There are pretty good games around the clock today in college hoops, including the much-anticipated return of Coach Boeheim to the Syracuse bench tonight in the Carrier Dome against North Carolina. I know today will be dominated by NFL Playoffs, but before the pigskin takes over, there are about six or seven really good college basketball games going off. So let’s take a quick look at my two favorite plays on the board this Saturday and see if we can shake off the last few days’ narrow defeats.
Oh, by the way, not writing about the game today, but gotta like North Carolina’s chances tonight against the Cuse. Boeheim’s return is great for emotion and excitement, but it doesn’t help box out Brice Johnson or help run with Marcus Paige and the most explosive, athletic, scary team in the country.
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Today’s Free Picks:
Kansas Jayhawks -7 Texas Tech Red Raiders
There were two games today that fit into the exact same category, this one and the aforementioned Syracuse game. The category is, nice emotional story for the home team; big, bad dominant elite team coming to town looking to dodge David’s slingshot.
Granted, Syracuse’s pedigree and recent history make them less dramatic of an underdog, but the analogy is still apropos. In Texas Tech’s case, it is perfect. The Red Raiders haven’t made the tournament since 2007, and their 11-2 start has folks in Lubbock dreaming big. BUT, the Big Twelve gauntlet is looming, and it starts in earnest today with a visit from the number one team in the land. Texas Tech has overachieved, but their best wins are Little Rock, Hawaii, Minnesota and a home win over Texas last week. They followed it up with a competitive loss at Iowa State, which is largely the basis for this line, “see they can compete with the big boys.”
But Kansas is a different animal. Texas Tech has been one of the best ATS wagers in the country this season at 8-2 ATS, but Kansas is right behind them at 9-3 ATS, something exceptionally rare for a team that is always favored. They are winning games they are supposed to win, and doing so in the fashion expected. Since their season opening loss to Michigan State, they have reeled off 13 straight wins including the amazing triple-overtime Oklahoma classic and wins over Vanderbilt, Oregon State, San Diego State and Baylor. They’ve won three of them by double digits and by an average margin of close to 17 per game.
Kansas is deep, athletic and just way too talented for Texas Tech. Their front court of Perry Ellis and Wayne Seldon is one of the best in the country. Frank Mason is running the show with aplomb (3.5 ast/to ratio) and Devonte’ Graham is as well (3.7 ast/to). They are even starting to see shooting star Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk start to find the range, which is trouble for opponents. And we haven’t even mentioned Chiek Diallo, who is beginning to work into the rotation after finally being cleared by the NCAA. When your, arguably, most talented player, is your seventh leading scorer and it isn’t because he isn’t playing well (see: Skal Labassiere), life is good.
Texas Tech has been good this year. And a blowout loss today doesn’t take away from that start. I just don’t think they are going to get the radical season-defining win the home folks are desperate for either.
Look for Kansas to assert its dominance today and control the game, especially in the second half.