Three things we learned about Duke last night.

Alex O’Connell has improved.

AOC could always shoot. That was what he was useful for in his first two seasons.  Last night AOC was not connecting at a high percentage but was still able to make an impact.  With four rebounds, three steals and two assists AOC was able to put together an impressive stat line that was more than just coming in and chucking shots all over the floor.  

The most notable play from last night was in the first half when he stormed towards the rim and finished a thunderous (for O’Connell) put back dunk.  That was a play that you would have never seen from AOC over the last few seasons.  The junior  has taken the next step in development and will be a key piece off the bench for Duke this season. 

Cassius Stanley is a spark plug.

Duke obviously lost its offensive spark plugs in Zion and RJ Barrett.  At a time in the second half when the Blue Devils were showing their youth and lack off firepower, Cassius Stanley was the guy that ignited the rally. Two thunderous dunks off of Kansas turnovers inspired the team.  

With just 2:29 left in the game it was Stanley hat was able to drive to the hoop and lay it in while being fouled.  After he sunk the free throw Duke took a one-point lead, one they would never relinquish.  Stanley had 11 of his 13 points in the second half, showing where the ball may be going in a time of need for Duke.  

This defense is very good. 

Tre Jones is widely considered the best on ball defender in all of college basketball.  His intensity showed in his teammates.  Kansas turned the ball over at an alarming rate, finishing the game with 28 turnovers.  While Duke cannot rely on a lack of ball security at that rate, they can rely on the effort from all five positions.

Kansas had a clear advantage with their size on the interior.  The Duke team defensive plan was to double the bigs as soon as possible. They did it to perfection.  The bigs doubled and while the guards were able to rotate and take away the outlet passes. The fact that Kansas got zero points from back to the basket posts and just four points on passes out of the double teams is a huge reason for them pulling out the victory.

The Right Choice for Michigan

The legacy of the Fab Five lives on in college basketball history.  Any time there is a vaunted recruiting class they are compared to the greatness of the 1991 Michigan rookie class.  Three notable future NBA players Jalen Rose, Chris Webber and Juwan Howard highlighted a group that was able to reach two national championship games. Despite not winning either their impact on the game and their style of play was a look into the future of college basketball.

The Fab Five’s greatness was tarnished after leaving Michigan, allegations of paying players forced the university to take down banners that were earned from the sweat and hard work of 19-year-olds.  Whether or not you find the allegations right or wrong in the landscape of college basketball, I will never agree with a university ultimately punishing is student athletes by trying to take away the history they built in their time there. 

Michigan basketball has quietly been one of the most consistent programs in college hoops, since 2013 they have been in the national title game twice, reaching the sweet sixteen twice and the elite eight twice.  Only in 2015 did Michigan not make the NCAA tournament.  Add in one Big10 regular season title and two tournament title and you can see why the loss of longtime coach John Beilein was a punch in the gut to the program.  The loss of Beilein accompanied by the loss of last season top three scorers, Ignas Brazdeikis, Charles Mathews and Jordan Poole, all have announced they’ll being entering the draft and signing with agents temporarily left Michigan with a lot of questions heading into next season.  But with the quick acquisition of Howard as Head Coach things are looking positive for the future of the program.

Howard will have a tough test in his first season.  Returning team leaders Zavier Simpson, Jr., Guard and Jon Teske, Jr., Center will be the cornerstones of the rebuilding process.  While Howard brings a lot of name recognition and NBA star endorsements he is still going to be starting from behind in recruiting.  While eventually this will be a projected strength Howard has spent all of his coaching career within the NBA ranks and will most likely have to rely on his staff for current recruiting efforts.  Still based on the recent success of NBA stars to college coaches the turnaround of talent in the program shouldn’t be a multi-year problem. 

I believe that Juwan Howard will be a great college coach but most importantly Michigan made a choice that is great for the school and allows the alumni to remember a great time in their sports history.  Jalen Rose recently spoke about the hiring of Howard squashing the beef between the Fab Five and the university.  With Rose on board and Howard at the helm the next step will be to bring back Chris Webber and finally end this unfortunate saga.

Kudos to Michigan on getting a great coaching and reigniting a legacy that shouldn’t have been forgotten.

