Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Road to the Final Four (Week 9)

Back with some College Basketball games this week - mostly because there's really nothing else to write about as the College Football season comes to a close and the NFL gears up for the Playoffs. So far this college basketball season has been a carousel of teams changing at the top with Syracuse finally settling in first place for the past four weeks. Something tells me that they won't be able to maintain the top spot once their conference schedule picks up. As usual - I'll highlight some of the premiere match ups in college hoops this week - then make a prediction and watch my bankroll increase or decrease...

No. 5 Duke (-7.5) at Temple, 7PM - ESPN2
Duke has been one of the hotter teams in the country since their 22 point blowout loss to Ohio State on November 29th. They've reeled of five straight victories by an average margin of 25 points. This game should be closer than that. Although Duke has won its previous 10 match ups against Temple - this Owl team is no easy opponent. The Owls have amassed a 9-3 record to this point and have impressive wins over Villanova - and well I guess that's it. But they are a gritty team that rely heavily on their guards - Ramone Moore, Khaliff Wyatt, and Juan Fernandez. I would look for Duke to try to take advantage of Temple down low where the Plumlee trio and Ryan Kelly should have a field day - but the guard play of Temple should be able to keep this one close. I like the Owls plus the points to put up a decent fight against the Blue Devils at home in Philadelphia. 

No. 20 Marquette @ No. 9 Georgetown (-4), 7PM - ESPNU
It's no secret - Georgetown has been one of the early season surprises. After an early season loss to a No. 12 ranked Kansas team in Maui, the Hoyas have reeled off 10 straight wins including impressive road victories over Louisville and Alabama. Not bad for a team that wasn't ranked at the beginning of the season and picked to finish 10th in the Big East. How have they done it you ask? Jason Clark, Hollis Thompson, and Henry Sims. After graduating three seniors last year - Austin Freeman, Chris "The Bulldog" Wright, and Julian Vaughn - the new Hoya trio has stepped up in all facets of the game to give the Hoyas some veteran leadership. They've also gotten help from from Sophomore G Markell Starks who chips in 10 ppg and shoots at a 46.7% clip from beyond the arc. Not too shabby. In order for the Hoyas to pull this victory out against a solid Marquette team they'll have to slow down Darius Johnson-Odom (17.9 ppg) who has the ability to score from anywhere on the court. As Johnson-Odom goes, so do the Golden Eagles. In a loss against Vanderbilt last week - Darius J-O went 5 for 15 from the field and had a season low 12 points. Georgetown's forte this year has been its stingy defense (56.8 ppg) - they'll need to make sure they limit the amount of good looks DJO gets. It might be a good time to "sell" this Georgetown team as Seth Davis already has, but I expect the Hoyas to continue their hot streak and shut down the Golden Eagles at home. Take Georgetown and lay the points.

No. 1 Syracuse (-13.5) @ Providence, 9PM - Not televised
The Orange have started conference play at 2-0 with wins over Seton Hall and DePaul, although I'm not sure DePaul should be considered a conference opponent. Syracuse leads the Big East in scoring (80.7 points/gm) and gets 47.2% of those points off the bench. Translation: They score a lot, and a lot of players score. The Orange are arguably the deepest team in the country and as their conference schedule picks up they'll continue to rely on their deep core of players to wear down weaker teams. Providence comes into this game at 11-4 and is coming off a 49-40 loss to Georgetown where they shot 25% from the field. Lucky for Providence they'll be at home where they are 8-0. Last year the Friars hosted four ranked Big East opponents, beat two of them (Nova and Louisville) and lost by a combined  5 points to the two (Pitt and ND). Mind you they had MarShon Brooks. Still - Providence should provide more competition than the Orange have been accustomed to seeing all year. I'll roll with the Friars plus the points at home in this one. 

Last Week: 0-0
Season Record: 17-3

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