NCAA Basketball Betting and Handicapping: Scouting the Week Ahead
by Alan Matthews - 1/13/2014
Are we seeing a balance of power shift already in the ACC?
That conference obviously has been dominated by Duke and North Carolina for decades -- even though Florida State and Miami are the past two ACC tournament champions. It was presumed that the Blue Devils and Tar Heels would be ACC and national championship contenders as usual this season.
But take a look at the ACC standings entering Monday's action, and North Carolina is last at 0-3 and Duke just a game ahead at 1-2, although the Blue Devils were likely to win at home on Monday night against Virginia. Duke was shocked 72-59 at Clemson on Saturday as a 5.5-point favorite. Clemson's national-best defense held the Blue Devils to 33.9 percent shooting. Jabari Parker was 5-for-13 and Quinn Cook 3-of-14. Rasheed Sulaimon, who was terrific as a freshman last year, was 0-for-2 for two points and is averaging just 7.2 points a game this year after 11.6 in 2012-13. The Blue Devils were lucky to stay in the AP Top 25 this week, dropping to No. 23. Duke has spent 519 of the past 570 weeks in the Top 25 since 1982.
The Dukies host another struggling Tobacco Road program in NC State on Saturday. The Wolfpack looked terrible on Saturday in a 76-45 home blowout to Virginia. NC State (11-5, 1-2) is definitely an NCAA bubble team right now and doesn't really have a quality victory yet.
North Carolina (10-6) continues its maddening play as the Heels were totally outclassed in Saturday's 57-45 loss at No. 2 Syracuse. The Heels tied the 1996-97 team for their lowest scoring output of the shot-clock era, and it was the fewest points ever scored by a Roy Williams-coached team. The Heels are 0-3 in the conference for the first time since 1996-97, Dean Smith's final season as coach. They should bounce back Saturday at home against a bad Boston College team.
It was really a rough Saturday for hoops fans in the state of North Carolina as Wake Forest also lost, 80-65 at Pittsburgh. The Panthers and Orange look like the early class of the ACC. Pitt finally got into the Top 25 this week at No. 22 with a 15-1 start. The Panthers are 6.5-point favorites for Tuesday's game at Georgia Tech and then have a big one at No. 2 Syracuse on Saturday.
There are a handful of injuries to keep an eye on. Pitt forward Durand Johnson tore his ACL and meniscus in his right knee in Saturday's win over Wake Forest and is done for the year. He was the team's sixth man and averaging 8.8 points and 3.0 rebounds.
At Florida, leading scorer Casey Prather will miss a second straight game on Tuesday night against visiting Georgia. Prather sat out Saturday's 84-82 overtime win at Arkansas for the now-No. 7 Gators, who ended the Hogs' 23-game home winning streak. Prather is averaging 17 points a game this season and leads the Southeastern Conference in shooting at 62.4 percent. The Gators are 15-point favorites over the Dawgs and should also be able to win at Auburn on Saturday if Prather isn't back.
Michigan State big man Adriean Payne missed Saturday's win over Minnesota with a right foot sprain, and Coach Tom Izzo says he won't let his senior play again until he's 100 percent because "I've got to look at the big picture for him." Payne will definitely be a first-round pick in the 2014 draft and probably would have been this year if he didn't return to East Lansing. The Spartans can win at Northwestern on Wednesday without Payne but certainly could fall Saturday at Illinois if he's not back.
Colorado's Spence Dinwiddie left Saturday's loss in Washington with a very scary-looking knee injury. He is definitely out a while if not the rest of the season. The junior guard is one of the better players in the Pac-12, leading a good Colorado team in scoring (15.2) and assists (3.9) per game. No. 21 Colorado is next in action Thursday at home against No. 25 UCLA.
Finally, St. John's leading scorer D'Angelo Harrison might not play Tuesday night when the Red Storm visit DePaul, with the Johnnies as opening one-point favorites. Harrison suffered a mild concussion in a 74-67 loss to Villanova on Saturday and didn't practice Monday but will travel with the team. Harrison is averaging 18.7 points, fourth in the Big East. The team doesn't have much else around him. St. John's is next in action Thursday against Providence.
Other Games To Watch
I was unfortunately wrong in stating I thought both Arizona and Wichita State would fall from the ranks of the unbeatens last week, although the Cats nearly lost to UCLA and Wichita State needed overtime to win at Missouri State on Saturday.
I do think one falls on Tuesday night when No. 3 Wisconsin visits Indiana as a 2.5-point favorite. I just don't buy the Badgers yet, even after a very impressive 95-70 blowout of Illinois over the weekend. This is only Wisconsin's third true road game, and the Badgers nearly lost at Wisconsin-Green Bay and were held to 48 points in a win at Virginia. Indiana's only home loss was to Michigan State. Somehow the Badgers have won 12 straight over the Hoosiers. No team has ever won 13 straight against IU.
Wednesday I recommend you watch the Fresno State-San Diego State game on ESPN3 as the Aztecs could be a Final Four sleeper. At No. 10, Steve Fisher's team is in the Top 10 for the first time since the final 13 weeks of the 2010-11 season. Those Aztecs made it to the regional semifinal before losing to eventual national champion Connecticut. SDSU's only loss this season was to No. 1 Arizona.
Thursday, Arizona returns home off the L.A. sweep by facing rival Arizona State. It's the 225th matchup between the rivals, and you can usually throw out the records, although ASU is a solid team this year. The Sun Devils were 0-2 against Arizona last year. Since 1979-80, Arizona is 49-22 against the Sun Devils with an average margin of victory of 8.5 points.
On Saturday, I'm looking forward to seeing perhaps three of the Top-5 picks in next year's draft on the same court in Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart and Kansas' Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid. The Pokes won in Lawrence last season 85-80 to end KU's 33-game home winning streak and OSU's 16-game losing streak at Kansas. It was the Cowboys' first road win over a Top-5 team since 1958. Sunday is a pretty quiet day on the schedule, with Iowa as the only ranked team playing, hosting Minnesota as a warmup to conference championship Sunday in the NFL.
Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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