College basketball fans might need to catch their breath after one of the most thrilling and tumultuous regular season weeks ever. Seven Top Ten teams lost last week, including six on Saturday and Sunday alone.
Perhaps no upset was more eye-popping than the 93-78 beatdown St. John’s unleashed on the Duke Blue Devils yesterday in the Garden. Many of Duke’s flaws were exposed on national TV, including their foremost trouble spot, an incredible over-reliance on jump shot. Before a few buckets late in garbage time the Blue Devils were 1 of 19 from 3-point range. It would be difficult to beat your Mom in a game of horse shooting like that, let alone a quality Big East opponent on the road.
Elsewhere Ohio State needed a free throw with 5.2 seconds to beat Northwestern, Pitt had to survive a wide three-point attempt at the buzzer to hold off Rutgers, UConn, Syracuse and Villanova all lost at home, and even solid mid-major conference leaders or tourney staples dropped games to unranked opponents over the weekend, including: Missouri State, Memphis, Butler, BYU and St. Mary’s.
Only Kansas and Texas were immune to bizzaro-weekend. The pair will likely be #3 and #4 respectively when today’s new polls come out. It will certainly be interesting new rankings; with so many teams losing many of the losers might not actually fall too far in the polls. After all, who’s left to pass them??
We can only hope Monday can continue the weekend’s amazing momentum of thrilling, competitive basketball.
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Today’s Free College Basketball Picks
Louisville Cardinals +5 @ Georgetown Hoyas
Both Louisville and Georgetown earned huge road wins Saturday, tackling a pair of Top Ten teams in UConn and Villanova respectively. For Louisville it was a measure of validation for their early season success which many attributed largely to a softer schedule. For Georgetown it was a definitive statement that their early season struggles are in the rear-view mirror and that they are indeed the Big East championship contender that many thought they were entering the season.
Louisville has some slight statistical advantages over the Hoyas; they hold opponents to about 2% worse shooting from the field, they are slightly less turnover prone, average nearly four more steals per game, and their average win margin is 13.9 as opposed to Georgetown’s 9.1. I generally discard win margin for college teams, as it can be misleading due to the cupcakes most teams load up on pre-conference, but in this instance their schedules and schedule strength are so similar it is worth noting.
Both teams have a wing player who can strap the team on their back and carry the offensive load for extended stretches. For Louisville, Preston Knowles has stepped into that void and is a huge reason why the Cards currently stand alone in second place in the sixteen team Big East that could send a record ten, or even eleven, teams to the Dance.
For Georgetown that player is Austin Freeman. Freeman has averaged 24.3 ppg over his last four games, not coincidentally those are the games when the Hoyas began winning. Louisville held high scoring Kemba Walker in check Saturday; sure he scored twenty points, but his 6 of 23 shooting harmed UConn much more than his 20 points helped. Look for Louisville to utilize a similar defensive tactic to make things difficult for Freeman.
I’m not sure Louisville gets the win on the road tonight, but Louisville is nothing if not exciting. Three of their last five games have been decided by one point (all wins), and their lone loss came by just five. I like Louisville to play another Big East classic slugfest and cover with the five point advantage.
PICK: Louisville +5 (-110) @ SportsInteraction.com <– $200 sign up bonus
Texas Longhorns -1.5 @ Texas A&M Aggies
The Texas Longhorns might be playing the best basketball of any team in the country right now, and will likely vault all the way up to #4 when today’s polls are released. They passed another stern test with flying colors Saturday night, beating the breakneck-tempo Missouri Tigers 71-58.
More impressive than merely the victory was the fact that Texas held Missouri to 58 points, easily their lowest offensive output on the season. And it isn’t just Missouri the Longhorns have put the clamps on. Last Saturday Texas ended Kansas’s four-year home winning streak, holding the Jayhawks to 63 points in the process.
In fact, other than the early season bad loss to USC, the Longhorns with a few bounces going their way could easily be 20-1 (losses to Pitt by 2 and UConn by 1).
Texas A&M is at home, and enters the game with nearly the same record as Texas. However the Aggies might have been exposed as a team with an inflated record due to competition faced with their 57-48 loss Saturday at Nebraska.
I love Texas in this ballgame. These two played two weeks ago in Austin and the Longhorns beat them by 21. A&M has a great home crowd, but I’m just not convinced they make 22 points difference.
Gimme the Longhorns on the road, covering the point and half and continuing their furious charge to a #1 seed in the Tournament.
PICK: Texas Longhorns -1 (-102) @ 5Dimes.com <- $520 free on sign up