For those of you who played along on Wednesday, today should be a pretty fun day. Our Big Twelve conference champ pick, Iowa State, is playing West Virginia in the final today (+650) with a chance to either protect on a hedge play or hang on for a hopeful fat payday. Likewise, we are sitting pretty in the Pac 1 with BOTH of our finalists squaring off at plus-money. Arizona was the much longer odds, so you can hang on for the nearly 4:1 payout or protect on a slim hedge as Oregon was still +150. We whiffed on the Big Ten as Maryland was taken out by the Northwestern Wildcats in the wacky Big Ten Tourney with Michigan, Maryland, Wisconsin and NW still standing.
It was a pretty thrilling night in college hoops with the ACC and Big East Tournaments BOTH delivering a pair of tense and well-played games. The result is today’s Villanova vs. Creighton and Duke vs. Notre Dame finals – both must-see games.
We have an amazing day of hoops on tap, so let’s dive in with a few free picks for Saturday.
Today’s Favorite Plays:
The Michigan resurgence at the end of the season has been nothing short of remarkable. The Wolverines were left for dead six weeks ago, but closed this season on an 8-2 run (including the last two days) with two wins over Purdue, a win over Wisconsin and absolute destructions of Michigan State and Indiana. They’ve looked like a team that can get through the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament and have some great momentum heading into The Dance.
But somehow, we have ALL overlooked/forgotten/ignored Minnesota. The Gophers have closed on a 9-1 run with a win over Michigan and comfortable road wins at Iowa and Illinois. Minnesota had the ugly five game slide, which validated all the people (like me) who were skeptical of the Gophers, but the last month-plus should put any questions to bed. This is a good basketball team and Coach Pitino (Junior) has done a Coach of the Year-worthy job.
This should be a good game today, but sooner or later, some of the fatigue and drama HAS to catch up with Michigan, right?? Planes skidding off runways, three games in three days, etc, and overtime thriller against top-seeded Purdue. That’s a LOT to deal with.
I’ll take fatigue finally creeping in and the Gophers pulling out a late win over Michigan today on CBS.
Today’s Pick: Minnesota Golden Gophers +3.5
No one in the AAC has been better against the spread this season than the SMU Mustangs at a dazzling 20-7-1 ATS. UCF hasn’t been bad at 14-12, but it is no contest in terms of delivering at the Vegas window. They are 15-3 with a +16.2 ppg differential in conference play as well. That’s domination, Holmes!
UCF looked AWESOME yesterday putting the official toe-tag on Memphis’s period of national relevance with a thirty-point beat down like the Tigers were Tulane. Alas, that’s another column for another day (sorry Tubby). But as good as the Knights looked (and they also looked great last week getting a home win over Cincinnati), they are just on a far different talent level than the SMU Mustangs.
No Nic Moore, No Larry Brown? No problem. The beat keeps rolling for the Ponies who look like a team that could legitimately crash the March Madness party over the next few weeks. I like SMU to roll today after a sluggish sleepwalk against ECU yesterday in the quarters. UCF has height in Tacko Fall, but he wants NO PART of Semi Ojeleje tonight. SMU has won their last ten games, covering eight of them, and has bludgeoned the Knights the last three times they have met. I think tonight will be a remix.
Today’s Pick: SMU Mustangs -8.5
** Lines are a little slow to post on Conference Tournament Week, so there are a few games I have an eye on tonight that haven’t officially posted yet. Track on Twitter @TheMarchManiacs for some thoughts and late-breaking picks throughout the day. Let’s have a great Saturday.
* Seeing Coach K choking back tears talking about after the game last night really underscores just how dramatic this year’s season has been; his health, his team’s health, but mostly the true love and concern he has for Grayson Allen. Love them or hate them, it’s hard not to RESPECT that man, Coach K.
* Why does no one ever talk about Mike Bray?? It’s March, and here come the Irish. Bet against them in your bracket at your own peril…
* Kentucky. Fun to hate on, dangerous to bet against. I have a Final Four feeling coming on…
* The Pac-12 might only get three bids (Silly. They deserve five.) but I would take them FIRST out of any conference if I only got points for teams reaching the Final Four. I think they will have AT LEAST one, and not surprised if two (or even three, assuming UCLA’s injuries aren’t serious).