North Carolina vs. Florida State NCAA Hoops Pick – Jan 4th

We made it three straight college hoops winners with an easier winner than I expected last night as Oregon State comfortably handled bitter rival Oregon in Corvallis last night. The star, Gary Payton Jr, was good with 12 points and six assists, but coach’s son Tres Trinkle stole the show with 19 huge points and the defense held the Ducks to just 35.8% shooting. It was a big win and a nice way to start things in the absolutely insane Pac-12. Right now, the two teams that have been nationally ranked (other than Arizona), UCLA and Utah are a combined 0-4 and Oregon State and Washington are 3-0. Only one team of the twelve (Washington State) has an RPI in triple digits, and even the Cougars are competent as they showed beating UCLA last night. The left coast doesn’t get a ton of love nationally, but this conference is going to be a blast this year with literally EVERY game being a legitimate contest.

But speaking of legitimate contests, there is only ONE GAME (intentionally incorrectly capitalized) tonight, and it is the matchup of #2 Oklahoma visiting #1 Kansas. And this isn’t one of those games where the polls are a little janky – both of these teams pass the eye test and LOOK like teams that could win the whole thing. I can’t wait to catch this one tonight at 9pm (Lean Kansas at home, but laying six is a lot against a really good OU team).

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Today’s Free Pick:

North Carolina Tarheels -2.5 at Florida State Seminoles

This line surprises me. Yes, FSU has had a nice start to the season, posting an 11-3 record with a few nice wins; VCU and @ Florida (both close). But this is the same team that opened up conference play with a nine-point loss at Clemson and also has a loss to Hofstra. I think this game is a total mismatch, and would have not flinched if UNC was laying seven or eight, in fact, I would have expected it.

While the nation is watching two of the best teams in Lawrence go head to head for #1 in the country in the polls, most true hoops aficionados would list Carolina on the comfortable short list of Final Four favorites. Yes, the losses at Northern Iowa and Texas are blemishes, but keep in mind Marcus Paige has been in and out of the lineup and nursing back to health before Christmas (yes, he played in those games, but was hampered). He is back and appears to be at full strength. I’ll take Kris Dunn on my National POY ballot and NBA Draft board, but there is NO ONE in the country I’d rather have orchestrate my team than Marcus Paige. I expect him to direct a high-octane offense tonight that flirts with 85-90 points.

There seems to be a narrative that Florida State plays Carolina (and Duke) especially tough. Much of that reputation comes from a few very high profile ACC tournament wins in the past decade. However, UNC has won five straight in this matchup and covered four of them. Look for UNC to roll tonight in Tallahassee. It is always tough to go on the road in conference, but UNC is a double-digit favorite on a neutral court. I don’t think the Seminole gym can make THAT much of a difference.

Free Pick: North Carolina Tarheels -2.5