The Return of Tre Jones

There was no player that took the loss to Michigan State harder than freshman point guard Tre Jones.  He was tasked with stopping Cassius Winston thus stopping the surging Michigan State Spartans.  On the last play Winston was able to escape the tenacious defense of Jones, forcing the young guard to watch as his man stole away a championship that seemed like destiny for the talented Blue Devils.  Jones officially announced that he is returning for his sophomore season.  The #29 ranked NBA prospect

Jones’s impact on next year’ Duke team could very well change the landscape of recruiting for not only 2019 but also 2020.  Reports that five-star recruit RJ Hampton is considering reclassification for the 2019 season so he can team up with Tre Jones can reshape the look of a team that will be filling major holes next season. When you lose 3 of your 5 starters and pretty much all of your offense it will be a transition to say the least.

If RJ Hampton does not reclassify and Mathew Hurt decides to play elsewhere Duke will still have a formidable starting lineup.

PG: Tre Jones

SG: Alex O’Connell

SF: Wendell Moore

PF: Javin Delaurier

C: Vernon Carey Jr.

With a bench that consists of Boogie Ellis, Marques Bolden, Joey Baker, Jordan Goldwire and Jack White the Blue Devils will have a mixture of young players and veterans.  Jones’s will need to develop his offensive game next season for Duke to be successful. He must improve on his 26% 3-point shooting but his command of the offense will be much more present next season with the losses of Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett.  Both of the latter were ball centric players that need it to be successful. Jones will now be tasked with running the Blue Devils.

The minutes of O’Connell will help the shooting percentages of the team, but I am excited to see the overall numbers increase that Jones will have with more time with the ball.  Jones will not be forced to just sit on the outside and wait for a kickout from Zion.  He will be the penetrator and the kicker.  Jones will find himself in a new role wear his skill will be able to accompany his already existing leadership skills.

Final Four Picks ATS

Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. Michigan State Spartans -3

The Texas Tech Red Raiders blew up most brackets with their upset of Gonzaga in the Elite Eight.  They also blew up the Big 12.  The preseason #7 ranked team in the Big 12 has spent an entire season shattering expectations.  Texas Tech was able to overcome different styles of teams on their run to the Final Four trouncing an offensive minded Buffalo team, grinding a win versus defensive minded Michigan and showing its full repertoire taking down the #1 team in offensive efficiency in the country the Gonzaga Bulldogs.  Texas Tech’s bread and butter is and will be on the defensive end.  Texas Tech garners takeaways on 23.1 percent of opponent possessions, 11th in the nation. Tech will look to keep this low scoring and dirty.

Michigan State has seemed to find itself on the offensive end by utilizing the fast break. The Spartans were able to overcome two teams that athletically were superior by not allowing them to set their defenses. If Cassius Winston can control the ball Michigan State should be to impose its will on the break with Xavier Tillman attacking the rim.  There will be a lot of pressure on Winston to run the offense efficiently out of half court sets.  We know Michigan will be looking to run but the grind it out style of Texas Tech will look to take that away.  Tech also brings the 28th nationally ranked offensively efficient team which means they will not turn the ball over enough to allow the new “running” Spartans to take off.

This game will be a matchup between a coach on the rise and a coach that is cementing his legacy.  Chris Beard has done a remarkable job bringing the Red Raiders to this point.  Jarrett Culver will have to find his shot earl, if he doesn’t it will be up to Matt Mooney to start the offense from the outside. This game will be a hard hitting affair, usually I would lean to the veteran coach in this situation but I am going with Chris Beard.  Texas Tech has bought into what Beard is selling.  They will have no fear of Michigan State. The Red Raiders are going to shut down Winston and the fast break and pull out the victory. I may lean ML on this game but if you can take the points why not be safe.

Pick: Texas Tech +3

Auburn Tigers vs. Virginia Cavaliers -5.5

The Auburn Tigers came into the tournament hot but no one saw this coming from Bruce Pearl’s squad.  Defeating three of the blue blood of college basketball on their way to the final four.  The injury to Chumu Okeke could have derailed any team going into their elite eight matchup with the Kentucky Wildcats but they rallied behind his injury.  This Auburn team reminds me of the UConn title team of 2014.  Playing the part of Shabazz Napier is senior Jerad Harper while the part of Ryan Boatright being played by Bryce Brown. The Tigers are a veteran led team that goes ten deep to make sure they can keep up their frantic pace. If Auburn can come out and play their pace and jump out to an early lead it will be a problem for the defensive minded Virginia Cavaliers.

