#6 Duke (6-1) at #4 Arizona (6-0)
2nd Best Matchup of the Season
It’s the matchup that we’ve been expecting and waiting for as the Duke Blue Devils, led by Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood square off against Nick Johnson and freshman sensation Alex Gordon of the Arizona Wildcats in the finals of the NIT Season Tip-Off.
Duke’s only loss came at the hands of the Kansas Jayhawks and Andrew Wiggins this season, but Jabari Parker has made a name for himself as one of if not the best player in the nation. Tonight’s game will be a battle of the titans and a win here will go a long way in March when the Big Dance is set to go off.
Just As Advertised
A couple of losses are expected as Duke has one of the toughest schedules in the nation and freshman Jabari Parker actually made a name for himself on the college level in Duke’s only loss of the season. Averaging 23.6 points and 8.7 rebounds while shooting 60% from the field, Parker is only the 2nd player in Duke history to open up the season with 7 consecutive games of 20 points or more. Aside from that, he’s a major force on the boards.
Along with Parker comes, transfer Rodney Hood. Hood has exceeded expectations making him and Parker one of the best 1-2 punches in college basketball. On the season, Hood is averaging nearly 20 points per game with 4.6 rebounds and shooting a sizzling 63.2 % from the field. Arizona is the higher ranked team and a 3 point betting favorite. How often do you see NCAA basketball odds listing Duke as a 3 point dog in any game?
Duke might be catching Arizona at the right time. The Wildcats are coming off of a surprisingly close game against the Drexel Dragons in which they pulled out a 66-62 victory. The Wildcats are led by junior guard, Nick Johnson, who has had back to back 20 point games. Along with Johnson is freshman, Aaron Gordon. Gordon’s game will improve as he gains more experience, but thus far the freshman is averaging nearly 10 rebounds per game. Arizona has a very deep team and this is where they could have a possible edge in this game. This will be a hard fought, tight battle.
Pick- Duke +3 at Bet 365 (Just too much talent for Duke to go down in a spot like this)
Penn State (5-1) at St. John’s (4-1)
Barclay’s Center Classic
This will be another tight battle as sportsbooks have the Red Storm listed a 2 point betting favorite where in essence they get a home court edge as the 1st round of this tournament will be played in their backyard. St. John’s only blemish this season came in their season opener against a top 25 team in Wisconsin which possesses a strong defense. The Red Storm’s schedule has been rather easy after that, but they’ve been impressive in the process.
Tonight, they take on the Penn State Nittany Lions and the two-headed monster of Tim Frazier (18.3 ppg, 7.3 apg., 4.3 rpg.) and D.J. Newbill (18 points, 7.2 rpg., 3.5 apg.). Whoever comes out on top in this game will have a nice “W” to put on their resume as this game is expected to be hard fought and both team’s schedules will only get tougher.
One thing that is noticeable is that both teams have had common opponents in Longwood and Monmouth. While the Johnnie’s were victorious by 15 points or less in both games, Penn State blew both of these opponents out by 30 points or more.
Also, while the Nittany Lions have two “go to guys” in Frazier and Newbill that could lead any team, the Red Storm have a legitimate glass protector in Jakarr Simpson, but only one key scorer in D’Angelo Harrison. Harrison leads the Red Storm at 19.4 points per contest, but is shooting below 40 % from the field. In my estimation, the Red Storm have the slight home court advantage, but Penn State has the better roster.
Penn State has shown more thus far this season and look for them to defeat the Red Storm as the underdog, earning a spot in our NCAA basketball picks, in tonight’s 1st round matchup.
Pick- Penn State +2 at Bet 365