Arizona vs Miami NCAA Hoops – Free Pick Dec 23

Yesterday was good day at thesportsgeek.com with our college basketball picks going a perfect 4-0 ATS.  It was also a good day for a pair of teams from the Heartland, former bitter conference foes, both flying under the radar this season, notching huge wins that could help propel them to #1 or #2 seeds come March.

First, the Kansas Jayhawks notched one of the top three wins so far this season, going TO Columbus and beating Ohio State in a true road game.  As predicted here, Ben McLemore was the best player on the court and he helped lift KU to the five point road win.

The game that most impressed me yesterday was the routine way Missouri went about beating previously-unbeaten Illinois is a fierce rivalry battle.  The Tigers have an early-season loss, but are now 10-1 and are once again a sleeper team to reach the Final Four and win the tough SEC.  I am not sure if is the lingering residue of last year’s first round stunning upset to Norfolk State or if it is just the lower profile of the program in general, but this is a team that for some reason remains completely overlooked from a national perspective.  Don’t worry, we won’t make that mistake here.

Let’s keep the winners going today and see if we can build on our six game ATS win streak here at thesportsgeek.com.

Arizona -3 vs. Miami (FL)    — Diamond Head Classic @ Hawaii

The Hurricanes are one of the early season surprises under Coach Jim Laranaga, as they stormed out to a 10-1 start and have won seven games in a row, including a road win at Michigan State.  Even though the “this is the second best team in the ACC” talk started kicking up it is still hard for me to completely ignore a loss to Florida Gulf Coast on their resume.

Arizona meanwhile is undefeated, but required a little magic to keep it that way.  Their last-minute flurry against Florida last weekend remains one of the more inexplicable blown games I’ve seen in a few years – the way the Gators crumbled against the press and brain-locked offensively on the final possession, never even getting a shot off while a time-out remained in their pocket; you don’t see that from top flight teams very often.

That said, Arizona is very good.  They haven’t been tested quite as much as I’d like (their only “good” win aside from UF is a 12-point road win at Clemson that was closer than the score), but the talent is definitely abundant.  They will need to tighten things up tonight to handle a good Miami defense.  Arizona has committed 15 turnovers a game this season; most of them against far lesser teams than the Canes.  I think they will play cleaner tonight, and that Mark Lyons will do as he did at Xavier for two years; rise to the competition level, and lead the ‘Cats to a victory and a holiday tournament final on Christmas.

The difference in this game is going to be the poise of Arizona and the excellent foul shooting.  Arizona is shooting 78% as a team from the line.  That sounds like a good recipe to cover a three point spread.

Free Pick:  Arizona Wildcats -3

Chris Scheeren / Author