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It was a pretty ugly start to the college basketball conference tournaments for me yesterday. I lost both of my main plays and one of the smaller plays that I took. Luckily we get today’s slate to bounce back right away. College basketball has been a bit of a roller coaster this year for me, but I think there is good opportunity to close out strong.
Pitt vs. Duke 2:30 ET
There aren’t many teams in the country that are hotter than Duke has been coming into the conference tournament. As winners of their past six games and eight of their past 11, they finally seem to be rolling a bit under new head coach Jon Scheyer. During this win streak, they haven’t been blowing teams out right now. Three of the six games were won with just a four or five-point margin. That actually bodes well for them that they can pull out the close games during this tournament. Pittsburgh has been pretty good but their best stretch of basketball came from the end of January to the middle of February when they had their own six-game winning streak. They did lose three of their past six games though – all three of those games they lost were road games. Earlier in the year, Duke beat Pitt in a home game and they won by eight points. Now they are expected to cover six points at a neutral site. Don’t think Duke just coasted in this game though, they were down double digits at one point before storming back mostly due to better rebounding. If they can continue to box out Pitt and control the glass, Duke should coast. I’ll take the Blue Devils in this one at -6.
West Virginia vs. Kansas, 3:00 ET
I mentioned in my conference tournament preview that I think this is arguably the best conference in college basketball and has the hardest path to win. Kansas, the number 1 seed in the bracket, doesn’t have an easy out here in their first game with a matchup against the talented West Virginia. Kansas has been playing great lately despite an ugly loss to Texas in their final regular season game. However, that was somewhat expected as Kansas had very little to play for in that game, the motivation just wasn’t there. West Virginia has played very well lately, too with a three game winning streak and winners of four of the past five games. Most games they are led by senior guard Erik Stevenson who has been shooting very well from deep. Kansas will need to gameplan to take him out of this one. West Virginia has lost twice to Kansas on the season. The first game, at home, they lost by 14 points. In that game, Stevenson scored just 12 points. In the second game, Kansas won by just 2 points, a road game for West Virginia. In that game, Stevenson scored 23. I believe Stevenson is the key to this game on both sides. If he hits his shots, West Virginia could pull off the upset. If Stevenson can’t find space to shoot, Kansas should cover this short 4 point spread. I’m taking Kansas -4 in this one. I trust them more than West Virginia.
As usual, I have a few smaller plays that I like on the slate tonight. I’m not convinced that North Carolina State is a great team, I’ll take Clemson in this one in what ahs become a pick’em. I think Virginia has a good chance to beat North Carolina. Part of this is because North Carolina playing in back-to-back games, not uncommon for this time of the year, but still something to consider in a close game. I’ll support Virginia to cover. Ohio State played well yesterday, I think they don’t replicate it versus Iowa so I’ll take the under 154 in tonight’s game.
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