Thursday, February 28, 2013

NCAA Basketball: Preview of February 28th Action

Alot of teams took care of themselves last night - removing themselves from the NCAA Tournament convo that is.  And that will continue here over the last 1-2 weeks to close the season.  But let's take a quick look at tonights key action:

UNC @ Clemson : Tar Heels are sporting a Top 20 RPI so appear solid in the field, but another road win cannot hurt, and would potentially improve their seeding.  First meeting between teams this year, UNC has not won @ Clemson by more than 2pts since 2007 (gone 2-1 during that time period with both wins coming by 2pts) - they are laying 3 here.  Heels come off emotional win over in-state rival NC State, and Clemson has played well at home in conference play only losing by 1 to NC State and 2 to Miami.  Should be a tight game, grabbing the hook to +3.5 and backing the Tigers may be the call.

Ohio State @ Northwestern : the Buckeyes are the exact type of team we could easily wind up facing in our opening game of the tourney if we do earn a bid.  OSU won first meeting between teams just two weeks ago in Columbus by 10, crushing the Cats on the glass 37-16.  OSU has won 7 straight in the series, but NW has covered 4 of 5, 6 of 8 & 7 of L10 meetings.  Buckeyes have not covered in Evanston since 2008.  State comes into this game off b2b2b emotional games vs. other top flight B10 teams, and has Indiana on deck this weekend.  Cats do have some injuries but none are really that new.  Seems like too many points here for a team that is coming off emotional wins, faces IU next up, won first meeting by 10 just two weeks ago at home, and typically doesnt cover vs NW esp on road.

Detroit @ Temple : this is a big game for both teams, kinda sneaking up on us because its an OOC game being played last day of February.  Temple enters this one winning 3 straight since dropping a home game to Duquesne somehow - Owls are 6-2 L8 SU with both losses coming by 1pt.  Detroit took part in Bracket Busters weekend and lost by 15 @ Wichita State.  They along with Valparaiso are dominating the Horizon League this season, and it looks like neither would likely earn an at-large bid - but if Detroit has any chance a win here is 100% needed following loss to WSU.  Its just hard to know which Temple team shows up in this rare OOC game this late in the season - so I would reluctantly back TU here if forced to make a choice.

Utah State @ Louisiana Tech : PSU was the last winless team and they got off the scheid last night beating Michigan at home.  LATech remains one of 4 unbeaten teams in conference play (although Memphis just lost to Xavier Tuesday it was OOC) and is laying a TD here over the preseason favorite Aggies of Utah State.  Injuries have derailed State's season, but they have turned it around some recently going 5-2 in their last 7, with both losses coming by a combined 5pts - no coincidence because they have not suffered any "new" injuries since about mid January.  They could be fixing to make a run at the WAC Conference Tourney, and the auto-bid - and there would be no better place to start than beating the current leader on its homecourt.  Tech won first game by 3 in Utah but were badly outrebounded 48-29.  Tech hasnt played since 2/20, and that was not a D1 game - their last "real" game came on 2/16, so 12 days of rust could be prevalent.  Based on all those things I believe Utah State will keep this game well within the 7pts, potentially picking up the SU win away from home.

Duke @ Virginia : talk about a huge one in the ACC, the Cavaliers badly need this win for their resume, mostly because it will boost an RPI that is currently around the upper 60s massively, potentially within range for typical at-large teams.  UVA passes the eye test for certain, but their early season struggles are crushing their chances as of right now - multiple sub 100 losses in Nov/Dec. This is first meeting between teams this year; Duke has won 8 straight dating back to a loss in Charlottesville on 2/1/07.  The games in Virginia have not been close as the last 3 contests have gone to Duke by margins of 15, 18, 16.  The Blue Devils have not faired well ATS wise on road during conference play, while UVA is exactly the opposite.  No injuries of note, the statistics favor the Cavs big time, especially defensively, and the Cavs need this game more so I am backing UVA to beat Duke tonight SU, really enhancing their resume.

Utah @ California : call me crazy but this seems like a spot where the Bears could slip up.  The statistics are extremely close besides the L5 games splits, Cal won narrowly at Utah earlier this season and has a habit of playing alot of close games.  With this # set in the double digits the Utes look attractive to me - but I still need to do more work on it if that would be a selection released to clients.

Missouri @ South Carolina : Mizzou has almost locked up their berth but not quite yet.  The Tigers won the first meeting between these teams at home, but SCAR made more shots and rebounding was even.  Mizzou is coming off games vs. the two biggest name SEC opponents in Florida and Kentucky, so who knows what will be in the tank, especially in a stadium that will likely be dead quiet with not alot of emotion.  SCAR has not been a good team all year, but some of the stats do favor them here.  I definitely worry about the up and down emotional level Mizzou routinely displays, and could easily see this game come down to the wire, and considering this too is just about a double digit road favorite, seems like the Gamecocks are a decent option tonight.

Oregon State @ Oregon : the Civil War hoops style.  I think Oregon is better positioned than some think, but a loss here certainly wouldnt help things.  The Ducks have been terrible to the # during conference play, and I am not sure that changes here with them laying double digits.  But I am probably laying off this one.

Gonzaga @ BYU : another undefeated conference team, this one is heading on the road to play in one of the tougher environments in college basketball.  With the Zags riding this huge winning streak eventually they have to play a subpar game you would think - and I think tonight is the night.  I am not sure the Cougars win this one SU although its certainly possible as they know they need it for any chance at earning an at-large, but I fully expect them to cover the 6 here in what should be a highly entertaining game late night on ESPN.

Enjoy the games everyone, check back over the final days of the regular season as we continue previewing action, and updating our Bracketology information.

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