It’s that time of year – my favorite time in the sports calendar – when all the college football fans, baseball fans, NFL fans; everyone – begins migrating over to the world of college hoops, getting ready for the impending March Madness.
It’s shaping up to be an interesting landscape. Four teams still remain unbeaten, all in different conferences, which begs the question, can anyone really run the table? Duke appeared to be the best bet, with an experienced, talent-rich team playing in a down ACC, but last week’s loss at Florida State nipped that in the bud. Kansas, Syracuse and Ohio State seem unlikely, for the simple reason they play in the three deepest and best conferences in the country.
That leaves us with only San Diego State; an unlikely companion to some of the nation’s most elite and storied programs, but the only team with a legit shot of doing something that hasn’t been done in 35 years. They knocked off New Mexico on the road with ease and have already downed UNLV once. If they can win one out in Provo over BYU, things get really interesting.
It’s going to be a great final few months – glad to have you along for the ride.
Today’s FREE College Basketball Picks:
UAB Blazers -1 @ East Carolina Pirates
It’s tough to win on the road in any conference, Conference USA is no exception. However there is a steep talent discrepancy between UAB and ECU. The Blazers are in company with the elite atop Conference USA; Memphis, Southern Miss and UCF, as teams with NCAA tournament aspirations. East Carolina doesn’t even have a shot at the NIT.
Records can be deceiving in college hoops, as there are so many way to schedule yourself to a decent record with over 340 Division I opponents. East Carolina is a good example. Their best win on the season is a one-point win over abysmal Charlotte (who they also own a 9-point loss against) and a win over Tulane. No other wins have even come against Top 150 teams.
UAB on the other hand, is a pretty legit 11-4. Their losses have come to Georgia and Duke (two tourney teams) and Arizona State early (not a great loss). The red flag is the 78-62 pasting they got from Tulsa this weekend, but to me that serves as a good reason for a bounce back game.
The Blazers have played a strong schedule, especially by C-USA standards, with wins over South Alabama, VCU, and Arkansas.
The Blazers are a much better overall team, and tonight is the kind of game they have to win if they want to compete in Conference USA. I think they handle their business tonight in Pirate country.
Syracuse Orangemen @ Pitt Panthers -5 (Total: 138)
Syracuse enters the game a perfect 18-0 and ranked third in the country. They have beaten everyone they’ve faced on a gauntlet of a schedule that includes wins over: Cincinnati, Notre Dame, Michigan, Michigan State, NC State, and St. John’s.
So why then are the five-point underdogs tonight?
Simple. Pitt doesn’t lose at home. As in, they do NOT lose at home. They are 50-1 in the Peterson Center dating back to a loss against Georgetown four seasons ago. During that stretch they have beated eight consecutive opponent ranked in the Top 5 in the nation. They have won their home games by an average of just under 20 ppg.
They have been simply dominant in their home gym. Like I said, Pitt doesn’t lose at home.
They won’t tonight either. Syracuse is the sexy pick, undefeated, glamorous, big name program. Don’t be seduced. Pitt will fight tough tonight and give the ‘Cuse a defensive intensity they have absolutely NOT faced this season. They have some decent wins, but each of them are against teams that are a little more finesse than muscle. That isn’t the case with Ashton Gibbs, Brad Wannamaker and Gary McGhee.