Yesterday was a fun day of college hoops action with some really good games between marquee brands coming down to the wire. Duke edged Georgetown by two points after missing two late free throws and dodging a last-second game winning attempt by the Hoyas. VCU got a big late bucket only to be beaten on the final possession by a driving, twirling, Bronson Koenig game-winner. The folks at Madison Square Garden certainly got their money’s worth last night.
Meanwhile, a few teams I was big on as value sleepers, Purdue and Miami, each notched quality double-digit wins yesterday over Florida and Butler respectively. Both teams have some real juggernauts in front of them in conference play. Purdue has to deal with Maryland, Michigan State and Indiana (plus Wisconsin, Michigan, an improved Northwestern, etc.) and Miami gets the traditional triumvirate of Duke, North Carolina and Virginia, plus Notre Dame. But both teams have legitimate shots to be real factors in two of the best conferences in America.
Let’s see if we can nab another winner today.
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Today’s Free Pick:
Wake Forest Demon Deacons vs. Indiana Hoosiers -12
My affinity for this year’s Indiana squad is already on the record. They were one of my favorite sleeper teams heading into the season and nothing has changed that opinion. They have one of the best starting fives in the country and finally have the inside presence to shore up the defense and balance the previously guard-centric offense. Yogi Ferrell is a top five point guard and James Blackmon Jr. is an exceptional college scorer. Troy Williams will likely be a first round pick due to elite athleticism, think a Victor Oladipo in training.
In short, this Indiana team, while not exceptionally deep, has the potential to be exceptionally good. They have averaged 92 points in their three opening wins. Granted, the competition hasn’t been elite (Duke is looming in a few weeks, as is Notre Dame a few weeks after that…) but Creighton is a comparable opponent to Wake
Wake Forest has a much lower ceiling. They went just 5-13 in ACC play last year and are picked 11th this season by the coaches – so not much improvement expected. Codi Miller-McIntyre, the team’s leading scorer last season, has yet to play due to a broken foot, leaving them a pretty young and inexperienced team on the floor. They turned the ball over 20 times in a 91-82 home loss to Richmond last week, showing that youth and inexperience in abundance.
Indiana is WAY better than Richmond. They have NBA-level talent at four positions and can score quickly in a Golden State-type method of offense with perimeter snipers. Look for them to simply outscore Wake, even if the Deacons can take better care of the basketball tonight.
Strange things happen out in Maui ever year, but I don’t think this game will be one of them. Look for IU to handle their business in the opening round and stay on track for a potential final gem against Kansas.