The Daily 1-3-1 (February 20th)

1  Thought from the Games Last Night

Syracuse lost to WHO!?

Syracuse had been playing with fire all season when it came to remaining undefeated – last night, it finally caught up with them. Seriously though, raise your hand if you had Boston College as the team that would go into the Carrier Dome and hand the Orange their first loss of the season. Looks like nobody raised their hand; if you did, you’re a rapscallion and a liar… or a Boston College alum. This loss leaves Gregg Marshall’s Wichita State squad as the only remaining undefeated team in Men’s D1 college hoops.

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3  Games to Watch Tonight

i. (5) Duke @ North Carolina, ESPN – 9 PM
Let’s try this again! With all do respect to Louisville/Kentucky, Michigan/Michigan State, Georgetown/Syracuse, and Cincinnati/Xavier, this is the best rivalry in college basketball. It is a mere 9 miles from Durham to Chapel Hill, and there is no love lost when the two Tobacco Road goliaths tango on the basketball court. This year’s edition promises to be filled with plenty of excitement and hoopla, as freshman phenom Jabari Parker has really settled into his role in the past few games. North Carolina also seems to have settled into their fast-paced style of play, having won 7 straight games. 

ii. (25) Gonzaga @ BYU, ESPN2 – 11 PM
For all the night owls and people who live on the West coast, this game is one to watch in terms of shuffling of seeding (and entry into) the NCAA tournament. BYU has been flirting with earning an at-large birth into the tournament field, but so far they’ve just been a tease. Gonzaga has an impressive 23-4 record, albeit a bit misleading – their three tough non-conference games (Dayton, Kansas State, and Memphis) all resulted in losses.

iii. Penn State @ Nebraska, ESPNU – 7 PM
Many people would say I’m really scraping the bottom of the barrel when I list this game as one you might want to watch. Those people have a valid point, but have you seen my other options for tonight? Slim pickings. Nonetheless, Nebraska is at least in the conversation as a tournament bubble team after their win in East Lansing this weekend. If they can manage to finish above .500 in the topsy-turvy Big 10, it’s going to be hard to leave them out of the field.

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1  Bold Prediction for Tonight’s Slate

BYU plays their way back into the thick of the bubble discussion with a close home win over Mark Few and Co.

The Marriott Center has proven to be unfriendly confines for visiting West Coast Conference opponents, who are winless against the Cougars when playing in Provo. Something deep down in my gut tells me Tyler Haws is going to find a way to will this team to a narrow victory – he might even drop 30 on the Bulldogs along the way.

The Daily 1-3-1 (February 12th)

1  Thought from the Games Last Night

San Diego State’s loss in Laramie last night might drop them two whole seed lines.

Alliterations aside, San Diego State can’t afford another loss the rest of the way if they want to have a résumé worthy of a 2-seed. It’s not the worst loss in the world, as Wyoming is at least a borderline NIT team and it was on the road. Nevertheless, watching this team play, I’ve always questioned their ability to put the ball in the basket against top-caliber opponents (which appears well-founded, with their Adjusted Offensive Efficiency outside of KenPom’s Top 50), so maybe they aren’t deserving of a 2-seed.

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3  Games to Watch Tonight

i. (8) Duke @ North Carolina, ESPN – 9 PM
With all do respect to Louisville/Kentucky, Michigan/Michigan State, Georgetown/Syracuse, and Cincinnati/Xavier, this is the best rivalry in college basketball. It is a mere 9 miles from Durham to Chapel Hill, and there is no love lost when the two Tobacco Road goliaths tango on the basketball court. This year’s edition promises to be filled with plenty of excitement and hoopla, as freshman phenom Jabari Parker has really settled into his role in the past few games. North Carolina also seems to have settled into their fast-paced style of play, having won 5 straight games by double digits.

ii. George Washington @ VCU, NBC Sports Network – 7 PM
VCU has their aptly-named “Havoc” defense, and George Washington has wooden teeth. In all seriousness, the Colonials are also capable of playing some high-pressure, lock-down defense when the time comes – and the time will come tonight. Tonight’s battle at the Siegel Center will be a means for determining (temporarily anyway) who is numero dos in the Atlantic 10 behind Saint Louis. Look for Mo Creek to have a big game if George Washington wants to go on the road and get a huge W.

iii. (1) Syracuse @ (25) Pittsburgh, ESPN – 7 PM
These two teams already met once earlier this season at the Carrier Dome, and the Orange slogged their way to an ugly 59-54 victory. The Panthers have the undefeated, unanimous #1 team in the country coming into their backyard; this gives them a chance to finally beat a quality opponent this season. Just to be clear, Pitt has played four legitimately good teams all season – Cincinnati, Syracuse, Duke, and Virginia. Their record in those four games? 0 wins, 4 losses. If they want the committee to take their over-inflated record seriously, they need to have a quality win on their team sheet for Selection Sunday.

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1  Bold Prediction for Tonight’s Slate

The three abovementioned games will all be decided by single digit margins.

Grab some popcorn and settle in for some great basketball tonight, ladies and gentlemen… I think we have three truly great matchups between six teams that are all capable of making the second weekend (and beyond in the case of Duke and Syracuse) come March. If you put a gun to my head and told me to pick each game, I might just flip a coin for each one, because it would be that tough for me to make a decision. Since you twisted my arm, I’ll make some picks: Duke goes on the road and picks up a big W, VCU uses their home court to nix GW, and Cuse’s bid for an undefeated regular season lives to see another day.