It’s officially time to take Texas off the top seed line in the mock brackets. As much as all the pundits and experts at ESPN have continued to cling to the Longhorn, after taking their fifth loss of the season they need to settle in comfortably as the dangerous #2 no one wants in their bracket.
The new #1 seed replacing them? How about the BYU Cougars. I’ve written more than a few semi-derisive columns about the ‘BYU Jimmers’ but yesterday’s domination of San Diego State was anything but a one-man show.
Give Jimmer Fredette credit, aside from one or two understandable forced shots, the senior National Player of the Year frontrunner distributed the ball expertly, picking up nine assists to go with his 25 points. The open looks he created for teammates by not forcing up shots in a double team, but instead dishing to open teammates paid enormous dividends. The Cougars drained 14 three-point attempts and literally shot down the 27-1 Aztecs in their own gym.
The win moves BYU to an identical 27-2 mark and a very clean look at a #1 seed. Jimmer Fredette’s legend gets even larger with yet another brilliant performance, but it was their zone defense and the shooting of his teammates that helped the Cougars pick up one of their largest wins since the days of Danny Ainge.
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Today’s Free College Basketball Picks:
Maryland Terrapins @ North Carolina Tar Heels -6
Maryland is all but out of room for error, making tonight’s daunting trip to Chapel Hill even more vital. Maryland at 18-10, and just 7-6 in a down ACC. I’m not sure 20-11 (9-7) is going to be enough. The Terps really need to run the table to sleep easily on Selection Sunday.
Maryland has been a mixed bag lately, going 3-3 over their last six ACC games (the win over Longwood sandwiched in the middle is really irrelevant). The losses to Duke and at Virginia Tech are no big deal, but the loss at Boston College was especially damaging as they sit on the same precarious bubble as the BC Eagles. Their wins have all been convincing double-digit wins, however all three were at home and against NC State, Wake Forest and a Chris Singelton-less Florida State team.
In fact, the home/road split has played out much that way for the entire season for the Terps. They have been solid at home, but just 3-3 on the road with no wins over the top half of the conference.
North Carolina on the other hand is starting to look like the team many thought they’d be preseason. They have won 14 of 16 overall with the only two losses being a heartbreaking last game comeback win by Duke and their mulligan, getting their doors blown off by a lousy Georgia Tech team. In fact, if you look at Carolina’s overall profile, you’ll find their other four losses, all early, were all to teams that will be playing in the postseason: Vanderbilt, Texas (by 2), Illinois and Minnesota (both before their complete meltdowns in the Big Ten).
My point is simply that North Carolina is a legit Sweet Sixteen team, and with a few bounces and some decent point guard play, could even wind up in the Final Four. Maryland may be desperate, but they are a bad road team heading into one of the hottest and most talented team’s in the country’s home gym. That doesn’t bode real well for the Terps. Not only has Carolina been winning, they’ve been winning convincingly. In their last eight wins, only two have been by single digits (one being the ominous 48-46 game with BC that might have blinded anyone who watched it on TV.) Aside from that off day, when they STILL won, they have been a steamroller.
PICK: North Carolina -6 – click here to bet it at BetED.com and get $250 free!
Washington State Cougars @ Washington Huskies -11.5
It might not have the sizzle of Duke v. Carolina or Georgetown v. Syracuse or Louisville v. Kentucky, but the in-state battle for Washington supremacy is about as intense as rivalries get. This year’s takes on particular importance and both Washington and Wazzou are battling mightily for a spot in the Big Dance.
Washington is likely in pretty good shape at 19-8 (10-5), especially with quality wins over UCLA and Arizona on the resume and quality losses like Kentucky, Michigan State, Texas A&M and Arizona to cushion the blow. Other than last weekends absolutely fantastic game against Arizona, which was won on Arizona’s Derrick Williams’s “walk-off block”, Washington has been on fire. They have won four of their last five games, all by 18 points or more.
Washington State on the other hand has likely already seen their bubble burst. Losers of five of their last eight games, their 17-10 record and 7-6 Pac-10 mark means they need to win out and still keep their fingers crossed.
However, Washington State does have some talent, namely in sensational swing man Klay Thompson who leads the Pac-10 in scoring at 21.2 points per game. Washington State has shown flashes of brilliance this season with wins over Gonzaga, Baylor and their first meeting with Washington. They have also shown adeptness for ‘no-showing’ in games, getting blown out of the gym by Butler, Arizona State, Cal and Stanford.
However, this is a rivalry game. In rivalry games, season records mean little compared to the talent and passion each team can put on the floor. Wazzou has had a disappointing season, but in truth, their talent level isn’t dramatically less than Washington’s. I’m not sure they get the road upset, but laying 11.5 points is a TON in a rivalry game with fairly equally talented teams. Give me Klay Thompson and the Cougars keeping it close.
PICK: Washington State +11.5 – click here to bet it at BetED.com and get $250 free!