Does anyone really want to be the number one ranked team in the country? It certainly doesn’t seem like it, as for the first time in over seven years the top four teams all lost in the same calendar week.
The beat rolled on yesterday when the presumptive new number one Ohio State Buckeyes ran into a Purdue buzzsaw in Mackey Arena. Thanks in large part to E’Twaun Moore’s offensive explosion, the Boilermakers moved to just one game back in Big Ten play – and into an outside shot at a #1 seed in the tourney if they can win out.
There will be much consternation over who is the new #1 team when today’s poll is released (likely Duke), but the truth is, it matters very little. The more important question is “who are the top four teams?” We are entering the home stretch of the season, and there is still some considerable jostling left to take place for the coveted top seeds in the tourney. With five clear-cut favorites, as well as some outside chances for San Diego State, Purdue and Villanova or Georgetown, it is going to be a fun sprint to Selection Sunday.
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Today’s Free College Basketball Picks:
Syracuse Orangemen @ Villanova Wildcats -3.5
Villanova is a shrunken favorite due to the absence of Corey Stokes, their second-leading scorer, for the fourth straight game. However, don’t let that sway you into thinking his absence is a deal-breaker. Yes, the Wildcats are a much, much better team with Stokes in the line-up, but tonight’s game is less about Villanova being at full-strength that it is about Syracuse being absolutely reeling.
Take away the 14-0 start, and the Orange have performed like a bubble team most of 2011. They have floundered in conference of late, and have fallen to just 9-6 in the Big East. Even their wins are unimpressive most nights; Saturday’s overtime game at home against Rutgers being the most recent example. The Orange seem to have a difficult time focusing on the road and against lesser opponents, regardless of the locale. Those two problems together make life pretty difficult in the nation’s deepest and most grinding conference.
Villanova has a close call of their own, surging back to beat DePaul in a game they really should have lost in regulation. It is not a great sign heading into tonight’s contest, but I attribute that one more to a bit of looking ahead as opposed to being emblematic of a larger problem. The loss of Stokes hurts, as they are missing their primary weapon to extend and stretch defenses, however the absence hasn’t seemed to slow down Corey Fischer any (they guy you’d most expect to be affected) as he has flourished and kept the Wildcats on pace.
Villanova, a shooter-centric program traditionally, has generally fared well against the Orange, which makes sense. They have taken four of the last five in the series, and I think they make it 5 of 6 tonight. Gimme the Wildcats laying the three and a half.
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Oklahoma State Cowboys @ Kansas Jayhawks -17
Kansas bounced back from their emotional road loss to Kansas State in convincing fashion, absolutely hammering the overwhelmed Colorado Buffaloes, 89-63 Saturday afternoon. The Jayhawks went right back to their winning ways at home, looking as dominant as ever after having their three-season plus home winning streak snapped at 69 games by Texas earlier in the month.
Kansas has dominated this series in Lawrence, winning fifeteen straight heading into tonight’s contest. Let’s be honest, in additional to the KU traditional dominance, this is far from the best Okie State team that has made the trip over to Lawrence lately. At 16-10 the Pokes are likely an NIT team, barring an unforeseen miracle tonight.
Making that miracle even MORE unlikely, Oklahoma State will be playing without leading scorer James Moses tonight, who is out sick for tonight’s contest.
The Jayhawks don’t lost at home, they certainly don’t lose at home to poor teams, and they absolutely don’t lose at home to poor teams when a number one seed is still very much within their grasp. This one could be ugly tonight, gimme the Jawhawks rockin’ and chalkin’ up their 16th straight home win over the Cowboys.
Free Pick: Kansas Jayhawks -17 (-110) @ BetED.com <– $250 1st deposit bonus