Ben Howland's Bruins looked to be a certainty for a fourth consecutive Pac-10 title coming into this season before things went south. Entering their final two games of the season, including tonight's contest at home vs. Oregon State, UCLA needs to win out and for Washington to lose to just claim a share of the conference crown. The Beavers and Bruins tip at 10:35 at Pauley Pavilion.
We’ve got an all-out battle royale going on in college basketball. It’s the last week of the regular season, and very little has been decided when it comes to conference titles and Tournament bids. The level of competition this week is going to be off the chain; let’s get right to it and jump on three of the highest-profile matchups.
Florida State Seminoles at Duke Blue Devils
Tuesday, Mar 3, 8:00 p.m. (ET)
We’ve become so accustomed to the Duke second-half swoon that we may have taken it for granted. The Blue Devils (24-5 SU, 14-13-1 ATS, No. 5 Pomeroy) are a more polished team than the one that collapsed last year; four straight wins at 3-1 ATS have Duke within one game of North Carolina for the ACC lead, and those two clubs meet this Sunday to wrap up the regular season.
Duke absolutely cannot afford to look past Tuesday’s visit by the Seminoles (22-7 SU, 15-7-1 ATS, No. 44 Pomeroy). Florida State has seven wins by upset this year, including a pair of victories over Clemson. The ‘Noles also bagged the cash when they hosted Duke in January, losing 66-58 as 9.5-point home dogs. That game went under the posted total of 136.5 points; the under is a combined 31-19 for these two defensive stalwarts.
The big difference in this matchup is that Florida State can’t score. The Seminoles are ranked No. 195 in Division I with an effective field-goal percentage of 48.4. They also cough up the ball far too often, specifically on 22.7 percent of their possessions. Duke is much better at shooting and handling the ball. Moving Jon Scheyer to point guard has certainly paid dividends; the Devils’ four-game streak coincides with his shift from the 2-spot now occupied by emerging freshman Elliot Williams.
Oklahoma Sooners at Missouri Tigers
Wednesday, Mar 4, 9:00 p.m. (ET)
The Big 12 is a chalkeater’s paradise. The top three teams are a combined 43-26-2 ATS, although Kansas is doing a lot of that damage right now. The Jayhawks beat both Oklahoma (26-3 SU, 13-10-1 ATS, No. 17 Pomeroy) and Missouri (24-5 SU, 13-9 ATS, No. 10 Pomeroy) to seize top spot in the conference. Now the Sooners have to go into Mizzou Arena and beat the Tigers to have any hope of catching Kansas at the wire.
That’s a tough assignment, even with the return of power forward Blake Griffin. He did a number on Texas Tech (+8.5) in his first game back from a concussion: 20 points, 18 rebounds and a pair of blocks in a 78-63 victory. But Missouri won’t be as easy to disassemble. The Tigers are very good at defense, and especially good at creating turnovers – their 14.4 percent steal percentage is third in Division I.
Oregon State Beavers at UCLA Bruins
Thursday, Mar 5, 10:30 p.m. (ET)
All’s quiet on the western front. The Pacific-10 is keeping things on the QT this year with the relative drop in performance by the Bruins (22-7 SU, 13-14-1 ATS, No. 9 Pomeroy). This is still a very good team under Ben Howland and one that should have little trouble beating Oregon State (13-14 SU, 11-11 ATS, No. 115 Pomeroy) at Pauley Pavilion. But this is not the same team that challenged for a national title last year, and the betting public is slow to recognize this fact – UCLA is 1-4-1 ATS in its last six games.
The Beavers are .500 against the betting odds despite making tremendous gains in their first year with Craig Robinson at the controls. This was an OSU team that failed to win a single Pac-10 game last year; now they’re 7-9 and gaining steam with three straight upsets over Washington State (-12), Stanford (-4) and California (-4.5). The Beavers look like a more well-rounded club than the one that lost 69-46 to visiting UCLA (-15) back on Jan. 2. Watch out for 6-foot-11 Roeland Schaftenaar, who might do a number on the Bruins in the paint now that Kevin Love and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute are in the NBA.