As the sports world catches their breath after one of the two most thrilling championship games in college football history, there’s no time to rest for college hoops fans. Football may be done until Fall (ah, who am I kidding, we still have Spring Ball, recruiting updates, etc) but college hoops has one of its best days of the season tonight.
So – for many of you, you already know this and are appropriately psyched. For others, you roamed to this website, searching for the lingering love of college football, wondering how you are going to spend your days until pigskin resumes. Don’t worry. I got ya covered.
Speaking of covered, my free picks are a nice tidy 19-10-1 ATS this season at The Saturday Edge, and if you are joining the fun on Twitter @TheMarchManiacs, my overall documented season record is a whopping 60-33-1 ATS.
There are three MASSIVE games and a bunch of others with impact. Xavier at Villanova, Baylor at West Virginia and Duke at Florida State all have major conference implications. I’ve caught a little flack (but not much) for my unwillingness to move Baylor higher than 7th in my rankings and have been yapping for a week they are getting popped tonight. Vegas agrees. #1 undefeated Baylor is a SIX AND A HALF POINT underdog tonight in Morgantown. Which means Vegas thinks WVU is better, even on a neutral floor.
Meanwhile Xavier has earned a #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, gone to Elite Eights and Sweet Sixteens, and become a legitimate MAJOR program after decades of mid-major pluckiness, but the one thing they can’t seem to do is win a game in Villanova. They get another chance tonight, but it won’t be easy. And perhaps the most INTERESTING game of the night is the Blue Devils trip to Tallahassee. The Seminoles are perfect in ACC play and up to #9 in the newest rankings. But tonight is their first REAL CHANCE to prove they are indeed legit. A home loss to Duke without Coach K patrolling the sidelines is a huge blow to that perception; it remains “Duke, Carolina and a lot of other really good teams”. A WIN, however, and it is time to consider the Noles legit Final Four contenders (though if you read my preseason column here, ehm… yeah, we already did).
Let’s dive into today’s slate of IMPACT GAMES
Syracuse Orange at Virginia Tech Hokies -3.5
The Orange are a tough team to figure out. They got humiliated over Christmas by 30-plus to a pretty lousy St. John’s team. They got steamrolled in their conference opener at Boston College. They have five double-digit losses this season. But then they win their last two conference games, against Pitt and Miami by a cumulative 26 points.
So what’s the difference? THE DOME.
Quite simply, the last two wins were at home. The humiliating losses were on the road.
Meanwhile, VA Tech is the same story. Huge win at home over Duke, subsequent blowout losses at NC State and Florida State. But they return home tonight where they are 3-1 ATS in their last four games against real opponents and Syracuse is 0-3 ATS with a bullet in their road contests.
The Hokies are still a good basketball team despite how they’ve looked the last week, and the Orange are still a flawed one despite their home excellence in the last seven days.
Look for Blacksburg to be the edge the Hokies need to get back to level in the anything-goes ACC.
My Pick: Virginia Tech Hokies -3.5
I hate to pile on Alabama after last night’s state-devastating unless you live in Auburn National Championship loss, but don’t look to Avery Johnson and the hardwood for any relief tonight Will every “pick play” tonight cause more heartache???). Florida enters with three losses, but I don’t think anyone in the country has three BETTER losses; all close games, all to Top Ten teams and all on the road or neutral courts (Duke, Florida State and Gonzaga). They also own comfortable margin wins over Arkansas, Tennessee, Seton Hall and Miami.
Meanwhile, Alabama may be 2-0 in SEC play, but against teams even approaching Tourney-caliber, they have lost: Oregon w/o Dorsey, Texas, Valpo, Dayton and Clemson. All except the Dayton game were by eight or more points.
Florida is a good team, and I’ll take them despite being on the road tonight. I think the SEC, which is largely mediocre, will begin to separate over the next three weeks with Florida and South Carolina being the only semi-challengers to Kentucky.
My Pick: Florida Gators -5.5
Things have gone from “iffy” to “disastrous” in Norman, and it has happened in a hurry. A 6-2 early record with blowout against a good Wisconsin team and a loss to we-didn’t-know-they-were-bad-yet Northern Iowa has snowballed into a 6-8 record. There will be some pride on the line with a visit from the mighty ‘Hawks, but it really won’t be enough to overcome the massive talent discrepancy.
Kansas is a vastly superior team, and they are no stranger to playing well on the road. Sure, they get clipped a few times every year by other elite Big Twelve teams or the occasional struggle in a little brother rivalry game (Last week against a better than expected K-State team), but all in all, Bill Self’s squad travels just fine. I expect them to play well tonight and to quickly jump on a struggling Oklahoma team and never look back.
My Pick: Kansas Jayhawks -10
Hopefully you are having a good college hoops season, and hopefully we can stack a few more winners on for you tonight! Good luck – play responsibly – and enjoy the games!