Virginia seems like a team of destiny after the debacle of last season. Their last second game tying shot from Mamdi Diakite over Purdue was something that we only see in movies.  The Cavaliers are battle tested through the season but have a tendancy to have some slow starts. If Virginia doesn’t come out and set the pace they will be overcome by the constant attack of Auburn.  Unlike the other final four matchup the Cavaliers will have to contend with multiple scorers in order to be successful, this game will be a battle of different styles that should be a chess matchup of two great coaches. 

Pick: Auburn +5.5 (Virginia wins by 4)

Midwest Region Breakdown

  1. North Carolina
  2. Kentucky
  3. Houston
  4. Kansas

Sleeper team to win: Houston Cougars

Houston enters the Midwest region as the #3 seed but seems to be overlooked in a region full of bluebloods Kansas, North Carolina and Kentucky. Houston losing to Cincinnati in the American Conference Championship game is the last thought we have of the Cougars, but this team is legit.  Winning their conference regular season championship while also having non-conference victories over Utah State, LSU and Oregon (with Bol Bol).  Houston has a legit star in Corey Davis Jr. and a veteran coach in Kelvin Sampson.  They are also very deep, playing 9 players over 20 minutes per game.   A potential third round matchup with the offensive minded Iowa State and Kentucky will make their road difficult but being a upperclassman lead team will put them in great shape to make a run.

Potential first round upset: New Mexico State over Auburn

Auburn is riding high after their dominate victory over Tennessee in the SEC Championship game.  They now have to face a New Mexico State team that has quietly been playing some of the best basketball in the country. New Mexico State has not lost since January 3rd and ran through their conference tournament dominating Grand Canyon in the final 89-57. 

Auburn has great talent but they rely a lot on the three ball, they will also be traveling to Salt Lake City which will force them to deal with the elevation change. New Mexico State has experience playing in that atmosphere.  Bruce Pearl’s team cannot look past the Aggies, if they do they will be ripe for the upset.

Who will win: Kentucky

A fully healthy Kentucky team has shown what they can do on the national scene. The Wildcats have a strong leader in Reid Travis and have seen great development from Ashton Hagans and Tyler Herro. The potential matchup with North Carolina would be an epic battle between two teams that can easily see themselves winning it all.  The advantage I see for the Wildcats is their depth.  This bracket is the most competitive and will feature some great matchups.

Second Round Picks:

North Carolina

Utah State

New Mexico State

Kansas

Iowa State

Houston

Seton Hall

Kentuck

South Region Breakdown

  1. Virginia
  2. Tennessee
  3. Purdue
  4. Kansas St.

Sleeper team to win: Villanova

I am going to contradict myself by saying my sleeper is the same team that I think could be on upset alert.  The Villanova Wildcats had a rollercoaster season, ultimately though the ride was enjoyable for Jay Wrights crew as they took home the Big East regular season and tournament title.  Phil Booth and Eric Paschall are big time players that can carry the load for the Wildcats that lost literally their entire lineup to the NBA last season.  They will face off with upset minded St. Mary’s fresh off a destruction of heavily favored Gonzaga in the Mountain West Conference tournament.  St. Mary’s will have another upset on their mind in this matchup that currently seems like a toss- up according to most insiders.  If Jay Wrights crew does get by St. Marys they have a cast of unproven but solid teams in their way including a Purdue team that is basically a one man show and a Tennessee team that can be unfocused at times. 

Potential First Round Upset: Oregon over Wisconsin

This is popular.  Both teams play a slow and defensive game.  Oregon has caught fire at the right time though running through the Pac12 tournament and forcing their way on to the scene.  Louis King has emerged as a playmaker on the offensive end and they get great point guard play from Payton Prichard.  While I want to see Ethan Happ get a great run in the tournament his problems from the free throw line could lead to an early exit for the Badgers. 

Keep an eye on the health of Dean Wade.  If he cannot play another potential upset could be UC Irvine over Kansas State.  UC Irvine is very good at defending the rim. 

Who’s going to win it: Virginia

The Cavaliers will come into the 2019 tournament motivated.  Virginia lost three games during the season to Duke (2) and Florida State in the ACC tournament. They have their issues on the offensive end but the bracket breaks down well for them.  A potential third round matchup with Ole Miss or Oklahoma will be a walk in the park with only a potential matchup with K-State or Wisconsin whom doesn’t have the athletes to beat Virginia. Tennessee is the only team that realistically has the players to matchup with Virginia defense.

