Thursday, January 12, 2012

Hoops Preview? You bet....courtesy of Mr. BCS Champion himself, the SEC Guy

Well, after an amazingly successful run through the college football season (culminating with the best team from the best conference – the SEC – winning the BCS championship), our editor in chief, Mr. Lazy Sweatpants himself requested that your humble correspondent do some basketball blogging. Of course, between my dynamite analysis, crisp yet whimsical writing, top notch SEC pedigree, and ability to consistently keep myself (and all my loyal readers) in the winner’s circle is it really a surprise? Yeah, I didn’t think so either.

And with that, let’s get to winning some money….

The Who, When, and Where:
Virginia Cavaliers (14-1, 1-0 ACC) vs. Duke Blue Devils (13-2, 1-0 ACC). Thursday, January 12th at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN/ESPN3. Cameron Indoor Stadium, Durham, NC

Matchup Breakdown:
For my first foray into the world of college hoops, I’ll be breaking down the Duke/UVA matchup, with the same intensity and emotion that Jenna the Blogger displayed after Ben Flajnik left her heart broke and without a cherished rose this past week on The Bachelor.

This is an early season ACC tilt featuring two top 25 teams (Duke at #6 and UVA at #17), but based on Sagarin’s ratings, it’s actually Duke (#7) hosting the Virginia (#24). In other words, per Sagarin’s advanced metrics and ranking system, Duke is pretty accurately rated while Virginia’s rating is slightly inflated. Upon further inspection, it becomes more clear why Sagarin thinks Virginia is over-rated – they have one win over a top 25 team (Michigan), a loss to a 9-5 TCU team, and the 231st ranked strength of schedule (SOS). More simply, they haven’t played, or really beaten, anyone. Duke, on the other hand has beaten Michigan, Kansas, and Michigan State, although those wins were offset by losses at Temple and Ohio State. But, as a result of playing stiffer competition Duke currently owns the #7 ranked SOS.

In terms of on-court performance, this is a contrast of styles, with Duke averaging just over 82 points per game (and surrendering about 69) while Virginia averages a shade under 66 points per game but surrenders only 50.5. Similarly, Duke shoots 41.7% from three point land while the Cavaliers are just a touch under 36%. But, Duke’s opponents hit about 34% of their triples, while UVA’s holds the opposition to just 27%.

Irreverent (Irrelevant?) Considerations:
Growing up in Durham as a huge Duke fan, my wife has threatened potential bodily l harm in my sleep if I pick against the Devils (and I’m a heavy sleeper which would be a problem). And the Duke campus is very nice…and I even saw a game in Cameron, which was a very cool experience. Then again, I did go jogging around the Duke campus and got lost, which wasn’t so much fun.

As for Virginia, they’re coached by Tony Bennett, and anytime a team can count one of the greatest singers/entertainers of all time as their head coach that’s gotta be worth something (oh wait, that’s a different guy?) Also, none other than Mr. Declaration of Independence himself, old Tommy Jefferson founded the place, in 2012 it ranked as the #2 ranked public institution in the U.S. (per U.S. News and World Report) and in terms of basketball, who can ever forget the legacy of Ralph Sampson and how he led UVA to the NIT title?

Vegas Baby, Vegas:
The line on this game is Duke -9.5, which shouldn’t be too surprising given they’ve played better teams, do more things better, and have better players. However, on the season Duke is only 6-9 ATS while Virginia is 7-3. The Over/Under on the game is 129, which seems low, but if Duke gets anywhere near their average it seems reasonable the team’s combined scores will blow well past 129.

SEC Guy’s Winning Call:
Okay, loyal readers, it’s what you’ve all been waiting for (unless you scrolled right to this section, in which case, come on!!)…so let’s not waste any time and get to the pick.

Even though Virginia has done a solid job defensively this season and Duke struggled against Temple (and got killed at Ohio State), the Devils are a different team at home. I think Virginia can probably hang in for a while and keep the tempo to their liking (aka a half-court game) for most of the first half, but I think a patented run to close out the first twenty minutes gives Duke an 8 – 10 point lead that they build on in the second half, and win their first ACC home game going away, 78-60.

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