Against the Spread Predictions: Ohio State at Michigan State and more

So there I was, gliding along on the season with my predictions.  I tweeted smack talk, saying how I was 66% correct on the season (26-13).  That’s when the full court press caught me.  Like a stunned offense in front of the Cameron Crazies, I needed a timeout.

I licked my wounds, re-watched tape, and debrief on two of my worst losses.  You can see my posts about what SMU and Stl John’s taught me by picking against them.

This week I will tone it down in attitude and rely on “what got me here.”  My eye test still hasn’t failed me.  I can live with a 27-17 record, for now.

This week I would like to take Old Dominion getting 4 1/2 points at UTEP, but I just haven’t seen enough of either team.

I”ll nickname this week “the icing on the cake.”

VCU has lost a couple times since losing Briante Weber.  Conference rivals  like Dayton, George Washington and Temple have been eager to seize the moment.  I trust point guard Joe McDonald to handle the Havoc defense.  I see the Eric Snow play-alike to capture this win.  In a pick ’em, I have to take George Washington as an “icing on the cake” for their testimony towards postseason.

I like Michigan State to actually cover 2 1/2 points against Ohio State.  I keep looking at that line thinking Ohio State is a gimme, but I think that coach Tom Izzo will find a answer to De’Angelo Russell.  I think a Spartans win would be the “icing on the cake,” for Michigan State to be an official pain in the committee’s decision-making behind.

Can you envision Tom Izzo’s team in the NIT?

Give me St. John’s getting eight.  They’re on Joe Lunardi’s latest bracket as a play-in 12 seed.  A win *at Xavier would be the icing on the cake for the Storm to stay on that inside the bubble fold.

Iowa State is a 3 or 4 seed.  It’s much more dangerous to be a 5 or 6 seed.  Saturday will be the icing on the cake for Iowas State to separate its cream from the crop of Big 12 teams.  I think they’ll throttle West Virginia.

And, finally, Villanova is in similar position as are the Iowa State Cyclones.  Villanova beat a quality Providence team wire-to-wire the other night.  I expect the Wildcats to hold serve and hold on to that projected 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.  A win at Butler would all but guarantee this, especially if they par-out the rest of the way.  Give me Villanova minus two points.

Here is a history of my selections so far this season:
(Starting with the most recent)

Coaster Ride Continues for Red Storm of St. John’s

I love being wrong.

Well, that’s not true.  But in the case of St. John’s today, I am fortunate for being wrong.  A loss to Creighton at Madison Square Garden would have been another demerit against the Johnnies’ chances of making the NCAA Tournament.

But Rysheed Jordan shut up his critics, including me.

The elusive sophomore exploded for a career-high 25 points in an 18 point victory over Creighton on Saturday.

Friday night I predicted that the Red Storm would not cover an 8.5 spread, in part, because Rysheed Jordan had been MIA.

For a supposed NBA prospect, Jordan had been a disappointment.  In their first game against Creighton this season, Jordan only played seven minutes.  He took a leave of absence from the team on January 2nd.  The reason was never clearly specified.  St. John’s lost an important game to fellow bubble team, Butler.

But on Saturday Rysheed Jordan was the electric, sharp-shooting scorer that St. John’s fans are salivating for.

He hit six three pointers, shot 75% from the field and also contributed 4 assists.

Creighton coach Greg McDermott spoke highly of Rysheed Jordan after the game.

After the game, reporters took to Twitter to joke that he remains off-limits for post game interviews.  Jordan has not been cleared to speak with reporters for two years.

Whatever the catalyst for his mysterious nature, I hope translates onto the court and continues to confuse opposing defenses.  I bought-in on St. John’s to win the championship at 200/1 odds.  The odds have become even higher now.  You can find them between 300-500/1 in Vegas.  I love that value!

Will they win it?  Likely not.  But every win gets them closer to the tournament.  Once a team gets in, anything can happen.   I love that I was wrong on my Friday night prediction.

Eye Test Tuesday: Transfers

The term “journey man” is now a tangible buzz phrase in college basketball.  How ironic that in an atmosphere where players are presumably recruited starting in 6th and 7th grade, that those players are leaving programs after things don’t work out perfectly.

Or, in one of many shades of the college basketball transfers, many players are joining different teams after graduating.  Players like Jon Hortford of Florida can play immediately if pursuing a graduate program.  Hortford spent four years at Michigan, but only used up 3 years of eligibility playing.  Now he is a gator boy like his older brother, Al Hortford.

To me, players like this look like people who leave the casino contemplating where to spin their final quarter.  One final play on the big wheel.  It has to be good though, I only have one more to play.

This blog post is dedicated to those guys.  These are the college basketball player who I’ve seen perform in the past and am excited to see in their new role.

This first is Antoine Mason.  Yes, I am partial because his father, Anthony Mason, was part of the New York Knicks team I grew up rooting for.  But junior’s got serious game.  After Doug McDermott, Antoine Mason led the nation in scoring last year for Niagara.  Now he rejoins another guy who is reborn: coach Bruce Pearl.  I say Mason and the Auburn Tigers finish 5th in the SEC (Kentucky, Florida, LSU, Arkansas) and entertain an invite as a bubble team.

Remember the skinny white kid who hit threes as part of Kentucky’s 2012 championship run with Anthony Davis?  Yeah, his name is Kyle Wiltjer and he’s gained lots of muscle and now plays for Gonzaga.

Unlike the boys mentioned previously, Wiltjer had to wait his turn, as he admittedly left Kentucky to find a roster spot with more playing time.  He joins a very talented team with Gary Bell Jr., Przemek Karnowski and Kevin Pangos.  If Wiltjer can play inside-and-out, that will pose nightmarish matchups for opposing teams.  As Karnowski showed in a bruising performance against Memphis last year, his size can suck many bodies into the paint.  I want to see Pangos and Wiltjer spread the floor for the pure enjoyment of watching them shoot lights out.

In my research for this article, I laughed to find a full weblink dedicated to where college basketball transfers have landed.  It lists them all.  Click here to check it out on espn.com.  I won’t get into junior college transfers, or “JuCo” guys, here because I have not studied up on my community college circuit (no shame in my game there).

Rounding out my top transfers is Kevin Ware of Georgia State and Justin Martin of SMU.  Ware only averaged 1.7 points for Louisville, but showed flashes of unstoppable quickness before breaking his leg in an unforgettable broadcast moment.  Now Ware becomes part of a team that will continue being the sexiest pick for a mid-major program to do damage in March.  Martin is a heady combo guard that does all the things Xavier guys seem to do.  He handles the ball with strength and rebounds well for a guard.  Martin can be the type of glue-guy an SMU team could use, given its appeal “on paper.”  SMU thinks it got snubbed from the tournament last year, but it really didn’t capitalize on its out-of-conference opportunities. I am intrigued to see what Martin can bring to this team in terms of stability.