It didn’t take us long to pick up our first college basketball winner of the year as we picked up our first win on our first bet of the year on Wednesday night. We backed none other than the defending National Champions, the Virginia Cavaliers, as they played a true conference road game against Syracuse to open up the season. It did feel like it was a really tough way to start out the season for the Cavs, as playing at the Carrier Dome against a conference opponent is nearly unheard of to open up the regular season.
And I really don’t like making a habit of laying wood on the road in conference games, but this number was laughably undervalued, so I took a shot on Tony Bennet’s team, laying -3.5-points. The game itself went very much as planned as the Cavaliers completely shutdown the Orange, holding Jim Boeheim’s team to just thirty-four points on their home floor, blowing them out 48-34, and easily covering the spread.
While Virginia did get hit particularly hard by the NBA draft, losing three guys to the association, Tony Bennet has built this program on defense, and he refuses to recruit anyone that doesn’t fit that mold. And we all know that great defense never takes a night off. I don’t see this Virginia team as being a Final Four threat like they have been the last couple of years, but they are going to be strong and should hang around the top twenty-five most of the season.
For Syracuse, things are going to be challenging this year for the Orange. We all expect that by the end of the year, Boeheim will have these guys playing well, and somehow find a way to sneak into the tournament, like he always does, but this year he has a complete top to bottom rebuild on his hands.
Syracuse lost essentially their entire rotation from last year’s bubble team, and while they do have a couple of promising freshmen, including New York high school legend, Joseph Girard III, it is going to take a while for this team to gel and gain some experience.
I mentioned in my pick yesterday that these two teams play again in January and that I would expect that one to be much more competitive than this one. This Syracuse team has talent, but they are young and inexperienced. For today’s pick, we will head to the Veteran’s Classic opening round, where the Auburn Tigers play the Davidson Wildcats.
Tonight, the annual Veteran’s Classic kicks off from US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. The field of four teams includes the Auburn Tigers, Navy Midshipmen, East Carolina Pirates, and the Davidson Wildcats. This is the sixth year of the event, and they do a great job attracting top teams, and we should be in for some great action tonight. For our daily pick, we will breakdown the opening round game between Davidson and Auburn.
The Auburn Tigers are -2.5-point favorites. The game total over-under is set at 145.5-points. Tipoff is scheduled for 3:00 PM PST from Alumni Hall in Annapolis.
The Auburn Tigers used a mix of opportunistic defense and efficient offense last year to make an improbable run all of the way to the Final Four, before eventually losing to the national champion, Virginia Cavaliers. Bruce Pearl had by far the best team he has had in his time at Auburn, and they came oh so close to winning it all. This year, the Tigers return as a top twenty-five ranked team again, coming in at #24 to start out the season, but there are a lot of question marks.
The Tigers lost nearly all of their best players from last year’s team, including star players Jared Harper, Chuma Okeke, and Bryce Brown. That being said, they are going to start four seniors, but none of which were significant contributors last season. The SEC was really good last year and should be strong again this year, and Auburn should be right in that mix by the end of the season, but they have a lot they are going to need to improve on.
We saw a preview of what this team will look like this year in their opener earlier this week, and they did not look great. The Tigers struggled to put away a weak Georgia Southern team, winning but not covering at home. Turnovers were the big issue as they turned over the ball twenty-one times. Auburn will have to play much better tonight if they want to knock off Davidson on a neutral floor.
Davidson is in a much different position than Auburn this year, in that they have basically their entire team returning this season, including all five starters, and their best sixth man off the bench. The Wildcats had a successful season last year and just missed out on making the NCAA tournament, winning twenty-four games. While the Wildcats are not currently in the top twenty-five, they are receiving votes, and if they knock off Auburn tonight, they will for sure find themselves in the rankings next week.
The star player for Davidson is Jon Axel Gudmundsson. Gudmundsson won the A-10 player of the year last year and averaged an impressive 17 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists a game. He returns for his senior year this season and is the odds-on favorite to repeat as player of the year in the league again this season. He is joined in the backcourt by Kellan Grady, who himself averaged 17 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 2 assists per game. Combined, they make up the best guard combo in the A-10, and one of the most under-rated in the nation.
Right now, Auburn is trading on their name and Bruce Pearl’s reputation. This team has talent, but with all of their best impact players gone from last year’s team, they are going to need guys to step up, and quickly, if they don’t want to start the season out slow. We didn’t see that in their opener against Georgia Southern, and I don’t think we are going to see it tonight.
Davidson is one of those sneaky good mid-major teams that most people don’t hear anything about until they knock somebody off in the tournament as a double-digit seed. But here at the Sports Geek, these teams are on our radar from the start of the season, and we are here to take advantage of it. I am not 100% sold that Davidson wins this game outright, but given the opportunity to back them with points, it is a great value spot.
And that is just what I am going to do tonight. I’ll take the Davidson Wildcats and expect a back and forth game that comes down to the final few possessions. Give me the Davidson Wildcats +2.5-points tonight in the opening round of the Veteran’s Classic!