Last night was another fantastic example of the parity that exists throughout the nation. Three weeks ago, Michigan played Kansas – who might be the best team in the country – to within one bucket of an thrilling upset win. Last night? The Wolverines got their doors blown off by Northwestern who is no better than the seventh best team in the Big Ten.
Kentucky, who appeared to be coming together and starting to play Final Four level basketball goes down to Tuscaloosa, and despite a furious rally from twenty points down in the second half, falls just short and loses to the Crimson Tide. This is the same Alabama team that lost three straight games to Seton Hall, Iowa, and St. Peter’s earlier in the season.
Even the teams we thought might be immune to the Madness have fallen; Duke, Syracuse, Pitt all have losses. Kansas and Ohio State have narrowly escaped on more than one occasion. It’s going to be a great sprint to the tourney…
If you thought last night was good, you haven’t seen anything yet. Tonight might be the best weekday of college basketball we’ve enjoyed in the 2010-2011 season with dozens of bigtime conference matchups in both the BCS leagues and top mid-major conferences.
Today’s Free College Basketball Picks:
Cincinnati @ Notre Dame -3.5
The Bearcats lurched into the polls two weeks ago as voters reluctantly gave them the 23rd spot; they were one of five unbeaten teams in the country after all. Since then, mine and the voters reluctance has been validated as Cincinnati (16-2, 3-2 Big East) dropped their first two real conference road tests, both by double digits.
Tonight, they get yet another tough road Big East matchup when they head to the Joyce Center to take on Notre Dame (14-4, 3-3 Big East). A similar argument could be made about Notre Dame when it comes to a softer preconference schedule. The difference is Notre Dame has shown they can compete with the conference’s elite in league play, beating Georgetown and UConn, whereas Cincinnati has yet to notch a marquee league win. They’ll get their chance tonight, but the numbers don’t support the likelihood of them being successful.
Cincinnati has lost it’s past 18 road games against ranked opponents under coach Mick Cronin. The majority of those losses have come by significant margins, all but two by more than tonight’s 3.5 line.
I love the Irish at home tonight, grabbing the win and exploiting a soft line inflated by Cincinnati’s cupcake-aided gaudy win/loss record.
Free Pick: Notre Dame -3.5 @ BetED.com
Texas A&M @ Texas -7
Ok Aggies – tonight we find out what you are made of. Texas A&M entered the season unranked and has slowly, and also quietly, been sneaking their way up the rankings, checking in this week at #11 with a 16-1 overall mark, their lone loss a two-point defeat to Boston College back in November.
Not that they’ve posted many wins to get too excited about either. Their two-point overtime home escape over Missouri is the first real quality win they’ve notched in conference; and that one was at home.
Tonight, they head down the road to tackle the Texas Longhorns in Austin for a game carried nationally on ESPN (9pm EST). The Aggies have reason to be confident. They enter the game owning the longest win streak in the history of Texas A&M basketball, and allowing only a stiffling 57.4 points per game; one of the best in the nation.
However, history is not on their side. The Aggies have lost in 22 of their last 23 visits to UT, including their last eight. To make matters worse, this year’s Texas squad is closer to some of their elite teams of the mid 2000’s than it is last year’s stumbling collection of incohesive talent.
Texas can play a little defense of their own as well. In Big 12 play they’ve held opponents to an average of just 49 ppg (keeping in mind it was Texas Tech and Oklahoma, two of the leagues poorest teams). The difference will be Texas’s length and intense ball pressure. Dogus Balbay is one of the best on-the-ball defenders in the country, and they have a ton of length and quickness with Tristan Thomspon and Jordan Hamilton.
If Texas can stay disciplined in taking quality shots and moving the basketball, they should be able to knock Texas A&M off tonight with some room to spare.
Give me the Longhorns and their frenzied crowd delivering a dose of reality to A&M
Free Pick: Texas -7 @ BetED.com ($250 FREE)