Second Round Picks:

Virginia

Ole Miss

Oregon

UC Irvine

Villanova

Purdue

Cincinnati

Tennessee 

East Region Breakdown

Top Seeds

  1. Duke
  2. Michigan State
  3. LSU
  4. Virginia Tech

Sleeper team to win: Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech as a #4 seed probably isn’t considered a sleeper but they are being overlooked.  The return of Justin Robinson is going to help with the depth of the Hokies.  With Robinson being hurt Kerry Blackshear was able to develop into a star.  His size and ability to handle the ball if caught on the perimeter is a tough matchup for any team.  With a first-round matchup against an undersized SLU team and a potential matchup with an underwhelming Mississippi State team. Virginia Tech will not have an overwhelming matchup until they face the #1 overall seed Duke Blue Devils in the Sweet 16.

*Maryland has all the ability to steal this bracket if they can control the ball.  Can’t expect them to change their game though overnight.

Potential first round upset: Liberty and Yale

Yale has the size you don’t usually see in an Ivy League team. They also have potential NBA threat Miye Oni leading their offense.  LSU has all the talent to make a huge run in this tournament but you can’t ignore the distraction of losing your coach at this point in the season.

Liberty was able to overcome the favored Lipscomb in the Atlantic Sun Championship game.  They get a matchup with the Mississippi State Bulldogs.  The Bulldogs have some high level talent in Quinndary Weatherspoon but have not shown the ability to win big games during the season.  Liberty will not back down in this matchup.

Who is going to win it: Duke

Michigan State got a tough draw for a team that should have been considered for a #1 seed. Instead they were put into a bracket with the number one overall seed, they SEC regular season champion LSU and a potential matchup with a veteran led Louisville team. The Spartans are finally healthy and playing at a high level.  They should be able to coast to the elite 8 to matchup with a Duke team that is going to be tested big time by a fully healthy Virginia Tech team. Duke/Michigan State will be a great game that will matchup veterans versus youth.  Cassius Winston will have a tough time with the defense of Tre Jones and Jordan Goldwire.  The Blue Devils will lock down on defense and find themselves in the final four.

Second Round Picks

Duke

UCF

Liberty

UCF

Maryland

LSU

Lousiville

Michigan State

Big Ten Tournament Preview and Predictions

Michigan State walked away with the regular season title after a dominate second half performance against rival Michigan Saturday night.  Sunday the final regular season games took place finalizing the seeds for what could be the funniest tournament of all the power fives.  The ACC is top heavy, the Big12 is a three-team race, anyone can beat anyone in this tournament.  Let’s break it down.

Sleeper- Indiana Hoosiers

Most may not remember that the Hoosiers entered the season with very high expectations.  They have slowly begun to return to form.  With the two man punch of Romeo Langford and Juwan Morgan Indiana has two studs they can lean on during big moments.  The Hoosiers also got a favorable draw against a reeling Ohio State team and potentially matching up with Michigan State whom they defeated twice during the regular season.

What to watch for- Returning Nick Ward

Michigan State showed what they are made of while dealing with multiple injuries during the regular season.  Kenny Goin and Xavier Tillman stepped up in the absence of Nick Ward.  The Spartans will welcome back Ward for this tournament.  If he plays to his ability this team has a shot to steal a #1 seed.

Opening Round

Nebraska over Rutgers– Nebraska was an early season darling in the Big Ten. The injury to Isaac Copeland derailed what could have been a promising season.  Still the Cornhuskers will have the best player on the court in James Palmer Jr. Feeding off the momentum of Sunday’s shocking comeback versus Iowa should propel Nebraska to an opening round victory.

Northwestern over Illinois– Illinois made a nice run mid-season showing the potential of Brad Underwood’s team.  I prefer Northwestern in this matchup mainly because of their ability to handle the ball.  Northwestern is top five in the Big Ten in turnovers per game which is the bread and butter of the Illini.  Northwestern will control the tempo and Vic Law will have a big game.

Second Round

Indiana over Ohio State-

Indiana has to win, and they will versus an Ohio State team that has looked bad without Kyle Wesson.  The Hoosiers will have too much for the Buckeyes.

Maryland over Nebraska-

Maryland has a problem with turnovers.  They will have to take care of the ball to have a chance in the big dance. Locking down Nebraska’s James Palmer will be a problem, but the size of Maryland will be too much for the Cornhuskers.

