Free College Hoops Picks – January 12th, 2019

Welcome to a packed Saturday of college hoops!  It’s been a wild week with thrilling come-from-behind miracle victories (Villanova, Marquette and UCLA), as well as a week of dominnce-reasseartion with Duke, Michigan State and Kansas all notching comfortable wins over conference opponents.

Today might not have that single “drop everything” game, but there are a ton of interesting games on the docket and a ton of spots where top teams might want to be sharp.  Virginia has looked like the best team in the country that no one wants to talk about, going undefeated and flat out eviscerating Florida State last weekend (holding them to 36 points in 38 minutes before emptying the bench and playing their student manager and friends).  They head to Clemson today to face a Tigers team.

Kansas heads to Baylor, Tennessee head to Florida, and Duke travels to the aforementioned Seminoles.  Even Gonzaga, who generally gets to coast once their non-con gauntlet is complete, gets an interesting trip to a vastly improved San Francisco squad.

It’s gonna be a fun day.  Let’s see if we can make it another one full of winner.


Duke Blue Devils -7 at Florida State Seminoles

Did you SEE what happened to Leonard Hamilton’s squad last weekend against an elite team??  I think Duke puts on the remix today, despite this one being in the Noles home gym.  Duke is an impressive 10-4 ATS this season, despite always being a heavy favorite.  Florida State is just 5-9 ATS despite outpacing expectations to this point in the season.

Duke is just much better.  Their talent is overwhelming, their cohesion has been on point since they hit the scene with a tsunami against Kentucky.  Their only awkwardness has been in the final minute of tense games.  But I don’t think FSU can keep it close enough for it to matter.

I’m on RJ and Zion until I see some evidence to do otherwise.



Virginia Cavaliers -5 at Clemson Tigers

Did you SEE what Virginia did last weekend against Florida State??

I’m being cheekily redundant, but the point is a valid one.  Forget all that last year UMBC nonsense.  Virginia might just be THE best team in the country.  It’s easy to fawn on Duke’s Harlem Globetrotter show, and it’s impossible not to be floored by what John Beilein is doing in Ann Arbor.  But Virginia isn’t just winning games, they are crushing people’s souls.

Virginia is 11-3 ATS with an average winning margin of 22.8 ppg.  They have an ATS margin of +4.8.  They are the same smothering defensive juggernaut as always, holding opponents to nation-best 51.8 ppg.  Opponents shoot just 37.5% from the floor against Virginia and the rank second in the NCAA in Defensive Efficiency.

In short, Virginia makes your life miserable when you have the basketball.  But what is improved this year is their ability to punish you when THEY have the basketball as well. Clemson is in for some trouble today.

The Tigers are an ACC-worst 4-11 ATS this season.  I think that moves to 4-12 today.  They might be at home, but defense travels.



Tennessee Volunteers -3 at Florida Gators

This is a tricky spot for the Vols.  Yes, they are highly ranked and deservedly so after their thrilling performances against Gonzaga and (even in a loss) versus Kansas.  They look like a top team, and it makes sense for them to be a road favorite against a 9-5 conference foe.

But if you dig a little deeper, Florida is definitely a potential trap game.  The Gators can DEFEND.  They rank 8th in the nation in opponent points allowed, a fact made even more impressive when you look at WHY they are 9-5.  They have close, competitive losses to Oklahoma, Butler and Michigan State.  The opening clunker at FSU was one to forget, but very quietly the Gators are getting back into the NCAA Tournament mix.  A win today would cement that status in a major way (as well as erase the stench of that South Carolina game)

Tennessee can also play D, holding opponents to under 39% shooting from the floor, so don’t expect tonight’s contest in Gainesville to be pretty.  I generally stick to picking winners, but a play on the total staying UNDER 134.5 is a really high probability given each team’s stout defense.  Both teams rank in the Top 20 nationally in opponent field goal percentage.  I like stats like this even MORE when the better team is on the road, where teams generally find life difficult in conference no matter what.  If Tennessee scuffles, I don’t see Florida with the firepower to dial it up into the 80’s.  This game has low 60’s for each written all over it.



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