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7-Unit Play. Take #513 Connecticut (-4)
over Syracuse (3:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 26)
Full disclosure: I’m a lifelong Syracuse fan. That is my alma mater and I’ve followed this team intently since I was six years old. But because of that I can say this with total confidence: Connecticut is going to kick the shit out of Syracuse. This Syracuse team is a fringe NCAA Tournament team, at best. They are too young, too small, and too dependent on the 3-point shot to be reliable. Connecticut, on the other hand, is a dark horse Final Four team. They are absolutely legit. The Huskies just faced a team in Michigan that is a bit overreliant on the 3-pointer and Connecticut beat them handily. Yeah, Michigan is much better than Syracuse right now. The Orange have a big, big problem: they aren’t big enough. The Orange only have three guys on the roster taller than 6-8. One of them doesn’t play. The other two are 6-8 freshman Tyler Lydon and 6-9 center Dajuan Coleman. Lydon – who I am a HUGE fan of – is too skinny to play the center of the zone; any team with any decent post play will floss their teeth with him. Coleman is foul prone and is just not right after blowing out his knee twice (and he only plays about 12 minutes per game). Connecticut’s starting frontline is 6-7, 6-7 and 7-0. They have two 6-10 guys that they bring off the bench. The Huskies are going to completely, utterly, and totally dominate the paint. Syracuse has a really nice backcourt. But Connecticut is better there as well. They have more experience, more talent, and more options. Period. That Charlotte team that Syracuse just beat is awful. I mean, the 49ers are pathetic. And Syracuse didn’t even cover the spread against them. The Orange shot 50 percent from 3-point range and 49 percent from the field and still couldn’t cover the spread against an absolutely pathetic team. Syracuse didn’t cover against Elon in their previous game and they should’ve lost to St. Bonaventure the game before that. Bottom line: the Orange are not nearly as good as people think. Connecticut is. I’m always worried about the back door being open in this game. But the fact is that Syracuse has about a 5% chance of winning this game. Connecticut is on a collision course with Gonzaga, and the Orange are also going to get smoked by A&M in the consolation game (so even if we lose this game, we will buy back with the Aggies tomorrow). This one should be all UConn and I think they win going away.
3-Unit Play. Take #516 Texas (-2.5)
over Washington (7 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 26)
This is actually a revenge game for the Longhorns, who lost 77-71 to Washington in China to tip off the season. Texas shot 27% in that game and there were a ridiculous 62 total fouls called. But I don’t think that Washington is good enough to beat Texas twice this month. This is a much, MUCH more experienced Texas team, with four senior starters. They have to have a lot of pride and I just don’t know that they would lose to a team that starts three freshmen twice in November. Both teams are in equal letdown spots, losing opening games in this tournament to in-state rivals. But Texas has all the motivation in the world to get this win and settle the score against Washington. This group of Longhorns is a huge crop of losers. They just are. But they can’t be THAT bad that they lose twice to a raw Huskies team.
1-Unit Play. Take #519 Boise State (Pk)
over UC-Irvine (4 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 26)
This is a really nice UC-Irvine team. They made the NCAA Tournament last year and put a huge scare into Louisville before falling. The Anteaters are absolutely massive, boasting two seven-footers. And they are off to a solid 4-0 start to the year. They’re good. But Boise State is really good. And even though they are just 2-2 they are clearly the better team in this game and this number doesn’t reflect it. UC-Irvine played eight games against Top 100 teams last year. They won just one, beating UW-Green Bay. Boise State is a small team. But they are really good and this is a matchup of their shooting ability against UC-Irvine’s work in the post. Boise is used to playing against bigger teams; that’s all they do in the Mountain West. And I think that their guards are so much better than Irvine’s that they will win this game.
4-Unit Play. Take #522 Michigan State (-14.5)
over Boston College (6:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 26)
This game should be a bloodbath. Michigan State and Kansas are the two best teams in the country right now. Period. And there’s no reason for the Spartans not to play well in this game. Boston College is awful. They are a really, really bad team right now. I know they are 3-0 with three blowouts. And they are coming off a nice win over Harvard. But the Eagles stink. They start three freshmen and six of their top eight players are freshmen. They are one of the youngest teams in the country and they are in way, way over their heads here. Michigan State has played some bad teams this year (FAU, Eastern Michigan, UA-Pine Bluff). They’ve won those three games by 27, 46 and 24 points. They are going to win this one by at least 20. I will be stunned if it goes any other way.
2-Unit Play. Take #523 Evansville (+2)
over Providence (9 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 26)
The wrong team is favored here. Providence has one of the best players in the country and a future lottery pick in Kris Dunn. He is ridiculously good. But the guys around Dunn are not that great, and Providence is overrated and overvalued right now. They are 4-0, but they were really unimpressive in wins over Illinois and New Jersey Tech. Evansville is one of the most experienced teams in the country. They are a really complete team, with an excellent big man (Egidijus Mockevicius) and an exceptional designated scorer (you have to know Evansville’s offense to know what I’m talking about) in D.J. Balentine. This game is Evansville’s Super Bowl; it means everything to them. I think that Providence is looking ahead to Arizona in the next round. And they are looking past one of the best mid-major teams in the country.
2-Unit Play. Take #527 Georgia Tech (-6)
over Arkansas (2 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 26)
I want to say this first: Brian Gregory is a loser. He is not a good coach at all. But his Tech team is much, much, much better and much more experienced than Arkansas. And they should win this game going away. The Jackets are coming off a home loss to East Tennessee State (a game we cashed in on ETSU because, again, Gregory is a loser). But everyone in the Tech program knows that they need a strong showing in this tournament and they absolutely need to win this game. Arkansas is undergoing a complete and total rebuild. And if there is one thing that the Razorbacks have proven in the Mike Anderson Era it is that they suck on the road. They haven’t been all that great at home this year either, already losing to Akron. Georgia Tech has two or three good ball handlers. They shouldn’t be rattled by Arkansas’s press. This spread opened at -1 and jumped up to -6. That’s a huge red flag. I see Tech taking this one down.
1-Unit Play. Take #533 California (-4)
over San Diego State (11:59 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 26)
I’m just going to stick to my team. I am a huge Cal fan this year. They have the best backcourt in the country and college hoops is all about guard play. San Diego State is a dominating defensive team. They are very big and very physical. But I think that Cal’s guards are so much better than anything that the Aztecs are going to see this year that SDSU’s size and defense will be neutralized. The Aztecs already have losses against Utah and Arkansas-Little Rock, and neither is as good as Cal. If we don’t cover this game it will be because San Diego State pulls the upset. But as I put in a writeup on one of our previous winning wagers on Cal: until I see someone stop them I don’t believe that it will happen.
2-Unit Play. Take #518 Michigan (-13.5)
over Charlotte (9:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 26)
2-Unit Play. Take #535 Middle Tennessee State (-8.5)
over Alaska-Anchorage (9:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 26)
1-Unit Play. Take #502 East Carolina (+4.5)
over UA-LR (2 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 26)
1-Unit Play. Take #505 USC (+2)
over Wichita State (2:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 26)
1-Unit Play. Take #510 Iowa (-2)
over Dayton (9 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 26)