Penn State over Minnesota-

Penn State has turned their season around after a rough start and will continue it against a Minnesota was barely able to get by a struggling early season Nittany Lions team. Penn State will have to keep Jordan Murphy off the glass, if they contain him they roll.

Iowa over Northwestern-

Iowa needs this win, they will score to much for Northwestern to handle. 

Third Round

Michigan State over Indiana-

Cassius Winston will lead his veteran team to a revenge victory over an Indiana team that surprisingly handled the Spartans twice during the season.  Michigan State will also have a lift from the returning Nick Ward.

Maryland over Wisconsin-

Maryland will have a tall task beating the slow paced Wisconsin Badgers.  The Badgers are to inconsistent on the offensive end, their inability to hit free throws will do them in down the stretch of the game.

Purdue over Penn State-

Carson Edwards versus Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Josh Reaves will be a very fun matchup.  Purdue will have to much ancillary pieces for Penn State to get the win. 

Michigan over Iowa-

I’m not a believer in Michigan but their defense is too good for an Iowa team that that will be forced to take a lot of contested jumpers.

Semi-Final

Michigan State over Maryland

Maryland has the talent to win this game.  Unfortunately, their turnover problems will return in this semi-final matchup with the veteran Michigan State Spartans.  Kenny Goins outside shooting will help pull one of the young bigs from the paint opening up lanes for Cassius Winston.  Michigan State wins big.

Purdue over Michigan

Purdue’s early season defeat against Michigan will be in the minds of the Boilermakers.  Carson Edwards will come up. Big against Michigan early.  The Wolverines are a great defensive team, but they have problems with putting together points when they are down early.  Boilermakers make it to the final.

Finals

Michigan State over Purdue

These two teams split the regular season with both home teams winning. Cassius Winston will solidify himself as the MVP of the tournament while Nick Ward will be handled Matt Haarms.  The Spartans are too deep for the Boilermakers.  Michigan State wins the Big 10 Tournament.

Missouri Valley Conference Preview

The Missouri Valley Tournament kicks off tonight at the Enterprise Center. Everyone’s cinderalla story of 2018 Loyola comes in as the #1 seed and the obvious favorite to win the tournament for the second straight season. Despite Loyola-Chicago being the favorite this entire season has seen a conference that has flip-flopped at the top constantly, leaving this very open to all ten teams.  The Valley will only be being getting one team in the NCAA tournament, so every team will be playing for their lives over the next four days.  Let’s break it down.

The top 4 seeds.

#1 Loyola-Chicago Ramblers 19-12 (12-6 MVC)

The Ramblers will welcome back wing Lucas Williamson for this tournament.  Immediately making the best defensive team in the conference even better.  The Ramblers are not the same team as the cinderella of 2018.  They still feature 2018 Player of the Year Clayton Custer, center Caleb Krutwig and potential Player of the Year Marques Townes.  The Ramblers are the best defensive team in the conference allowing a meager 60.9ppg in conference play. The offense has disappeared at times during the season.  Leading to surprising losses to Bradley and twice to a rebuilding Missouri State team.

The Ramblers rank second to last in scoring offense in the conference they will have to rely on their defense and offensive efficiency if they want to go dancing for a second straight year.

#2 Drake Bulldogs 23-8 (12-6 MVC)

No one expected much from the Drake Bulldogs in 2019.  Picked to finish second to last in the preseason polls Drake put together a great season that saw them lose out on the #1 seed by literally one game, still winning a share of the regular season championship.  Much different then Loyola the Bulldogs are a strong offensive team leading the Valley in scoring and margin of victory.  They are led by two seniors Forward Nick McGlynn and Guard Brady Ellington.  McGlynn leads the team in scoring, rebounding and blocks.

#3 Southern Illinois Salukis 17-14 (10-8 MVC)

A sleeper team that can win it all may be the Southern Illinois Salukis.  A team with great leadership from Head Coach Barry Henson and a group of upperclassman.  The Salukis are a high level shooting team, 37% from behind the arc during the regular season.

Senior forward Armon Fletcher will lead the way for Southern Illinois averaging 16.6PPG, watch out for Kavion Pippen the nephew of Scottie Pippen protecting the rim.  Pippen is averaging 1.9 blocks per game. The key for Southern Illinois will be the play of PG Aaron Cook, if he can play at a high level Southern Illinois could be a team to watch. 

