I've taken a bit of a break from college basketball articles to focus on the last of college football and the Bowl Games. It was pretty successful and we still have one left, but now that the final schedule is winding down, and the NFL is slowing, more attention will come to college basketball before we go pedal to the metal with baseball.
Duke vs. NC State, 7:00 ET
I'll admit this upfront, I am a Duke fan. It makes very little sense as Michael Jordan is my all-time favorite player and UNC is Duke's biggest rival, but I started getting into college basketball when JJ Redick was there. But, when it comes to money, I look at things completely objectively. If my own mother was in a cooking competition, I'd take whoever has the best edge. Money is different. Anyway, I only mention all of that because I think it is fair for the reader to know my affiliation as they take that into their own capping or consideration for placing their own hard-earned money.
Duke comes into this game with a nice 11-3 record on the season. They just lost their first conference game a few weeks ago to Wake Forest. Just like this game, it was a road matchup for Duke. As expected, they seem to struggle a bit when they are away from the comfort of Cameron Indoor Stadium. One thing I've been encouraged about by the team is their ability to get a diverse amount of scoring leaders. One night it will be center Kyle Filipowski, another night it might be Mark Mitchell or even guard Jeremy Roach. That shows a bit of depth from the team, which makes it tough for defenses to know who to stop. It also makes things better for Duke's offense because they are unselfish and are willing to trust the hot hand, not force it into one guy. For North Carolina State, they are also doing a pretty nice job of rotating scoring between their forwards and guards. Duke will have its handful trying to stop all three of them. I am looking at a lot of scoring and not quite enough defense in this one. It is a bit high of a total with a 144.5 line, but I think this game gets over. It should be fairly close down the stretch which means free throws and a stopped clock. That can help us get over the hump.
TCU vs. Baylor
This is the biggest game happening for TCU this month, right? I kid, of course, but it is nice to see TCU having some success in other places other than the football field - because I think they have no shot against Georgia. They come in ranked 17th overall in the nation and are on a 10-game win streak. Their only loss this season was a one-point loss to Northwestern State. But, their schedule gets significantly harder after this game - they have three ranked opponents in a row. Starting tonight against a really good Baylor team, they will be tested. I am curious to see how Baylor decides to guard Mike Miles Jr. On the season he is averaging 18.6 points per game and lately has been the engine for TCU. Baylor comes into this game off of a loss at Iowa State (TCU's next matchup). They didn't do anything particularly well in the game and I'd think they are looking to respond from that game. They've also played some tougher competition on the season than TCU has faced. The biggest key to this should be turnovers. If Baylor wins the turnover battle, they should coast in this game. Since they are at home, I think they have a good chance of doing that. I'm going to take Baylor -6 for the game.
A few other smaller plays I want to grab so far are Illinois over Northwestern at -3.5. They are the better team, and I don't really care that they are on the road. I'll also be playing South Florida -2 over Temple tonight. I think that South Florida should be able to out-rebound and force more turnovers than an average Temple team.
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