By Doug Upstone for ScoresandStats.com
The year was 1995 and a little-known movie on just a six million dollar budget was shot. This movie went on to win an Academy Awards for Best Writing (Original Screenplay) and Best Supporting Actor (Kevin Spacey). The director was Bryan Singer and he came up with the title of the movie from the classic ‘Casablanca’, taking a line uttered, “The Usual Suspects”.
How does this relate to college basketball? If you have bet college hoops, you should have noticed changes that have occurred from a most unusual season. For most of the season, outside of Villanova, none of the powerhouse programs have stood out for a variety of reasons. Oh sure, Duke, North Carolina, Kansas and Michigan State were still winning a lot of games, yet their losses were immediately noteworthy for how they happened and were stunning because they came more frequently than anticipated.
But as the madness of March approaches, the cream is rising to the top and if you go to America’s Bookie or any other sportsbook for college basketball future’s wagering, you will see nearly every one of the usual suspects is peaking at the right time.
Virginia might have won the ACC regular season, but everyone is looking at the Blue Devils and Tar Heels. Since losing back to back games to St. John’s and North Carolina, Duke is on a 4-0 SU and ATS move. The Blue Devils have accomplished this without their best player, Marvin Bagley III, who’s been out with a knee issue. What has changed? Senior Grayson Allen is shooting the ball well again and Coach K’s defense has plugged the early season holes and they are holding opponents to just over 40 percent shooting.
Everyone knew the Tar Heels were not as talented as last year’s national champions, but when they were 0-3 SU and ATS to close January, many were wondering about North Carolina’s cavalier defensive attitude. Two games later, after a big come from behind victory over rival Duke, Roy Williams team got the shot of confidence they needed and are 6-0 (5-0-1 ATS) since that losing streak.
These team’s matchup on March 3rd in Durham and again an epic contest is expected.
Michigan State is Serving Notice
At 27-3 and ranked either No.1 or No.2 depending on the poll one might follow, Michigan State really did not go anywhere, they were just leaving breadcrumbs of doubt. In early January, the Spartans were waxed at Ohio State by 16 and six days later were easily handled at home by in-state rival Michigan 72-62.
Since that setback, Tom Izzo’s team has not lost and victory at Wisconsin Sunday wraps up yet another outright Big Ten championship. Granted, Michigan State’s 6-10-1 ATS conference record is hardly impressive, yet they will enter the NCAA Tournament more rested than any other major power because the Big Ten moved up conference tournament this year. Once the bids are announced, the Spartans do not have to beat the spread again, as long as they go on a six-game win streak.
Dog Bites Man, Kansas Wins Big 12, Yada, Yada
In the Big 12, there has not been an easy game this season. Oh sure some of the scores have been occasionally lopsided, yet nearly half of the games have been decided by six or fewer points. With Kansas down in talent and depth compared to normal standards, just a couple of weeks ago it seemed all but certain that 13-year stranglehold on the Big 12 was over.
But with Texas Tech having injuries, the Jayhawks have flown to first place and if they finish at least 2-1, Kansas will extend streak of Big 12 champions to 14 years.