Once again. handicapping College Basketball is morphing. Over the course of the year there are several different “seasons.” It starts obviously with the non-conference schedule where there are teams focused from the get-go and teams that are looking at the bigger picture, and working to improve each week in their efforts to be ready for March. Then there’s Conference play and revenge angles. Now we are into the final week with teams going nowhere, everywhere, and in between.
With that in mind it comes down more often than not to simple motivation. That’s a big factor for me during the season, but now it’s the biggest factor. Just last night I was on Southeast Missouri State at home to Eastern Illinois at +4.5. Many thought it was a bit of a reach, given that SEMO has won three Conference games this season are arguably one of the worst D1 teams. However, it was their last home game, they have two Senior starters, and just who is EIU to by road favorites.
It didn’t look great at the half, but as expected we got a huge second half effort and won the bet.
Now we move to Saturday, and there’s yet another under achieving home underdog I really like and want to share, and it’s equally contrarian. I like Virginia, projected to be a +5 underdog, over Duke.
Duke is looking at the bigger picture, and in fact have two remaining home games with in-state rivals. The game simply means more to Virginia, who has just one home loss to Syracuse in OT. Duke hasn’t won a road game by more than nine points since January 4th.
When Duke, or most fast-paced teams, struggle, it’s often against teams that slow them down. Virginia takes the air out of the ball better than anyone as they play THE slowest tempo in the nation. UVA has the size to compete with two seven-footers inside that can make Carey’s life a little more difficult. They’ve also got the #1 defense in the ACC.
Lastly, Duke is still young, and these kids are now playing their 29th game, not including practices and travel. That’s exponentially more than they did just a year ago in High School, which has proven to matter over the years.
So, UVA may well win the game and I will happily take points on top of it.