College hoops is getting ready to ramp up in to hyper-drive next week with about a dozen non-con tournaments, several of which feature multiple top 25 teams and some potentially enticing matchups. In the meantime, there are some great games today as well. Duke and Georgetown match up in Madison Square Garden, an interesting game as Duke tends to struggle with a Georgetown-type brand of basketball; big, physical and athletic. It will be interesting to see what Grayson Allen we get today – the guy who looked out-classed against Kentucky or the guy who scored more points off the bench (30) than any player in Duke history against VCU. In the undercard, Bo Ryan and Wisconsin will try to avoid a third loss and an absolutely disastrous start to the season by salvaging the weekend against a quality VCU squad.
Oh, and here is where you say “in your face Chris!” for my casually dismissal of the ‘home-court advantage’ of Northern Iowa, to which I respond…. Um….uh…. Yeah. That happened. Northern Iowa beat the #1 ranked team in the country (though, without Paige, no one really thinks they are currently the best team in the country), but even without Paige, I thought UNC would be too much to handle. It goes to show how important having your floor general is on tough road games, no matter how talented the rest of the team may be. Their next five games are against Northwestern, Missouri, Kansas State, Maryland, Davidson and Texas. It’s gonna be real interesting…
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Today’s Free Pick:
Wisconsin Badgers -2 vs. VCU Rams (@ Madison Square Garden)
I just can’t shake the image of Wisconsin getting rolled at home by Western Illinois. It was a bad look to start the season, and one that would be more easily dismissed if they weren’t handled with ease by unranked Georgetown a few nights ago in New York. Now, they get a completely different but equally stern test in ball-hawking VCU. I was impressed with the Rams in their defeat against Duke. They are still the same smothering defense even without Briante Webber, and they are bigger and more athletic than last season as well. I think they can inflict some real harm on Wisconsin’s guards this afternoon.
Wisconsin had so much poise and leadership depart in the offseason. Everyone knows Dekker and Kaminski left for the NBA. But less-heralded is the departure of Gasser, Jackson and Dujan, their primary ball handlers, and in Gasser’s case, the spearhead of their tough defense. Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes have been good, but they aren’t getting a ton of other help. They will need it today against VCU and their HAVOC defense.
This line surprised me. I thought VCU would be two or three point favorites instead of the other way around. It made this an easy pick for me. I don’t think this will be an easy game, but I wouldn’t fall out of my chair if VCU controls both the tempo and a comfortable working margin most of the game. Wisconsin might just get it together today, but so far, this doesn’t even look like an NCAA Tournament team, let alone one than can challenge in the top half of the loaded Big Ten.