VCU vs. UMass Pick NCAA Hoops – Feb 21st

We notched another college hoops win last night to push the record to 17-8 ATS over the past 25 picks.  It was another relatively easy winner, thanks to the continued stellar play at home from the BYU Cougars.  I know nearly every mock bracket has them on the outside looking in, but at 19-10 with a win over Gonzaga and a nice winning streak, they are going to merit some consideration as the big boys continue to batter each other down the stretch.

BYU has ten losses, but losses to Iowa State, Wichita State, @Oregon, UMass, and @Gonzaga are all reasonable.  The losses to Pepperdine and Portland are a little tougher to wipe away.  They have some work to do, but took a bit step last night.

North Carolina had some work to do, but I think we can now safely consider them a tourney lock.  The win over Duke last night now gives the Tarheels wins over Duke, Michigan State, Kentucky and Louisville.  Add that to a top-four ACC finish and they are talking 5 or 6 seed, not bubble.

It’s Friday, so that means a traditionally light slate of college action, but there is an absolute gem on the schedule.  Forget the “non-major” conference label; UMass vs. VCU is bigtime college hoops.  It’s on nationally on ESPN2 and worth a watch to get a glimpse to potential trouble-makers in March.

Today’s Free Picks:

VCU Rams at UMass Minutemen -1

Shaka Smart’s team has been a bit off the radar this season, and as a result, might be a nice Cinderella darling once again after briefly becoming “too good” to be the underdog.  This team is 20-6 and has lost two of their last three, but it is worthwhile to consider to whom and where their six losses have occurred.  They lost a two-point game at St. Louis (who is REALLY good again this year), at St. Joe’s (fringe bubble team), @George Washington (another bubble team who is as good as they’ve been since Yinka Dare), to Georgetown and Florida State.  That’s a reasonable schedule.  Add in wins @Virginia, @Belmont, @Dayton, @LaSalle, and this is a team with a solid tourney resume regardless of tonight’s result.

UMass should be in the same boat, but I’m not sure the perception is as strong.  They began the season on fire 11-0 with wins over Boston College, LSU, Clemson, New Mexico and BYU.  Since then, they are only 9-5 and just 4-4 in their last eight games with losses to George Mason at home and at St. Bonaventure.  Their last outing was an impressive win at George Washington, but I think they are going to have their hands-full against VCU.  Yes, they have the best backcourt in the A-10 so they are equipped to potentially handle VCU’s HAVOC defense, but I think VCU is a little deeper and a little more talented.

I like the Rams to start ramping it up for an interesting March run, and it starts tonight grabbing a big road win at UMass.

Free Pick:  VCU Rams +1

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Chris Scheeren