The first small wave of pre-conference or “exempt” college basketball tournaments conclude today, but consider this the calm before the storm. Starting Monday, things gets absolutely awesome, with a bevy of top-tier college matchups featuring some of the premier programs in the country.
The tournament I plan on covering the most here on thesportsgeek.com is the Battle 4 Atlantis.Seven of the eight teams appear to be absolute NCAA Tournament locks, and even the 8th, Northern Iowa, has legitimate designs on postseason play and battling for second in the always-tough Missouri Valley. That means that all three days will provide four excellent games, whether in the winner’s bracket or otherwise. I plan on writing up a featured game each day, but promise to include some bonus picks. With Duke, Louisville, Missouri, and Memphis the four first round favorites, as well as VCU, defending NIT champ Stanford and an underrated Minnesota squad lurking, you can bank on ten hours of amazing hoops for three solid days.
I guess my Thanksgiving plans are set…
In the meantime, let’s see if we can fatten up with a Sunday winner in college hoops.
Florida Gulf Coast vs. Duke -21
It is likely the thrill of a lifetime for the kids of Florida Gulf Coast to get to play on the floor at Cameron Indoor Stadium. However, you can rest assured that thrill will be a very short-lived one. FGCU has done a nice job building a respectable program in just their fifth year of Division I play. The fledgling school tucked down along the west coast of Florida in Ft. Myers has recruited well and has a chance to compete in the Atlantic Sun.
However, they have little to no chance to compete tonight. Duke’s size will completely overwhelm the outmatched Eagles. Look for Mason Plumlee to notch a quick double-double, somewhere in the 20/12 range before earning the final ten to twelve minutes relaxing on the bench watching the walk-ons. Ryan Kelly as a 6’10’’ inside/out player is something FGCU just doesn’t see on a regular basis.
People like to bag on Duke for having seniors, the logic being if they had elite talent their folks would be gone off to the NBA like Kentucky and North Carolina, among others. However I’ll take my chances with the trio of Plumlee, Kelly and Seth Curry.
FGCU has never beaten a ranked opponent, and the obviously won’t tonight. They have gotten dropped by an average of more than 26 points a game since moving to D1, and I like the margin to be at least that tonight. Coach K won’t run up the score, and I expect it to to tighten a bit in garbage time, but expect Duke to build a 30+ point lead, and to play their guys midway into the second half of the season, as they still have a lot of sets and situation Coach K will want to see worked on in live game action.
Free Pick: Duke Blue Devils -21