College Basketball Betting Pick: Michigan State
The fact that MSU’s rival, Purdue, lost star Robbie Hummel for the season with an injury makes the Spartans the pick in the Big Ten. Just to be clear about this, it’s also worth noting that Ohio State just won’t be the same team in 2010-’11 without all-world guard and playmaker Evan Turner. It’s always such an advantage to have your star player be your best ballhandler and your most versatile player as well. That’s what Ohio State and coach Thad Matta had last season with Turner. That one loss will feel like the loss of multiple players. Turner’s absence (he’s now in the NBA with the Philadelphia 76ers) will be felt throughout the entire Big Ten this season, and that’s to Michigan State’s benefit.
College Basketball Betting Pick: Pittsburgh
The Panthers grind it out on defense and win with a rugged, blue-collar style. Since the Big East is going to be way down in comparison to last season – Syracuse, Villanova and West Virginia lost multiple key players – it makes sense that a not-very-glamorous team would win the conference by defending better and hustling more than any of its immediate competitors. Pittsburgh won’t suffer considerable matchup disadvantages… not against most Big East teams, at any rate.
College Basketball Betting Pick: Kansas
Kansas State might be a popular pick for many, but the thought here is that Kansas will rule the roost in the Big 12 because of the memory of last season’s second-round loss to ninth-seeded Northern Iowa in the NCAA Tournament. Kansas will have a chip on its shoulder this season, and coach Bill Self will drive his team hard in order to wipe away the memory of the 2010 tournament. Kansas State won’t be able to shoot teams out of the building quite as successfully in the upcoming months. The Wildcats snuck up on some people and will now be defended more sensibly.
College Basketball Betting Pick: Washington
Last year, no Pac-10 team truly deserved to be in the NCAA Tournament as an at-large representative of the conference. California got that at-large bid, but the Golden Bears defeated absolutely no one outside the conference. This year, most of the teams in the league will be better, primarily because the Pac-10 will be more mature. The 2009-2010 season featured a lot of youth and uncertainty on various league rosters. Now, the teams in the Pac-10 will be ready to pace themselves over the course of the season and avoid the mistakes (mental more than physical) that were part of last year’s campaign.
College Basketball Betting Pick: Kentucky
There’s really only one answer. Tennessee’s normally strong program is a mess. Florida hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game since the 2007 national championship contest against Ohio State. Georgia will be a lot better, and good enough to make the NCAA Tournament, but a conference title is a lot to ask of the Bulldogs. Vanderbilt loses some key people, and Mississippi State will be without its shot-blocking center, Jarvis Varnado, who terrorized opposing offenses by swatting or altering loads of shots in the lane. Kentucky is really the only team equipped with the horses needed to make a deep run in March.
College Basketball Betting Pick: Duke
Singler. Smith. The Plumlee brothers. Freshman recruit Kyrie Irving. And of course, Coach K, Mike Krzyzewski. In a thin ACC, only North Carolina has a chance to catch the Blue Devils on the road to the Final Four. This is the easiest BCS conference pick of them all.