College Basketball Picks: Georgetown/Duke Betting Preview
by Robert Ferringo - 01/16/2009
My enemy is my enemy, until they are my friend.
That may sound like some Sun Tzu hashish, but that's actually a Robert Ferringo original there. Generally, I'm talking about the phenomenon in sports handicapping where you may bet against a team and bet against a team and bet against a team, and then all of a sudden you find yourself desperately needing that team that you've dogged to come through to salvage your night, week, or season.
Such is the case this weekend when Georgetown heads to Cameron Indoor to take on Duke. There is no early line on this game yet, but I project that the Hoyas will be around a five- or six-point underdog to the No. 2 Blue Devils. The game tips at 1:30 and is the marquee nonconference event of the weekend amidst a sea of league contests.
I hate Duke. I hate them with every fiber of my being. And though I do respect what they represent, I have nothing but contempt for their program. (Outside of Coach K, of course. How can you not love that guy.) And over the last three year I have been as big of a Duke basher as you could find. In fact, some of my bigger wins have come at their expense. I've hammered them for being soft, unathletic and overrated. And they have done nothing but prove me right while being a sinkhole for square bettors.
Yet, at the outset of the season I was quick to jump on the bandwagon and I believe this is the best team that the Blue Devils have fielded in some time. They are deep, with guys like Greg Paulus and Lance Thomas coming off the bench to give them quality minutes. They are athletic, with guys like Gerald Henderson and Nolan Smith giving them the quickness on the perimeter that they have been missing. And they are tougher around the basket, with Brian Zoubek's emergence giving the Devils an inside force that they also haven't seen in two recruiting classes.
So Duke has been my enemy. But now they are my friend, and this is a team I will hope to capitalize on in some situations as the year progresses.
Georgetown, on the other hand, is now my enemy. I am not sold on this team at all and will continue to fade away when it comes to the young, inexperienced Hoyas.
Georgetown has been as solid as they come over the past three years, earning a Final Four berth, two Sweet 16s, and six wins in three tournament appearances. They have been a monster in the Big East and they have managed some of the biggest nonconference scores in the country during that time.
But despite some impressive wins and some solid numbers, this season's team just doesn't do it for this capper. And a once-reliable team to wager on is now looking like a solid fade. And yes, I'm considering their wins over Connecticut, Syracuse and Memphis. They were completely outclassed in games against Tennessee and Pittsburgh, and their loss on the road to Notre Dame was not as close as the final indicated. Further, I don't think Memphis is very good so that win doesn't impress me and their win against Syracuse was what I like to refer to as a "peak performance". This team is young, with four sophomores, two freshman, and a junior making up seven of their top eight scorers, and I think they will be a sucker bet as the grind of conference play wears them down.
This is the fifth meeting between these two upper-echelon programs in the last six years. Duke has won three of the previous four, but the Hoyas have taken the cash in three of those instances. This fits into one of my favorite, yet basic, handicapping mantras: always take a Big East underdog against an ACC team. Not surprisingly, the Blue Devils are just 2-7 ATS in their last nine against the Beast teams.
The Hoyas head to Cameron off of what will be their best performance of the season. They shot 60 percent from the field, including an absurd 12-for-21 (57.1 percent) from three-point land, against their archrival, Syracuse, on Wednesday in a 14-point rout. I actually think that hot shooting works against them in this instance because there is seemingly no possible way that they can match that efficiency. And going on the road, into a hostile environment, to face a more talented team after you just beat your rival on national TV, is usually a recipe for disaster.
Both of these programs are as public as they come. And their value is relative. But Saturday's game is a rare January event in which two top-tier teams will meet in an interconference clash and the books will be forced to side with one school or the other. It should be a good matchup - between programs that I loathe - but in the end I think that these are two teams going in opposite directions the rest of this year.