Virginia vs. Pitt Pick NCAA Hoops – Feb 2nd

Like the rest of the World, I’m looking forward to tonight’s Super Bowl.  I don’t cover football for thesportsgeek, but as a long-time NFL season ticket holder, Sunday Ticket subscriber and general sports/wagering fanatic, fantasy football nerd, etc. – I get that the world revolves around the NFL.  Today’s is its biggest showcase  Plus, all the prop bets are a blast.  But as a sports fan, I gotta be honest – the game tonight is going to have to be really good to come close to the unbelievable awesomeness of last night’s Duke v. Syracuse game.

From the electricity at the opening tap, to the stretches of brilliance from CJ Fair, the overtime-forcing buzzer beater from Rasheed Sulaimon and the eventual winning defensive stop from Syracuse, this game was played at a crazy high level and was the cleanest, best-played college basketball I’ve seen in several years.

Three big take-aways from yesterday’s game.  First, Syracuse is mature and smart beyond their years.  They may have a freshman point guard, but Ennis understands the game as well as any player in the country.  When Duke got in foul trouble and had to bench Jefferson and Parker, they IMMEDIATELY ran the offense through CJ Fair and let him dominate.  He touched the ball on six straight possessions and scored on nearly all of them, forcing Duke to bring back their players early (both eventually fouled out).  In overtime, when Duke was forced to put Quinn on the much larger and more physical Jerami Grant, the ‘Cuse IMMEDIATELY got him the ball on EVERY possession in OT and he scored at will.  You don’t find many college teams with the high level of maturity and selflessness, and it’s a big reason they will be a favorite to cut down the nets.

Second observation – Syracuse is more than smart and well-coached.  They have BIG TIME talent and athleticism all over the place.  And third, if any voter DROPS Duke on their ballot, they are insane.  Watch that game again and tell me that isn’t one of a small handful of the best teams in the nation.  Simply fantastic basketball from both teams last night.  I can’t wait until the rematch in three weeks at Cameron Indoor.

OK – that’s a long recap, but I couldn’t help it.  If you watched the game, you understand.  It’s about as good as college basketball gets.

We took a rough one yesterday, dropping all three picks.  So let’s get on back today as a nice pre-Super Bowl appetizer.

Today’s Free Pick:

Virginia Cavaliers at Pitt Panthers -4 (Total: 123.5)

Virginia at Pitt is a sneaky good game for second place in the ACC.  Pitt has exceeded all reasonable expectations, while Virginia disappointed early but has very quietly won seven of their last eight games and won them ALL by at least 12 points.  Their lone loss was a four-pointer to Duke and they own road wins over Notre Dame and Florida State.  They have been doing it with a little more offense than Cavalier fans might be accustomed to, but the trademark defense has been there as well.  Five of their last eight opponents have been held to under 53 points.  That’s stifling stuff.

Pitt has been good as well.  Yes, they have lost two of their last four but it’s pretty tough to hold a tight road loss at Syracuse and a loss to Duke against them.  Their only other loss this season was a one-pointer (44-43) to Cincinnati at Madison Square Garden.  So, if you are scoring at home, it’s likely all three of their losses will be to teams ranked in the top 10 to 13 in tomorrow’s poll.

But they aren’t the most gifted offensive team.  That could bode poorly for them today against UVA.  Both teams are physical and force long possessions that culminate in bad shots.  The total for today is low; just 123, but I think they can go even lower.   This feels like a game where the winner could very well score less than 60 points.

I’m leaning UVA with the points, but I’m much more confident in an ugly slug-fest of a game.

Free Pick:  Point TOTAL UNDER 123.5