With the end of the NFL, there's nothing like diving into a litle college ball action and looking across a smorgasbord of games. I've scanned this weekend's games and I've got to say that only two really jump out at me. Now, there is definitely some undercover value with some of these smaller schools and I won't deny that there can be some softer lines hiding away deep down. But this weekend we're going with some of the top guns. I really can't see anyone slowing down either Duke University or North Carolina.
Wake Forest Demon Decons (15-11) vs #12 Duke Blue Devils
Saturday, February 18th - Cameron Indoor Stadium - 1:00 PM ET
Coming off huge wins against rival UNC and Virginia, Duke heads home to face a slipping Wake Forest squad. Wake Forest has a storied history in the NCAA and March Madness, but they're just not the same team this year. Sophomore Bryant Crawford is a legitimate threat and I'm a fan of the solid coaching of HC Danny Manning, but the Deacons simply do not have the raw talent to compete with this fiery Duke squad. If this game was at home, I'd give Wake Forest more of a chance. Indeed, the Deacons gave Duke quite the scare back in January, forcing the game to the buzzer and losing by a mere two points.
Despite their five losses, Duke still appears to have a shot at a number one seed for this year's NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. Duke hasn't lost in almost a month and is coming off a six game winning streak. The Blue Devil bandwagon is gassed up and ready to go and I'm expecting this squad to get hot at exactly the right time. They could realistically run the table from this point forward. It's not inconceivable. Duke is finally living up to the preseason hype. The Blue Devils are playing only eight players, including freshman Jayson Tatum, which is a name you're going to want to know over the next 3-4 years. Clearly, the most important transformation over the winter has been the rehabilitation, both physically and mentally, of hothead Grayson Allen (no disrespect to Luke Kennard). He's averaging almost twenty points during this winning streak and will be a critical part of any deep tournament run. Whatever this spread is, it doesn't matter, take the Blue Devils.
Virginia Cavaliers (18-7) vs #10 North Carolina Tar
Saturday, February 18th - Dean E. Smith Center - 8:15 PM ET
Duke is the premiere pick of the weekend, but if you're not sold, check out the UNC Tar Heels. After their dismantlement of cross-state rival NC State, I'm expecting perhaps a bit of letdown, but no doubt that they'll take out Virginia. Injuries have plagued UNC all season, most prominently, forward Theo Pinson who has missed almost twenty games this season. Rebounding is the most critical part of this UNC squad. They're 0-3 in games when they're outrebounded. In college, I think sometimes coaching is a little underrated in terms of importance versus, say, football. These Tar Heels clearly love their HC Roy Williams. I think he's going to be able to keep their heads in the game for the rest of the season, following a devastating fourth quarter collapse against Duke. Expect the Tar Heels to finish the season strong. Don't be surprised if both of these teams make a deep run.