#4 Missouri State Bears 16-15 (10-8 MVC)

The Missouri State Bears took major strides under new Head Coach Dana Ford. Seniors Jarred Dixon and Ryan Kreklow have helped provide great leadership for a cast of transfers.  Ford has gotten the Bears to buy into the methodical approach, running the clock and working the offense until they get their advantage. The MVC newcomer of the year Tulio Da Silva has been a force on both ends of the floor while transfer Keandre Cook can light up the score board at any moment.  The Bears got a great draw with Bradley whom they defeated twice and potentially playing Loyola-Chicago who they have defeated twice in the regular season.

Tournament Prediction:


Session 1

Illinois State defeats Evansville


Illinois State will impose their will, forcing a grind it out game which will play to their advantage.

Indiana State defeats Valparaiso

Indiana State has better shooters that will take advantage of poor Valpo defense

Session 2

Loyola Chicago defeats Indiana State

The Ramblers play tight defense against the 3 and that is the may offense that Indiana State will bring to the table. 

Missouri State defeats Bradley

Missouri State has defeated Bradley twice.  The Bears will impose their will on the Braves in a low scoring affair.

Session 3

Southern Illinois defeats Northern Iowa

Northern Iowa is to inconsistent to match the Southern Illinois offense.  The Salukis will have a huge advantage on both ends.

Drake defeats Illinois State

Drake’s offense will be tough to matchup for Illinois State playing on a back to back nights. 

CBB Picks ATS 2.23.19

Tennessee Volunteers at LSU Tigers

Tennessee was primed to make a statement last week in Lexington. They had control of the SEC and could bury the “mighty” Kentucky Wildcats.  Instead they saw an end to their 20-game winning streak and found themselves just one game up the aforementioned Wildcats and their opponents on Saturday the LSU Tigers.

This is a matchup of offensive teams both ranking in the top ten in scoring in all of college basketball.  The difference on Saturday will be the ability of either team to establish themselves on the defensive end.  In LSU’s loss to Florida on Wednesday night the Tigers were unable to adjust to a Florida that tried to slow down the pace. If Tennessee is able to establish a slower pace and dominate the ball control LSU will not be able to adjust.

We have seen the Volunteers win scrappy games when they have to.   I like Jordan Bone holding Tremont Waters in check and the Volunteers to prevail on the road.  I’m not going to worry about last week or the Rick Barnes curse.  Give me the Volunteers in a huge SEC game.

Pick: Tennessee -1

Ohio State Buckeyes at Maryland Terrapins

Every week I look at Maryland and see a potential second weekend team.  It could be my love for the traditional big that you really only see in college basketball.  Bruno Fernando is a throwback to the basketball I watched as a kid.  Throw it to the big man and impose your will.  The sophomore center enjoyed his matchup in Columbus putting up 13 point and 15 rebounds.  He will be on the attack early against Ohio State’s Kaleb Wesson whom was no match in the first meeting.  If Wesson gets into foul trouble the deficiencies of Ohio State’s depth will show.

Neither team will bring a potent offensive attack, but if Maryland is able to avoid a sluggish start that they are known for they should be able to coast to an easy victory at home.  They also have to find a way to cut down on their turnovers.  If they play smart and feed Fernando early it will open up looks for the slick shooting freshman guard Aaron Wiggins whom has hit 9 of 18 from behind the arc over the teams last 3 games. 

Maryland is 3-0 ATS in their last three home games.  Give me Maryland to cover. Take care of the ball!

Pick: Maryland -6.5

Duke Blue Devils at Syracuse Orange

We all know Duke without Zion Williamson is going to cause some problems.  What is being ignored is that a healthy Tre Jones is back in the lineup for the Blue Devils.  In the first matchup his injury forced the Blue Devils to run the point with RJ Barrett and company.  With Jones as the helm Barrett will be free to work inside the Syracuse zone.  His ability to create at the top of the key will be a huge factor.  I assume Coach K will utilize one of his big’s in Zion’s spot, while that may be the game plan to start don’t be surprised to see a lot of sharp shooting sophomore Alex O’Connell. 

Syracuse shot lights out in the first matchup, Frank Howard will have the defense of Tre Jones hounding him all night which will lead to more turnovers not allowing the Orange to set their press.  Duke has the superior athletes even without Zion.  If utilized correctly they should cover the spread.

Pick: Duke -4.5

Other games I like:

Illinois/Penn State Under 145.5

MO State/ Indiana State Under 131.5

Purdue -5

Marquette -3

Texas +3.5

Kansas State -10.5

SLU +6.5