It’s the final Saturday of the regular season for all the major conferences today, and to say that roughly two dozen teams’ futures hang precariously on today and their conference tournament is an understatement. Of the six major conferences, none has less than two teams with very uncertain futures, and each has three or four teams who could easily be one of the two who get in or the two or three who are sent to NIT.
The ACC will take center stage tonight when Duke heads to North Carolina, on national network TV in primetime no less. But it’s teams like Boston College, Clemson, Maryland and Virginia Tech who have much more than pride to play for.
The Big East is the one conference that appears to have it’s postseason teams on relatively solid footing, but perhaps that is only because of the expected record eleven teams punching their Dance card. That’s far from the case in the SEC, Big 12 and Big Ten. Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama have very uncertain futures. Ditto for Baylor, Nebraska, Colorado, Michigan State, Illinois and Michigan.
Oddly, the Pac 10, for as dismal as it has been the past two years, might be the most calmly positioned entering Selection Sunday. Arizona, UCLA and Washington all appear to be locks; though not all necessarily impressive seeds; and only Washington State clings onto any glimmer of hope shy of winning the Pac 10 conference tournament.
Suffice it to say, March Madness starts today. Enjoy the ride, the best month of the sports season starts right now.
Crazy: Sports Betting System gives winning picks… click here to see
Today’s Free College Basketball Picks:
Duke Blue Devils @ North Carolina Tar Heels (pick ‘em)
The best rivalry in college basketball, and arguably the best rivalry in sports, takes center stage tonight at 8pm EST on CBS. CBS execs might have been regretting the decision to carry the game nationally until about four or five weeks ago, when very quietly North Carolina has emerged as a legitimate Final Four contender.
North Carolina has won 16 of 18 since losing on a last-second shot to Texas two months ago. The main reason for the turnaround is hard to pinpoint; mainly because there are so many positive changes that have turned a disappointing season into a potentially special one. The change at point guard is probably the most publicized, but the emergence of both John Henson and Tyler Zeller are legitimate inside scoring presences has finally allowed UNC to take advantage of this great length and skill they have been stockpiling the past two years.
And of course, don’t forget about the much-maligned pre-season All-American, freshman Harrison Barnes. Over the past month, he has been just a notch behind Nolan Smith as the best player in the ACC. And how’s this for a statistic; Barnes has now hit FIVE shots in Carolina’s final possession to either win or tie the game. FIVE. So much for being overwhelmed by the big stage.
Duke, on the other hand, is one of those teams people are so fond of shooting holes in, that sometimes you forget how very skilled this basketball team is. They can spread the floor with four shooters, create mismatches with 6’10’’ Kyle Singler, utilize their speed and athleticism by letting Smith push tempo in transition and don’t forget they are one of the best man-to-man defensive teams in the country.
That said, I LOVE the momentum and confidence of Carolina tonight at home in the Dean Dome. The Heels nearly knocked off Duke in Durham, blowing an 18-point first half lead before succumbing to a six-point loss. Today, they get a chance to let THEIR fans do the screaming, hollering and distracting.
Duke has shown their vulnerability to good conference teams on the road; Florida State, and most recently Virginia Tech. And neither of those teams is even in the same galaxy as UNC in terms of talent.
Gimme the Heels in yet another Tobacco Road classic.
PICK: North Carolina PICK EM’– click here to bet it at BetED.com and get $250 free!
UCLA Bruins -2 @ Washington State Cougars
UCLA’s spot in the Big Dance is fairly secure, however a win tonight would sure make Selection Sunday a lot less stressful. Washington State on the other hand has been written off as dead multiple times this season (myself included), yet somehow, someway, keeps creeping back into the at-large conversation.
A win today for Klay Thompson and crew, coupled with at least one win in the Pac-10 Tourney could get them into the Field of 68 as a white-knuckle #12 seed. However, it won’t be easy; UCLA has reeled off 8 of 10, including a win over also-red hot St. John’s, and a respectable loss at Washington.
Washington State fell to UCLA 80-71 earlier this season, but that was in Pauley Pavilion. Tonight, the Cougars are in Wazzou where they are 6-2 in conference play, and also boasts a non-conference win over Gonzaga. Add in the fact that the Cougars are essentially playing for the tournament lives, and you have to like their chances. Especially getting two points at home.
PICK: Washington State Cougars +2– click here to bet it at BetED.com and get $250 free!