It turned out to be a big night for three teams who entered the season with high hopes, only to fall way off the radar after disastrous starts to their seemingly-promising seasons. Long forgotten from the Top 25 polls early, all of a sudden Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Kansas State are starting to look a lot more like who we thought they were several months ago.
Virginia Tech moved to 5-3 in ACC play with a solid win on the road against NC State, 77-69. Even more impressive was the offensive explosion North Carolina unleashed in Boston College two nights ago. Not only did the win move the Heels to 6-1 in the ACC and in a first-place tie with the vaunted Dukies, but the 106 points, including a season-high 26 by freshman Harrison Barnes, served as an eye-opener that Carolina is a sure-fire NCAA Tournament team.
Perhaps no team has endured more unrest this season than Kansas State. In addition to multiple losses against unranked opponents, sophomore Wally Judge quit the team and senior co-captains Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelley each missed games due to suspension.
Last night, however, it began to look like the myriad of problems are beginning to be resolved in Manhattan as Kansas State dismissed fellow bubble mate Nebraska 69-53.
It appears all three early season disappointments are well on their way tp having a chance to make all those early stumbles melt away with a little March Madness magic.
If only the same could be said for Tom Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans…
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Today’s Free College Basketball Picks:
Michigan Wolverines +16.5 @ Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State has emerged as the clear #1 team in the nation as the teams along side them just three weeks ago; Duke, Kansas, Pitt and Syracuse, have all suffered at least one (and in Syracuse’s case, four) losses.
However, that doesn’t mean it has been all smooth sailing for Thad Motta’s Buckeyes. They’ve had their share of recent close calls, and not always against teams you would expect to hang close. The Buckeyes snuck out a 5-point win at lowly Iowa and escaped Penn State by 3. It took a Jared Sullinger free throw to eek out a one point win over Northwestern and in the Buckeye’s first meeting with Michigan they won an unimpressive 68-64 contest.
I have little doubt that Ohio State will stay unbeaten tonight on their home floor, however, 16.5 seems to be a pretty ambitious line if you like the Buckeyes. I like Michigan, who has already played tough games against Kansas, Syracuse and these same Buckeyes, to keep things close enough to be interesting – and cover the huge spread.
PICK: Michigan Wolverines +16.5 (-110) @ Bookmaker.com <- crazy super bowl promotions running now
Washington State Cougars -2.5 @ Oregon Ducks
What the Ducks lack in talent they make up for in eye-numbingly ugly court design. The game itself won’t be a bad watch, but having to squint at that floor in high-def for two hours might be a bit much to endure.
In all seriousness, Washington State is playing for their NCAA Tournament life nearly every time they take the floor for the remainder of the season. Pac-10 Player of the Year favorite Klay Thompson and the Cougars captured an enormous win last weekend, upending Pac-10 leader and in-state rival Washington. The Cougars look to keep their winning ways going in a road game they should win at Oregon.
Oregon was a budding powerhouse five years ago, but seems to have hit rock bottom the last few years. If it weren’t for instate rival Oregon State’s misery, the Ducks would be the cellar-dwellers in the less-than-stellar Pac 10.
Washington State can smell the at-large bid possibilities. I think Ken Bone brings in a focused Cougar squad to handle their business in Eugene. Look for Klay Thompson to have a big game against the beleaguered Duck D and cover the three and a half spread with ease.
PICK: Washington State Cougars -2.5 (-110) @ Bodog.com <- get your $1000 super bowl free money bonus now!