You’re not going to find a particularly sexy slate of games this Sunday, since college basketball won’t want to go head-to-head with the NFL, but there are a few interesting contests to follow.
Stetson Hatters @ Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Notre Dame has remade itself over the past few years under head coach Mike Brey. It used to be that Notre Dame was an offense-first team that tried to shoot its way to victory. The Irish won with finesse and made the Sweet 16 in the 2003 NCAA Tournament before losing to Arizona in Anaheim, Calif. However, in more recent seasons, the Irish have undergone a makeover of sorts. They have devoted themselves much more to the defensive end of the floor, and that’s how they managed to survive in the college basketball world. They beat eventual national champion Louisville last season in the marathon of the year, beating Rick Pitino’s Cardinals in not one, not two, not three, not four, but five overtimes, in a game LeBron James would have been proud of. This is a resilient team, one that doesn’t back down from a fight. It works through its problems and manages to overcome scoring droughts with its vastly improved defense. This is a team that should not stumble in an early-season home game against Stetson, a team that is trying to make a name for itself in the Atlantic Sun Conference. Take Notre Dame against the college basketball odds.
Free Pick: Notre Dame at 5Dimes
Massachusetts Minutemen vs. Boston College Eagles (Neutral-Site Game)
This is clearly the biggest and best game of the Sunday schedule in college basketball. Massachusetts and Boston College are both expected to be better this season than they were last season. It is felt that UMass head coach Derek Kellogg and B.C. head coach Steve Donahue have both built up their teams to the point that they should be competing for an NCAA tournament spot in early March. UMass came closer to an at-large tournament berth last season but could not defeat Virginia Commonwealth in the Atlantic-10 Tournament in Brooklyn. Boston College finished at a much lower point in the Atlantic Coast Conference, but the young Eagles are viewed as a team that’s loaded with young talent thanks to an accumulation of solid recruiting classes. UMass should make this game very close, but the initial feeling on this game is that Boston College will be just a little more hungry to win, given the desire on the part of the Eagles to banish the frustrations that have built up over the past few seasons at the program.
Free Pick: Boston College -3 at Bovada
Seattle Redhawks @ Washington Huskies
This is a spirited local matchup, one that lay dormant for decades when Seattle University’s program withdrew from the ranks of Division I. Now, however, Seattle is back in the Division I game after making a decision to once again compete at that level in 2008. What adds to the emotional environment in this game is that Seattle’s head coach, Cameron Dollar, played for Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar at UCLA in the 1990s, when Romar was an assistant coach for the Bruins. Dollar then proved to be one of Romar’s best recruiters when serving as an assistant for Romar at Washington several years ago. Dollar jumped from the assistant’s chair at Washington to the head job at Seattle. This will be a fight, but add Washington to your sports picks. They should prevail.
Free Pick: Washington at WillHill