auburn Tigers. Davidson is sneaky good this year, and they should contend for the A-10 title. And while Auburn has lots of talent and starts several upperclassmen, they lost a lot from last year’s Final Four team, and I expect that this year will be more of a rebuilding season for Bruce Pearl. My prediction was that this game would come down to the final few possessions and that you always want to be on the side getting points, in a game that figures to be that competitive.
And in reality, that is exactly what happened as this was a four-point game with under six minutes left to play. But the ball bounced Auburn’s way down the stretch, and they closed out the game one a 13-7 run to win and cover, 76-66. Davidson’s prized backcourt featuring returning A-10 player of the year Jon Axel Gudmundsson and Kellan Grady, who last year both averaged over seventeen points a game, could get nothing going all night long. They finished a combined 4-17 shooting, including 0-6 from three, and scored just thirteen points.
That makes you wonder what if the Davidson guard play was up to standard, how would this game have looked? But I don’t want to take away any credit from Auburn. They looked uber-athletic on the defensive side of the ball, as they blocked five shots, had three steals, and forced sixteen Davidson turnovers.
The win was a nice non-conference win for Auburn that will be a feather in their cap come Selection Sunday. Most aren’t giving the Tigers much of a shot at all at making another trip to the Final Four, but if they can keep finding ways to beat tournament-caliber teams, you just never know.
For Davidson, they would have liked to have picked up the win, but they still have plenty of opportunities to pick up win against power conference teams this season as they have upcoming games scheduled against Wake Forrest, Marquette, Vanderbilt, and Nevada. For today’s pick, we will head to Purdue, where the Boilermakers host the Texas Longhorns.
Shaka Smart takes his Texas Longhorns to West Lafayette, Indiana Saturday, for a non-conference game with the Boilermakers of Purdue. The Longhorns are coming off of an NIT Championship last season, and they are hoping that they can ride that momentum all the way to the Big Dance this year. They started out their season 1-0 earlier this week by blowing out Northern Colorado and face a big early-season test tonight against Purdue.
For the Boilermakers, they are adjusting to life without superstar Carsen Edwards. They rode Edwards all the way to the Elite Eight last year, and nearly knocked off the eventual national champion Virginia Cavaliers, before losing in overtime. Purdue starts this season out in the top twenty-five, and they looked great in their season opener, a 79-57 win over Green Bay.
The Boilermakers are -8-point home court favorites. The game total over-under is set at 132 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 4:00 PM PST from Mackey Arena in West Lafayette.
When the Texas Longhorns brought in head coach Shaka Smart several years ago, it was to win a national title. Smart famously took his VCU Rams team all the way to the Final Four, and the folks in Austin had high hopes for Smart. But now a couple of years in, and he is officially on the hot seat.
Smart has led the Longhorns to the NCAA tournament just twice in his four seasons, despite having some very highly rated recruiting classes along the way. He did manage to win the NIT last season, to keep the wolves at bay. For now.
This year, his team starts out the year just outside of the top twenty-five, and they have plenty of talent to be a tournament team. While they did lose Jaxson Hayes to the NBA lottery, but you need to remember, that Hayes missed all of the Longhorns NIT games last season, when they played their best basketball. They brought back key guys like Matt Coleman, Courtney Ramey, Jase Febres, Andrew Jones, and Jericho Sims. They also added a 5-star freshman in Will Baker, who was the second-best high school center in the country, and the number twenty overall recruit.
This team is going to pride themselves on defense, and if they can find enough offensive firepower to hang with some of the high scoring teams in the Big 12, they are going to have a lot of success this season. We all wondered what this Texas program would look like once Smart got “his” guys on the court. This year we get to find out as he has four juniors, a senior, and three sophomores that are all expected to be part of the regular rotation.
Carsen Edwards is going to be impossible to replace. He was the most dynamic scorer in the country last year and had one of the best NCAA tournaments of any player in recent memory. They also lost scorers, Ryan Cline and Grady Eifert. Those three guys accounted for 77% of their made three-pointers, and 57% of all of their scoring last year. They have a bunch of experienced guys returning from last year’s team, including Nojel Eastern, Matt Haarms, Trevion Williams, Aaron Wheeler, Evan Boudreaux, Eric Hunter, and Sasha Stefanovic, but none of them look like they are going to be anything like Edwards.
But you know who does? JUCO transfer Jahaad Proctor. Proctor was a twenty point a game guy for High Point last year and took no time introducing himself to the Purdue fans, as he dropped 26-points in his debut in the opener against Green Bay. If Proctor can find a way to keep his production at that level all year long, this could be a sleeper Final Four caliber team.
I think both of these teams are going to be good this year. While I don’t think either team will realistically compete for the national title, I do think they will both spend much of the season in the top twenty-five and are shoe-ins to make the Big Dance. Texas had a strange season last year. They had wins over good teams like Kansas, Iowa State, Oklahoma, Baylor, West Virginia, Kansas State, North Carolina, and yes, even Purdue.
They had as good of a win’s resume as any team in the country. But their problem was consistency. They had bad losses to teams like Radford, Providence, Georgia, and TCU. Smart has shown he can beat any team in the country, but he can lose to just about any team too. That makes this team a wild card this year.
But I just can’t pass up on getting to back a team as talented as Texas is, getting so many points. Much of this Purdue lineup is untested, and while they did look great in the opener, we will see what this team is really about tonight against a team with a similar level of talent. It will be interesting to see how the pace of this game goes, will Purdue be able to keep a fast pace, or will Smart’s patented havoc defense slow them down? Whichever team controls the pace, likely wins the game. Give me the Texas Longhorns +8-points tonight on the road!