We’ve Got the Itch: Thursday Picks

It takes a lot for us to get off our lazy asses and write about games during the week that don’t involve UD or ND.  The ESPN doubleheader on Thursday…


#8 UNC (21-4, 9-2) at #18 Duke (18-5, 6-4): 7 p.m. – ESPN

Line:  Duke -2.5

Reason to Watch:  DUKE IS AGAIN THE GREATEST BASKETBALL TEAM IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD!!!  Things you will hear about for two hours tomorrow:

1) Duke is 3-0 since Coach K banned them from wearing Duke clothing for the length of the weather segment on the local news.

2) Grayson Allen is a new man, and the tripping incident is behind him forever.

3) Coach K is really struggling with pain/immobility from his back surgery but just cares too much about his team to sit on the sidelines any longer.  Plus, that image of the team leaving the chair open for him was really hard for him to see.


Give me a break.

Has Duke been better lately?  Sure.  But let’s dig deeper into this three game winning streak.  First, they needed 30 second half points from Luke Kennard (incredibly impressive) to beat a Wake Forest team that is 0-9 against the RPI Top 50.  Second, they handled Notre Dame in South Bend, as the Irish were in the middle of an identity crisis and a four-game losing streak.  Third, Duke was locked in a one possession game with Pitt with three minutes to play…at home.

Want some insight on UNC?  They are just, to quote Roy, daggum good at basketball.


Mike: Between the empty chair thing and his “comeback” game on Saturday I just can’t understand why anyone would hate Duke. I just can’t. It’s not like they have a pathological need to bring it on themselves.

I can’t think of the last time I wanted a team to just go away more than this Duke team. I don’t think they’re anything special this year (Sweet 16, tops) yet they’re all anyone seems capable of talking about. I’m still of the opinion that UNC can be the best team in the country, but winning this game on the road won’t be any picnic no matter how much I would enjoy watching that. Even though I have no great love for UNC either, I’ll still take UNC + 2.5 mainly out of a rooting interest. That’s a terrible reason to make a bet. Shit.

Nate:  UNC’s last two games at Duke:

2015 – #4 Duke 92, #15 UNC 90 (OT).  This was one that UNC let slip away, as they were up 10 with less than four minutes to play.

2016 – #8 UNC 76, #19 Duke 72.  The Heels outrebounded Dook by 35!  While Dook had 29 total rebounds, UNC had 27 offensive rebounds.

I’m with the large-headed one, UNC +2.5.  They’re just better.

NCAA Basketball: UCLA at Oregon

#5 Oregon (21-3, 10-1) at #10 UCLA (21-3, 8-3):  9 p.m. – ESPN

Line:  Bruins -4.5

Reason to Watch:  Both of these teams are coming off of big margin wins but Oregon’s demolition of Arizona was arguably the most impressive win any team has posted this season. Oregon’s only recent loss was on the back half of a road trip in which the Ducks visited Utah and Colorado in 3 days. They (unsurprisingly) lost the back half. Nice scheduling there, Pac12. UCLA, while having been shat on by this blog (Mike) wrongly during the early going has struggled a bit lately against decent teams (back-to-back losses against Arizona and USC). They’re still really damn good. Oh, and these teams played a great game already this season that Oregon squeaked out by 2 at home.


Mike: This spread reeks. Normally, I would have jumped at the chance to bet on the reaction to Oregon’s action all over Arizona on Saturday. But UCLA has been wonky lately and there’s the outside chance that Oregon will still be riding that hi…nope, can’t do it. Bruins -4.5. I’m not even remotely confident about this.

Nate:  Before I get to the game, I have to talk about the youngest Ball brother (Lamelo) scoring 92 points in a high school game.  Completely bogus.  First, how the hell does a high school game end up 148-124, or whatever the hell it was?  Second, how does a high school coach allow a player to loaf back on defense and routinely barely make it to half-court?

To the actual college basketball game, we all know I love to preach on the action/reaction gambling rule.  Oregon is excellent, but can they really put together another effort like they did Saturday in completely dismantling Arizona?  UCLA gets a little of their mojo back in this one, as long as Lonzo doesn’t play defense like his brother.  UCLA -4.5


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