Let’s set the table for a big Saturday of College Basketball hoops – and it even includes the first Duke vs. North Carolina duel of the year (okay, so it ain’t like the good old days, we know) and a behemoth battle in the Big East.
Time to rock-n-roll but first this key reminder … Jim Hurley’s Network of Handicappers and Bloggers beat the Las Vegas and offshore books all throughout the NFL Playoffs / Super Bowl LIV and so it’s time to move on to the hardwood – make sure to cash in big with NBA and College Basketball Winners all week and all month long right here online or 1-800-323-4453. Cha-ching!
On Saturday, it’s …
#2 GONZAGA (23-1, 9-0) at SAINT MARY’S (19-5, 6-3) – 10 p.m. ET, ESPN
It’s looking more and more as if Gonzaga is gonna nail down the #1 NCAA Tournament seed in the West but this one’s a real test in Moraga – the visiting Zags average a Division 1-best 88.6 points per game but Saint Mary’s has some serious star power … can G Jordan Ford (21.1 ppg) get hot and steal this West Coast Conference clash?
Spread Notes – Gonzaga has banged out pointspread winners in five of its last seven games but note the Zags are only 12-10 ATS (against the spread) overall this year.
VIRGINIA (15-6, 7-4) at #5 LOUISVILLE (20-3, 11-1) – 4 p.m.ET, ESPN
The defending champion Virginia Cavaliers are merely “bubble-worthy” right now while there’s plenty of in-the-know folks claiming this ‘Ville bunch might well be the best team in the land as the Cardinals have won nine in a row SU (straight-up) and note the last four straight have been by twin-digit margins.
Spread Notes – One of the really big betting stories in college hoops this year is that the defending champ UVa Cavaliers are a rotten 6-15 ATS and that includes 2-9 spread log when playing outside the ACC.
#7 DUKE (19-3, 9-2) at NORTH CAROLINA (10-12, 3-8) – 6 p.m. ET, ESPN
Can you imagine an NCAA Tourney without the UNC Tar Heels? Safe to say unless Roy Williams’ club gets healthy real fast and gets its act together in a nano-second, the Chapel Hill crew will be out of the hunt altogether for any post-season berth. The Dookies need the inside / outside force of C Vernon Carey, Jr. (17.8 ppg) and G Tre Jones (15.2 ppg) to take 40+plus shots from the field …okay?
Spread Notes – The Carolina Tar Heels are 8-14 versus the vig this hoops season but truth is UNC’s covered four of its last five games. On the flip side, Duke is just 6-5 spreadwise in games against ACC competition.
#12 SETON HALL (17-5, 9-1) at #10 VILLANOVA (17-5, 7-3) – 2:30 p.m. ET, Fox
No doubt both Seton Hall and ‘Nova have been struggling in recent days but both are quite capable of getting onto the NCAA Tournament’s No. 2 seed line – and keep in mind this is just the first of what could be three head-to-head showdowns in the next 35 days. Villanova’s lost back-to-back against Butler and Creighton this past week; The Hall has lost just once since mid-December (a 74-62 home setback against Xavier last Saturday) but the Pirates have not been sharp for a few games now …maybe G Myles Powell (22 ppg) has his own coming-out party in Philly here.
Spread Notes – Despite some recent stumbles (1-3-1 ATS in last five games), Seton Hall is a rock-solid 14-7-1 spreadwise this year.
In other NCAA Basketball News & Notes … Okay, so we’re still weeks away from “March Madness” but gotta go on record to state we see these teams as potential “sleepers” next month:
RHODE ISLAND (17-5, 9-1) – This Atlantic-10 squad is hot-hot-hot these with a nine-game SU winning streak these days and star Fatts Russell (and don’t you just love that name!) leads the league in scoring (20.1 ppg) and ranks third nationally in steals per game (3.0). Don’t be shocked if the Rams are Sweet 16-bound in late March.
MISS STATE (14-8, 5-4) – The way we see things right now, the SEC’s gonna get seven or maybe even eight teams into this year’s “Big Dance” and one of ’em is gonna be this Bulldogs bunch that sports high-quality head coach Ben Howland (see past Final Fours with UCLA) and a balanced attack headed up by F Reggie Perry (17.1 ppg). Could see these Dawgs getting a #7 or #8 NCAA Tourney seed and popping a Round II upset. So, stay tuned.
YALE (16-4, 4-0) – Okay, so we really haven’t seen an Ivy League take off and make serious hay in the NCAA Tournament in 40-plus years (see 1979 Penn Quakers that made it to the Final Four and got mashed by Magic Johnson and Michigan State) but this could well be a special season for the Yalies and boss man James Jones who has been on the job since the 1999-2000 campaign. P.S., Yale lost to LSU by just five points in last year’s first round of tourney play – maybe that experience springboards ’em here.
NOTE: More College Hoop updates plus lots more in the next edition of Jim Sez as we get into the NFL Draft, NBA News & Notes and more!