Dayton vs. UMass NCAA Hoops – Jan 29th

We notched a winner last night with Notre Dame’s thrilling comeback victory over Duke. There’s so much to digest from the game, and I know you probably aren’t looking for technical analysis in the recap – so let’s leave it at two observations about the respective teams. First, Duke missed a TON of free throws down the stretch and missed about 10 point-blank shots in the course of that game. I’ll take the winner, but I am already very skeptical that the rematch in Durham in a few weeks is as close of a game. Secondly, Jerian Grant in the best late-game player in the country. He has been for several years now, actually (queue up the Louisville 4OT game from two seasons ago on YouTube). I’ve remarked privately how much his game reminds me of Dwyane Wade’s – and last night, the way he hit awkward, violent driving baskets and wrong-footed floaters, the way he passed after leaving his feet (that’s a no-no sixth and seventh graders!) BUT it always, always worked out well. He was awesome. I don’t think it is enough to put him ahead in the National POY race, BUT if he can go into Durham, get a win, AND outplay Okafor in the process?? It’s time to at least consider him as a legit candidate.

OK, back to the present. What a bizarre night of college hoops and even more clear evidence that the nation is a very level playing field. Two ranked teams got BLASTED by opponents who are not NCAA Tournament teams; Indiana at Purdue, and Miami by twenty at home against Georgia Tech. Meanwhile, Arizona might be putting themselves in the “better than the massive pack” category. Their 90-56 beatdown of tourney-aspiring Oregon was spectacular.

Some complain about February in sports. I say you’re nuts. College hoops is heating up and there are a bevy of awesome games to keep you cozy after the SuperBowl. So let’s build a little early winning streak and fatten up the bankroll for some Superbowl wagers.

Today’s Free Pick:

Dayton Flyers -1 at UMass Minutemen

Dayton enters tonight 16-3, a season removed from the Elite Eight, 6-1 in league play, shooting nearly 50% from the floor in conference versus a team tonight in UMass that shoots just over 41%… and yet they are only favored by a point??

I know. The road has been daunting for teams in conference games in 2015. But that doesn’t mean we can just ignore how significantly better Dayton is than UMass. UMass enters 10-9 with losses to St. Joe’s , St. Bonaventure, and Florida Gulf Coast. In their defense, their schedule was an ambitious one; losses to Notre Dame, Providence, LSU, BYU and Providence aren’t “bad” – it’s just that there aren’t many good wins to offset the losses. Their best wins are Rhode Island, Florida State and Boston College, none of which are Dancing this year.

Dayton hasn’t played the same gauntlet, which is probably why Vegas and the country haven’t thrown more shine on Archie Miller’s sneaky-good ballclub. They own wins over Mississippi and Georgia Tech (who just crushed Miami and gave Notre Dame a pair of good games). Their three losses are @Davidson (admittedly, a poor showing last week), @UConn and @Arkansas. That’s a pretty tough slate.

Look for ex-Ohio State’er Jordan Sibert to come up big tonight on the road and for Dayton to beat UMass with some comfortable room to spare.

Free Pick: Dayton Flyers -1

Chris Scheeren / Author