It has been an exciting start to the college basketball season, and I'm left wondering if we're going to see a similar situation to what we've seen in college football, where highly-ranked teams are constantly losing.
The Big Ten and Big East began The Gavitt Games this week, an event like the ACC/Big Ten Challenge that pits teams from each conference against the other. The series started Monday night and saw significant upsets on the first two nights.
On Monday, it was No. 10 Illinois losing to Marquette 67-66 in a game that drove me out of my mind with rage as the Illini made dumb mistake after dumb mistake to blow the game late. Thankfully, Tuesday brought another upset, as Seton Hall knocked off No. 4 Michigan 67-65 in a game that my editor Nick Parco will have tattooed onto his entire back. I don't know the specifics, but he assures me it's going to look "so freaking sweet."
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The Big Ten suffered another upset Wednesday, though it wasn't part of the Gavitt Games this time. It was another ranked Big Ten team, though, as George Mason took out No. 20 Maryland, 71-66. So that's three ranked Big Ten teams going down in three nights. It's been enough to make me wonder if it was already March because that's usually when the Big Ten is supposed to fall on its face.
Anyway, might it happen again tonight? Maybe! We'll get to that possibility shortly, but first, let's catch up to the rest of the goings-on in the world of sports.
- So COVID-19 nearly took the 2021 NBA Finals out.
- The Chicago Bulls remain way too low in our NBA Power Rankings. I'm going to get somebody fired.
- Rams owner Stan Kroenke's superpower is making people mad at him.
- Would you rather have Clayton Kershaw or Justin Verlander?
OK, let's make some money.
All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook
🔥 The Hot Ticket
🏈Patriots at Falcons, 8:20 p.m. | TV: FOX
The Pick: Damien Harris Over 52.5 Rushing Yards (-115): Damien Harris missed New England's win over Cleveland last week as he was out with a concussion, but he was cleared to play earlier this week and wasn't on the Patriots latest injury report. All signs are that he'll be starting tonight, which is good news for the Patriots and us. I fully expect the Patriots to win this game following a similar script to the one they've had all season long.
While Mac Jones has been the best rookie quarterback in the league, he's still a rookie QB, and his coach is still Bill Belichick. That means he's not being asked to do much in difficult situations, and that includes being away from home. On the season, New England has run the ball 44.3% of the time, which is the ninth-highest rate in the NFL. However, at home, that rate drops to 38.9% and ranks 22nd. When New England is on the road, the rate skyrockets to 52.4%, the highest in the league.
Some of this is due to the opponent. The Patriots are 4-0 on the road this season with wins over the Jets, Texans, Chargers and Panthers. While the Chargers are respectable, those other three teams are a combined 8-20 on the season. But even if the numbers are skewed a bit due to the Patriots nursing leads late, will tonight be any different? Atlanta is 4-5 on the season, without Calvin Ridley and could be without Cordarrelle Patterson, too. Defensively, Atlanta's overall numbers against the run have been solid, but they rank 28th in defensive success rate against the run.
Expect the Patriots to lean on their run game tonight again and limit the responsibility they put on Mac Jones' shoulders. It's what they've done all season, and it's worked to their benefit. It'll also work to Damien Harris' benefit -- and ours as well.
Key Trend: Damien Harris has averaged 57.5 yards rushing in four road starts this season.
Here's what SportsLine is saying about the game: SportsLine expert Emory Hunt is an insane 17-4 ATS in his last 21 picks involving the Patriots, and he's posted a pick for tonight's game.
💰 The Picks
Wizards at Heat, 7:30 p.m. | TV: NBA League Pass
The Pick: Under 206.5 (-110) -- Do you really need me to keep explaining to you why I'm taking an under in any NBA game? All right, just in case you're new here, it's pretty simple. The way referees have been calling games this season has allowed for a lot more physical contact and much less flailing about like a fish on dry land hoping to get picked up and thrown back to the calm waters of the free-throw line. It's led to much lower-scoring games than we've seen recently, and even if the books have adjusted, they haven't adjusted enough.
Particularly in a game like this one where we have two of the best defensive teams in the league. Washington has been a big surprise to start the year at 10-4 and ranks fourth in the NBA with a defensive rating of 102.8. Miami isn't far behind at 103.7, which is the seventh-best mark in the league. Combine these defenses with two offenses that move slowly (Washington is 21st in pace, Miami's 25th), and you aren't likely to see a high-scoring game. I like this at anything above 204.
Key Trend: The under is 6-1 in Washington's last seven road games.
🏀 College Basketball
No. 19 Ohio State at Xavier, 6:30 p.m. | TV: FS1
The Pick: Xavier +2.5 (-110) -- It's Ohio State's turn to play the role of "Ranked Big Ten team losing to unranked Big East team." OK, so maybe the Buckeyes aren't going to be the latest ranked Big Ten team to lose in The Gavitt Games, but based on what we've seen so far this season, this line appears off. It's something that tends to happen in college basketball, where the market overvalues ranked teams because they're ranked, so they have to be better!
And the Buckeyes are, but I don't know that they're 2.5 points better than Xavier at the Cintas Center. While this is the most formidable opponent the Musketeers have played, they've been excellent on the offensive glass to start the season, which is a spot the Buckeyes have struggled. That's an area I believe the Musketeers can exploit, as they're a bigger team than the Buckeyes. Ohio State's regular rotation doesn't include players taller than 6'8, while Xavier has 6'11 Dieonte Miles and 7'0 Jack Nunge seeing regular minutes off the bench. Don't be shocked if Xavier picks up a big home win, but take the points.
Key Trend: Ohio State is 2-7 ATS in its last nine as a favorite while Xavier is 8-3 in its last 11 as an underdog.
🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: The SportsLine Projection Model's favorite play of the night BY FAR is a moneyline play in tonight's NHL game between the Buffalo Sabres and Calgary Flames.
🏀 College Basketball Parlay
With all of the upsets in college basketball already, what do you say we live on the edge? Let's parlay a bunch of favorites! It pays +108.
- Providence (-900)
- Marshall (-320)
- West Virginia (-900)
- San Diego State (-350)