Leaving our game out of it, some quick thoughts on the event.
Minnesota at Florida State – The Gophers are 6-0 with a couple of OK wins (beat St. John’s by 6 and Arkansas by 14) but they haven’t played away from the Barn yet. FSU has a loss to Temple, which doesn’t look so bad given the Owls beating West Virginia yesterday. They’ve also beaten Illinois. This will be a game featuring some decent athleticism on both sides. Jonathan Isaac and Dwayne Bacon are the names to watch for FSU while Minny freshman Amir Coffey is averaging almost 16 ppg in the early going. Have to go with the Noles and home court.
PICK – FSU
Wake Forest at Northwestern – The Cats should be unbeaten. They had Butler on the ropes and had Notre Dame flat out beat and couldn’t close the deal against either one. They did blow out Texas but that’s increasingly looking like a “not much” kind of win. Wake is 5-1 with a 21 point loss to Nova as the standout game. Danny Manning still has a long way to go with that group. I’m disappointed NU couldn’t pull off either of those higher profile games, but they’ll get this one.
PICK – NORTHWESTERN
Pitt at Maryland – New era for Pitt with Kevin Stallings at the helm. I’m not knocked out by their results in NYC last week…lost to an SMU team which appears to be down a bit and barely got by a Marquette group which looked *really* bad when I saw them against Michigan. No idea what the Terps are yet, which is not surprising. They escaped a blah Georgetown team and just got by Richmond in OT the other day. The good news is that Melo Trimble is shooting the ball well again and he’s carried his team, as I think he may have to do often this season. Terps at home and Pitt not having shown much thus far add up to a Maryland win.
PICK – MARYLAND
Georgia Tech at Penn State – The Yellow Jackets are in flux, moving into the Josh Pastner era in Atlanta. They’re 3-1 (playing Tulane as I type this) with a 6 point homecourt loss to Ohio as the standout bad moment (no impressive wins to date). PSU is really young and it’s shown up in an opening loss to Albany (not as bad as you might think) and a blowout defeat to Cincy. However, they pushed Duke on a neutral court before losing by 10 and just beat George Washington. This is a good matchup for them. I think at home, they’ll get it done.
PICK – PSU
Syracuse at Wisconsin – A couple of teams probably wondering where they’re at at the moment. Syracuse got flat out handled by South Carolina today in Brooklyn in the first game the Cuse played an opponent with a pulse. Wiscy entered the year as Big Ten favorites and probably still are, but a road loss at Creighton and Maui blowout to UNC have pointed out some flaws…though of course neither of those losses are disasters by any stretch. Both teams are working with some good experience and it’ll be interesting to see Wisconsin operated against the Cuse matchup…the Badgers have been uncharacteristically sloppy so far this season with the ball and if they’re not playing with precision in this game, it could get ugly. Still, in Madison, you have to pick UW.
PICK – Wisconsin
Iowa at Notre Dame – I’ve seen Notre Dame twice now and though they’re unbeaten, I don’t love their team much. It’s the usual Mike Brey routine…a lot of don’t care defense and a whole bunch of shot jacking, but they’ve got shooters and the new starting point guard Farrell has been exactly what they needed to replace Demetrius Jackson in the starting lineup. Iowa has been…unimpressive. They got beat by Memphis today. They’re 3-3. A Virginia team coming off the loss of one of their expected impact players beat them by 33 the other night. Peter Jok is scoring 22 ppg, so he’s doing exactly what I thought he would (I think he ends up Big Ten scoring champ) but he’s getting precious little help at the moment. Have to go with the Irish here.
PICK – Notre Dame
NC State at Illinois – The Pack are 5-1 but the only legit team they played (Creighton) handled them by 18. You just never know what you’re going to get from a Gottfried group…they’ve got a lot of young talent, particularly in the backcourt, but there’s not enough evidence yet to suggest that it’s predictable as to how they’ll play in their first road environment. On the other hand, Illinois isn’t exactly playing like a team desperate to secure their coach’s long term future in C/U. They won their first four against tomato cans, and now have lost three straight against Winthrop (at home) and then a 32 point blowout to WVa and an 11 pointer to FSU in Brooklyn. Malcolm Hill has been phenomenal and the team is actually shooting pretty well, but they’re having TO problems and the defense hasn’t exactly been strong. This is a tough one…on paper, I’d say NC State looks to be the better team but I don’t have enough faith in what they are yet to pick them on the road. Illinois in a squeaker.
