After a season of chaos, we had a relatively calm weekend of college basketball. Not “calm” as in “boring” – far from it – rather “calm” as in “free from seismic upsets.” The better teams won MOST of the time, and in the instances where there was an “upset” it was usually a really good team losing on the road to another pretty good team.
The biggest wins were Gonzaga remaining perfect and all but assuring they do no worse than make it to their conference championship game perfect, and likely perfect into the NCAA Tournament (and clinching a #1 seed) and MUCH more quietly, SMU’s win over Cincinnati yesterday to pull even in the AAC and all but assure their tourney bid as well. Quality wins aren’t easy to find in the AAC this season with Temple, Memphis and UConn all having tough seasons, so splitting the series with UC was vital for SMU.
There are a few BIG games tonight for vastly different reasons. The Louisville at Syracuse game is HUGE for Louisville to try to stay in the running for a top seed. The game for Syracuse is a HUGE-ER as they try to go from dead on the mat to legit Tourney team. A win would pull them to 9-5 in ACC play which makes them hard to deny. Baylor at Texas Tech is an almost identical situation; Baylor contending for a top seed, Tech fighting for a berth.
The BIGGEST game, obviously, is West Virginia’s return trip to Kansas. The Mountaineers pulled away late in Morgantown to notch a deceptively large margined win over the Jayhawks. They get a chance to put some doubt in one of the longest and most impressive streaks in college basketball, the Jayhawks reign over the Big Twelve. A win would pull the Mountaineers to just a game back of Kansas with the tiebreaker advantage.
Of course, that would mean they have to WIN in Phogg, so…
Today’s College Basketball Pick:
West Virginia Mountaineers at Kansas Jayhawks -5
Kansas was lucky to escape Saturday with a win over Texas Tech, but Frank Mason, who was limited to just one point while sick with the flu, has had two days to recover and the ‘Hawks are at home, where they next to NEVER lose. West Virginia needed little magic to handle Kansas State, as they blitzed them in the second half en route to a 19-point win.
The first game got out of hand late for Kansas, but it was a deceptive score line. That was a GAME with six minutes to go and Kansas actually took the lead several times in the second half before succumbing late and watching the score spiral in the final three minutes. Expect a radically different story tonight. I know there has been some drama surrounding Kansas off the court, and I don’t discount that those issues can take a toll. But assuming they can stay together and no major fallout comes regarding Josh Jackson, I think Kansas is on my short list of NCAA Champ favorites.
Here’s an odd stat – and one that may dissuade a few of you from following along with today’s pick. I like to give you all the facts, blended with my opinion, and you can proceed how you’d like (including simply reading for entertainment only, which is a perfectly fair option). Kansas is 10-1 SU in conference play. Dominant, right? However, they are 2-8-1 ATS, which is so bad it boggles the mind. That means, simply, that they are winning but not running up big margins. It ALSO means, they are ALWAYS favored – even when they are on the road, which is a little unfair. They are WINNING which means more to me, and five points isn’t frighteningly large for a clear pay-back game tonight.
So, I am still on the Hawks. I think they are gonna lay one on WVU. West Virginia has not won in Lawrence since joining the Big Twelve Conference. EVER. Not once. I think that continues tonight.
Today’s Pick: KANSAS JAYHAWKS -5