When you bet as much college basketball as I do, you are going to take some bad beats. So, I don’t generally let the variance bother me. But I am feeling especially salty about last night’s bad beat. We backed the Texas Tech Red Raiders, getting +10.5-points against the Duke Blue Devils from Madison Square Garden. I liked the Red Raiders ability to shut teams down with their elite defense, and I expected big things from Jarrett Culver. I didn’t think the Red Raiders would pull off the upset, but I did think the game would be close enough to cover the number.
Texas Tech led the entire first half and went into halftime with a 29-28 lead. Their defense was sweltering, and they had managed to hold this top scoring Duke team to just twenty-eight points, about half of their normal production. The Red Raiders came out hot in the second half as well, and with fourteen minutes to play, they led by eight points, 42-34. I was feeling great about the bet, and it looked like Duke might be on upset alert.
Instead, Duke caught fire and finished on a torrid run that saw them not only close the gap but take the lead. The Red Raiders scored just three points in the game’s final seven minutes. When Duke’s Jack White hit both of his free throws with 30 seconds left in the game, it gave Duke a 69-58 lead, good enough for the half of a point cover. Texas Tech had this number covered for thirty-nine minutes and thirty seconds but couldn’t hold on for the win.
Even in the loss, the Red Raiders showed me that they can play with any team in the country as I suspicioned they could coming into this one. It was super disappointing that they couldn’t hold on for the cover in the game’s final minutes, but this team showed me they are a Sweet 16 level team at minimum. For Duke, the nation’ best team continues to prove it night in and night out and this team is only going to get better as these young guys mature. For today’s pick, I will take a look at the game between the Furman Paladins and the LSU Tigers.
The LSU Tigers play host to the Furman Paladins tonight in what should be a surprisingly competitive non-conference matchup. The Paladins are undefeated on the season and find themselves ranked in the top twenty-five of both major polls. Furman has wins over Loyola-Chicago and Villanova, and if they can manage to knock off LSU in Baton Rouge, they would make a very compelling case as an at-large team, something we rarely, if ever, see out of the SOCON.
For LSU, the Tigers have bounced in and out of the rankings this season and would love to hand Furman its first loss of the season. The Tigers are lacking a big non-conference win to hang their hats on as their biggest win so far has been over a Saint Mary’s team that is down this year. The Tigers will have plenty of opportunities for big wins in SEC play, but they would give their tournament chances a big boost with the win today at home. The Tigers are -9-point home favorites. The game total over-under is set at 148 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:00 PM PST from the Maravich Center in Baton Rouge.
LSU has athleticism that is off the charts. They have tons of talent but are very young and for the most part, untested. Many people thought that coming into the season, Tremont Waters would build on his very successful sophomore season and emerge as one of the best guards in the SEC. But that just really hasn’t happened yet as Waters has shown flashes of brilliance but has struggled to stay consistent. Waters is scoring the ball well, but his assists are down, and his turnovers are up over last year. If this team wants to compete with the best that the SEC has to offer this year, they are going to need a lot more out of Waters.
The Furman Paladins weren’t even expected to win their league this year. The general consensus was that this team would finish in the middle of the pack in the SOCON with UNC Greensboro and Wofford as the favorites. But no team in the SOCON has had anywhere near the level of success that this Furman team is enjoying to start out the season. They beat half of last year’s Final Four with wins over Villanova and Loyola-Chicago. And what makes those wins even more impressive is the fact that they were both true road games. So, this team isn’t going to be remotely intimidated going into hostile territory tonight.
The big reason for the Paladins surprise early season success? The play of junior guard Jordan Lyons. Lyons has more than doubled his scoring production from last season and is scoring over eighteen points a game. Lyons broke the all-time NCAA record for three-pointers made in a game when he drained fifteen threes enroot to scoring fifty-four points against North Greenville. This guy isn’t going to score like that very often, but he showed he was capable of big things. The matchup between Waters and Lyons could very well end up being a key to this game.
I bet when LSU made their schedule, they didn’t have this game circled as a big one. This was supposed to be one of those, we just finished up finals and want a soft home game before league play type of games. If the Tigers go into this one with that type of mindset, they are going to get upset. To me, this number is just too big. And surprisingly it is getting even bigger, as most of the early action has come in on LSU.
So, I will position myself on the other side of the public and expect a close game. This Furman team has proved that they can play on the road, and that physical teams don’t scare them. I think this is a one possession type of game late that could go either way. If Lyons gets hot, or Waters struggles turning the ball over like he has at times this season, Furman could pull the upset. Give me the Furman Paladins and the +9-points tonight from Baton Rouge!