PICK – Illinois
MSU at Duke
PICK – Duke
Purdue at Louisville – One of the marquee games to be sure. I didn’t love what I saw of Louisville in Nassau. I thought they were outplayed by ODU and then Baylor pulled off that massive comeback. They’re not a good shooting team and I didn’t see the kind of toughness you expect out of a Pitino group. That said, obviously there’s a ton of size and athleticism and if Mitchell is on his game from the arc, they can play with most anyone. Purdue has only one loss, at home to Nova in a tight game. Of course they have that rare roster which can actually match up with the Ville’s size. I still deeply question the Boiler guards and I guarantee you Louisville is going to press the ever lovin’ hell out of Purdue in this one. At home, have to pick Louisville…on a neutral court, I might go the other way right now.
PICK – Louisville
VaTech at Michigan – Buzz Williams seems to have finally gotten some things figured out in Blacksburg in year 3 since leaving Marquette. They’re 4-1 with only a 3 point loss to Texas A&M marring their record, and they’ve beaten New Mexico…they’ll play Nebraska tomorrow, which will also tell us more about where they’re at, but I’m sensing they’re improved a bit. I don’t know about Michigan. Some of their slappies started looking into Final Four tickets after they handled Marquette and SMU and yes, those were nice wins, but I’m not sure either team is exactly what their name suggests they are right now. Then South Carolina comprehensively slapped them around in a road game for UM. They beat Mount St.Mary tonight by 17, a team Minnesota took out by 24 (doesn’t mean much, but gives you a sense of the opposition at least a little bit…). I think they’re definitely improved defensively, but part of that is simply due to the fact that Duncan Robinson, who might be the worst Big Ten individual defender I’ve ever seen get consistent minutes, has had his role reduced. Interestingly, I think the question right now about them has to be where they get their offense from, particularly if the 3 isn’t falling. They’ll win this one at home, though.
PICK – Michigan
Rutgers at Miami (FL) – Rutgers is 6-0! The Steve Pikiell era is off to a flying start, right? Of course, the only win over a Power 5 + 3 team came against DePaul, who barely has a pulse these days. Still, it’s progress. Deshawn Freeman is giving them some good interior play. The only negative is Corey Sanders isn’t playing at nearly the level anyone expected from him thus far. Miami is 5-1 with a win over Stanford and a blowout over North Florida (don’t laugh…that’s the team expected to push Florida Gulf Coast in the Atlantic Sun), but they got ripped by Iowa State yesterday. They’ll face Florida tomorrow before this game happens, but no matter what, they’re a decisive favorite over RU. Despite some struggles against ISU, Miami looks to be a pretty good defensive team and I expect a Rutgers group which is limited on offense may have a tough time putting points on the board.
PICK – MIAMI
UNC at IU – I think Carolina is the best team in the nation right now. They were uber impressive in Maui. The best news for them is that Ol’Roy has a lot of veterans who should be able to handle a tough atmosphere in Bloomington. As for IU, they had people crowning them as…something…after they beat Kansas but the loss to Ft.Wayne took a lot of shine off the Hoosier machine. I personally think they’re not quite as good as they looked against KU and not nearly as bad as they were in Ft. Wayne. They’re a good team capable of winning the Big Ten again but I don’t think they’re in Carolina’s league, at least not right now. If IU is really hitting from deep, they have a shot but I’m going with the road team in this one.
PICK – UNC
OSU at Virginia – The Cavs lost Austin Nichols, who was supposed to be a big part of their thing this year, but rebounded nicely to rip up Iowa and beat Providence to win the Emerald Coast Classic today. They’re unbeaten as are the Bucks, whose best win is also over Providence. Both teams can check but UVA does it a bit better and they’re at home, so…
PICK – UVA
Nebraska at Clemson – Clemson is 3-2 but the losses aren’t embarrassing. They lost to Xavier and Oklahoma by 6 each. This is a veteran group with a true go-to guy in Jarron Blossomgame and the’re at home. That’ll be enough against a Nebraska team which has a good win over Dayton but I don’t think has enough to win a road game like this right now, though Tai Webster is doing what you hope to see from seniors.
PICK – CLEMSON
So that puts it at 8-6 ACC. I think they’ve got a nice draw in terms of the home/road element…anyone else except maybe Duke going into Bloomington I’d be picking to lose, for example.