After a month-long break, we’re back to basketball. The ACC/Big Ten challenge is one of my favorite events of the year and this year is no different. With Michigan at Louisville and Duke at Michigan State to headline Tuesday, we have a great night of action. Let’s take a look and make some picks.
I’ve made a killing off fading Syracuse in recent years. While they still tend to get love from both the national media and the selection committee, this is a middling ACC program. A far cry from the historic powerhouse the ACC thought they were getting when they joined the conference in 2014. On the other side of the court, this is Iowa SZN. Fran McCaffery has a history of coming up with big wins in November and December only to fizzle out (read: have his teams quit on him) by February. With those powers combined, plus the points, I like Iowa to keep this close if not win it outright.
Pick: Iowa +4.5
No offense to Pat Spencer, but when you’re a Big Ten team and your team’s leader in usage is a lacrosse player, you might not be that good. Gone are the days of Northwestern making noise in an NCAA tournament and coming into the following season as a ranked team. While Boston College isn’t tremendous themselves, they do have a couple really good players in Derryck Thornton and Nik Popovic and should be able to get the W.
Pick: Boston College -3.5
In what looked like just a nice little match-up a week ago, has turned into a blockbuster. Thanks to their stellar performance in the Bahamas, Michigan has gone from unranked to #4 in the latest AP poll. And not to be outdone, the Cardinals have risen to #1 thanks to Duke’s loss to Stephen F. Austin. Honestly, I’ve been a bit shocked over the fawning over the Wolverines. Sure, they had two really good wins at Atlantis, but there was a reason they weren’t ranked to start the year. That wasn’t a fluke. Also, I’m not sold on North Carolina as a top 15 team in the country. I worry about them after Cole Anthony. And Gonzaga up until their OT win over Oregon hadn’t beaten a team ranked higher than 130 in Ken Pom. However, I’ll take it, as that gives us some value on Louisville. The difference between the KP line of -8 and the Vegas line of -5.5 is massive and emblematic of the public love for Michigan. Win this one though, and I’ll be impressed.
Pick: Louisville -5.5
One thing I like to look at when handicapping over/unders is to look to see if teams have a disparity in their offensive and defensive tempo. Both of these teams have overall tempos inside the top 100 fastest in the country suggesting both like to get up and down the court. However if you look at just their defensive tempo, you’ll see Indiana checking in at 177th and Florida State all the way up at 334th (slower than Virginia if you can believe it). In their games against top 75 Ken Pom competition Florida State has contributed to totals of 124, 114, 117, and 123 (in OT). They’ll be able to slow down the Hoosiers and keep the game under.
Pick: Under 139
There’s a very good chance there is some ACC elitism showing here, but I’m shocked that Rutgers is more highly rated than Pitt according to Ken Pom. They do however have some solid players in Geo Baker and Ron Harper Jr. They also beat Miami last season on the road in this competition. I also find it interesting that the line has moved from Pitt -4 to -3 despite 65% of the bets coming in on the Panthers. Call me crazy, but I like the Scarlet Knights.
Pick: Rutgers +3
I’ve seen this movie before. Michigan State comes in with high expectations, they lose a couple games, and everyone forgets this team was a runaway for preseason number 1. This is what Tom Izzo lives for. Meanwhile, in Durham, despite only having one loss on the season, something tells me Coach K might be feeling his back tighten up just a bit. Despite the losses, nothing has changed for me regarding Michigan State. They’re still the type of experienced team that can give Duke’s Five-Stars fits. Add to that the line has continued to move toward Michigan State despite 75% of bets and 88% of money on Duke.
Pick: Michigan State -6.5
Season Total: ATS (2-4), O/U (0-2), Total (2-6)