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NCAA Weekly Rundown: Countdown To March Madness

For the first week all season, there was no movement in or out of the Top 10. Duke and Villanova switched spots (8 and 9) and the rest of the Top 10 stayed intact. In what has been a wild year, it was nice to see a little more stability for once at the top.

The Top 10

  1. Baylor (18-1) – Baylor, as 1.5 road underdogs, defeated Florida 72-61 last week in their Big 12/SEC Challenge matchup. Baylor was able to overcome their weak three-point shooting percentage on the season (34% prior to the game) and shoot 47% from deep in this one. Baylor dominated on the boards (+11) getting out to a big lead prior to the end of the first half and cruising the rest of the way. This Wednesday, Baylor’s smothering defense helped then coast to a 14-point victory, holding the Cyclones to just 53 points. Baylor’s defense is incredible, but if their strong shooting keeps up, this team could be the outright favorite in March.
  2. Gonzaga (22-1) – In the Zags only game last week, they blew out Pacific (15-8) by 33 points. Gonzaga seemingly has no trouble with the “playing down to their competition” issue a lot of other big schools have. This week, Gonzaga handled Santa Clara (17-6) relatively easily (winning by 15) and they’ll be traveling to San Francisco (16-7) on Saturday with what should be another relatively good matchup for the Bulldogs.
  3. Kansas (17-3) – Kansas has won five straight. Last week, they blew out Kansas State but narrowly edged Tennessee at home. Monday, they easily beat the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Saturday will be a decent test for the Jayhawks as they’ll host the Texas Tech Red Raiders, who just beat West Virginia on Wednesday.
  4. San Diego State (22-0) – Despite the easy win against Wyoming, SDSU struggled to close out UNLV last week, winning by just four on the road. This Week, SDSU pounded New Mexico (16-7), opening on a 17-0 run and winning by 28. The Aztecs will play Utah State (17-6) on Saturday. Though it isn’t a tremendously difficult schedule, Utah State is a team of decent quality who should offer the Aztecs a decent fight.
  5. Florida State (17-3) – Florida State pulled off a one-point victory against Notre Dame on Saturday before falling to Virginia on Tuesday. This Saturday, the Seminoles will travel to Blacksburg to face the Hokies (14-7).
  6. Louisville (18-3) – Last week started off a little uneasy for Louisville as it took a late comeback effort to overcome an early deficit against Georgia Tech (8-11). The Cardinals followed that up with a big Saturday, winning by 18 against Clemson. This Wednesday, Louisville cruised to victory against Boston College on the road after another big second-half push. Saturday, Louisville will travel to NC State (14-7) in what should be a hostile environment. The Wolfpack need a few signature wins to put on the resume for March.
  7. Dayton (19-2) – Dayton flew past the St Bonaventure Bonnie last week by 26 points and followed that by beating a quality Richmond team (15-5) by eight in Richmond on Saturday. On Wednesday, Dayton managed to hold on and beat Duquesne (15-5) thanks to Obi Toppin’s tremendous game. Dayton should cruise to an easy victory when they host Fordham (7-13) but hey, it’s been a wild season.
  8. Villanova (17-3) – The Wildcats cruised by Butler by 15 last Tuesday before squeaking out a win against the Providence Friars Saturday, 64-60. On Tuesday, Nova extended its winning streak to seven games, defeating St Johns by 20. Next up is a nice home game against Creighton on Saturday.
  9. Duke (17-3) – Despite drubbing Miami by 30 last Tuesday and beating Pitt by 12 on Tuesday, Duke slipped a spot in the polls down to #9. I mean, who really cares at this point? We have yet to hit the final stretch of the season, so it’s not really important what their ranking is right now. All that matters for them is winning at Syracuse on Saturday.
  10. Seton Hall (16-4) – In Seton Hall’s only action last week, they managed to handle the Providence Friars by 9. This Wednesday, Seton Hall won by seven against Depaul at home. The Pirates have now won ten straight (last loss: December 19th) and will be facing Xavier at home Saturday with the hopes of remaining unbeaten (8-0) in Big East play.

The Top 10 and their weaknesses:

  1. Baylor – Depth/Shooting (34% from three but just 43% from the field)
  2. Gonzaga – Inexperience (Three starters now on NBA rosters from last season)
  3. Kansas – Offensive inconsistency/Free Throws (66% FT and 58 PPG in three losses)
  4. San Diego State – Unproven/Can’t get to FT line (12.4 FTA/Game and only big win vs Iowa)
  5. Florida State – Inexperience/Rebounding (Lost two starters to the NBA. Only 34 RPG)
  6. Louisville – Weak Guard play (Best guard offensively averages 8.7 PPG)
  7. Dayton – Rebounding (+3.2 RPG differential and just 35 RPG)
  8. Duke – FT Shooting/Turnovers (67% FT and 13.7 TO/game)
  9. Villanova – Scoring/Rebounding/Blocks (44% FG and just +2.7 RPG. Also, -.6 BPG differential)
  10. Seton Hall – Scoring/Rebounding (43.9% FG, 32.4% from three, 35.7 RPG with a negative diff)

Maybe it’s not the doom and gloom situation everyone fears this season in college basketball but after last season’s talented teams, strong shooting, and entertaining tournament, this season seems to be a big letdown thus far. So, where does that put us from a gambling perspective? It puts us in very favorable positions to bet on underdogs until we get a clearer picture of the landscape of college basketball.

Best bets of the week – February 1st

#14 Michigan State (-4) at Wisconsin 

In case you didn’t hear the news, Kobe King, the excellent Wisconsin guard, left the team this week for good. Also, another guard, Brad Davison, was suspended for this game for hitting another player in the groin this past week. So, they’ll be without their second and fifth leading scorers for the game.

I love the Spartans after hearing this news. Even before hearing this news, I liked the Spartans to cover. Michigan State has the advantage in four of the six major categories, with free throw shooting and turnovers being the only area Wisconsin holds an advantage. However, without Brad Davison (88% FT percentage), Michigan State has the adjusted free throw advantage.

Michigan State has a massive advantage in rebounding (42 per game to Wisconsin’s 33.5 per game) and that’s honestly going to be massive, especially with Cassius Winston potentially facing a player who likely won’t be able to guard him. I can see a landslide victory for Michigan State, even if they go relatively cold from the field.

Xavier at Seton Hall (-8)

There’s no simple narrative for this game like their was for Michigan State and Wisconsin, which is honestly disappointing. I mean, who doesn’t love a compelling storyline to a regular season conference game?

I like Seton Hall in this one based on how well they play at home (9-1) and how poorly Xavier plays on the road (1-4). Sure, Xavier could surprise us, but the last time these two played, it was at Xavier and Seton Hall won by 12. You can bet the Seton Hall students are going to be fired up for a big Saturday game with a ten game win streak on the line. I think Myles Powell will continue on his amazing season (22 PPG) and put his name in the conversation for this year’s most outstanding player award, along with the likes of Luka Garza, Payton Pritchard, and Obi Toppin.

Next week, we’ll recap the movement in the Top 25, go over more best bets of the week, and talk about the hottest teams in Division I hoops.

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