Duke flexed it’s defending-champion muscle last night, erasing a sixteen point defecit to come all the way back and beat rival North Carolina. In the process, there might be a new leader in the National Player of the Year race, Nolan Smith.
The senior guard came up huge last night, scoring a career high 34 points, and his team needed every one of them. BYU’s Jimmer Fredette vaulted into the national consciousness with his 43-point outburst against San Diego State, and Ohio State’s Jard Sullinger has been the cornerstone of the Buckeye’s perfect season, but perhaps no player has done more against high level competition than Smith.
Factor in the Kyrie Irving injury and the enormous hole that should have put in the Dukies lineup and Nolan Smith’s value is even greater than his stellar statistics. If Smith can continue his amazing production for the next month, Duke might have yet another National Player of the Year to add to their unbelievable list.
Today’s Free College Basketball Picks:
UConn Huskies -1.5 @ St. John’s Red Storm
UConn comes into the game with the Top Ten ranking and the daunting hitlist of victims; Kentucky, Michigan State, Villanova, Tennessee, Texas. But if you dig a little deeper into the Huskies resume, you’ll find a team that has been struggling in conference play.
The Huskies are 6-4 in Big East play, and have lost two of their past three. A major reason has been the struggles of Kemba Walker. Walker lit the country on fire, sprinting out to the national scoring lead and looking unstoppable – powering the Huskies, who were picked tenth in their own conference, to a Top Ten national ranking. However, in conference, teams know each other and watch a ton of film. Some of the best coaches in the country reside in the BEast – and it has been evident in the creative game planning to force Kemba Walker into difficult shots.
The result? Walker still gets his points, but he is doing it on a very high volume of shots. The other result? UConn has struggled against tourney caliber teams in league play. Against likely NCAA Tournament teams in the Big East, the Huskies are just 2-4.
Tonight they face a desperate St. John’s team that really needs another win to couple with the Duke upset to offset their less-than-stellar resume which includes losses to St. Bonaventure and Fordham.
I think they get it tonight at home. Take the Red Storm and the point, or even straight up and avoid the juice you’ll pay for a measly point and a half.
PICK: St. John’s +1.5
Alabama Crimson Tide @ Vanderbilt Commodores -6.5
Alabama was simply dreadful early this season, as Anthony Grant’s squad floundered mightily, losing to Seton Hall, Iowa, St. Peters and Providence. But a funny thing has happened in Tuscaloosa the past month. This team, which nearly everyone, including me, had left for dead – began to wake up and start playing really good basketball.
Today, at 7-1 Alabama has the best record in the SEC (though admittedly they benefit from playing in the depleted SEC West), and have won ten of eleven overall, including wins over Tennessee and Kentucky.
Vanderbilt is a tough squad at home, and can’t afford too many more bad losses if they want to breathe easily on Selection Sunday. Jeffery Taylor is the likely SEC Player of the Year – and I think he and his teammates will get the win tonight. But don’t underestimate the power of confidence. This Alabama team will be soaring high coming off their road win at Tennessee.
I think Vandy will get the win at home, but ‘Bama is going to give them a good game. Take the Tide and the 6.5 points.
PICK: Alabama Crimson Tide +6.5 (-110)