New Indiana Law Troubles the NCAA Ahead of the Final Four

Final Four
Final Four

The Final Four could find itself at the center of a political debate in Indiana.

The State of Indiana is due to host the NCAA’s Final Four next weekend in Indianapolis and suddenly, there will be a lot more discussion about it than just basketball. The NCAA is extremely concerned about a new law passed this week and signed by the governor allowing businesses in the state to discriminate against gays, lesbians and transgender persons.

Emmert

NCAA boss Mark Emmert is none to pleased about Indiana's new law.

The last thing I want to do is make this blog into a political op-ed piece so I won’t. Instead, the NCAA can speak for me. President Mark Emmert voiced concerns in the hours after Indiana Governor Mark Pence signed the bill into law.

“We will work diligently to assure student-athletes competing in, and visitors attending, next week’s Men’s Final Four in Indianapolis are not impacted negatively by this bill,” Emmert said. “Moving forward, we intend to closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce.”

Where Emmert has to be most concerned is with the image of his organization looking as though they support the new measure by keeping the Final Four in the state capital. Logistically of course, moving the Final Four to another city so close to the event would be extremely difficult and very unlikely. Therefore it isn’t going to happen.

What could happen however could be much more substantial. The NCAA is headquartered in Indianapolis there would be intense pressure from many people to move the operations out of the Hoosier State. We’ve seen this type of thing before in Arizona when that state was refusing to recognize the national holiday celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Several professional sports leagues and the NCAA threatened to no longer come there for their major events. Eventually, the measure passed in Arizona and the state has hosted Super Bowls, World Series games and NCAA tournament games in the years since. In other words, money usually can trump political discourse and if the NCAA chooses to leave they could become the pied piper leading other businesses and corporations out of town.

An Ode to Dean Smith

While I was never a fan of late North Carolina Coach Dean Smith mostly because I thought he should have won more titles, he proved to me what a class act he was when I saw what he left for his former players yesterday. Smith left behind about $36,000 in $200 increments for all of his former players. From Michael Jordan to James Worthy each former Tar Heel received a check from Smith’s estate with a letter.

The gist of the letter was basically to say “thank you” and to go spend the money on a nice dinner. While Smith certainly made plenty of money during his time running the Tar Heels’ program, he left the game right about the time when the massive contracts for collegiate coaches were really becoming the norm. Still, this was a very honest and caring thing for Smith to do and I certainly wanted to give props to him for it.

 

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Duke Visits North Carolina in ACC Showdown

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The college basketball regular season is coming to a close and that means each game is vitally important. Tonight, one of the biggest rivalries of the past 20 seasons takes place in Chapel Hill when the North Carolina Tar Heels host the Duke Blue Devils in an ACC showdown.

The first time the two met this season, the game lived up to its billing and more. No. 3 ranked Duke on the season is 27-3 SU and 16-13-1 ATS. No. 19 ranked North Carolina is 21-9 SU and 16-13-1 ATS.

The current line has North Carolina favored by 1 point with the point total on 156.5.

On February 18, Duke rallied from a deficit of 10 points late in the game to send the game to overtime at home versus UNC. In OT, the Blue Devils pulled out the game 92-90.

Senior Quinn Cook and freshman Tyus Jones scored 22 points each in the game. Brice Johnson scored 18 points and grabbed 12 boards for the Tar Heels, while teammate Kennedy Meeks scored 18. UNC easily covered as an 8.5-point visiting dog.

That extended the trend in this series of the visiting team covering. The away team is 12-4 ATS over the past 16 games between the two teams.

Both teams were dominant in their last games played. UNC routed Georgia Tech by 32 points on Tuesday and is 4-1 ATS in its past 5 games overall.

Duke defeated Wake Forest by 43 points on Wednesday. In its past 10 games played, Duke is 10-0 SU and 6-4 ATS.

UNC has won three straight at home over Duke. Last season, UNC rallied to defeat Duke at home 74-66. However, since 1998-99, UNC at home is 6-10 SU against Duke.

Duke will be the No. 2 seed in next week’s ACC Tournament, while the Tar Heels are tied with Louisville and UNC can only keep the fourth seed if Louisville loses.

Duke should be a No. 1 seed in one of the four regions in the NCAA Tournament, while it is thought North Carolina will be a No. 5 or 6 seed.

The UNDER has cashed in 6 of the past 7 games between the two teams in Chapel Hill. UNC has covered the number in just 1 of its past 8 games played at home.

There is not much difference between these two teams. A short number on UNC would be a good pick, while the OVER looks even better.

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ACC Coastal Division Odds for 2014

Fedora
Fedora

Larry Fedora and the Tar Heels are looking to capture the ACC Coastal Division.

As my tour around college football continues, today is the ACC Coastal.

North Carolina 7/4 – The Tar Heels have seven starters back on defense but three of those that are gone went to the NFL. The offense returns eight players but one of the three gone is tight end Eric Ebron who was an absolute stud for UNC. Other than Notre Dame, the non-conference schedule is not overly difficult. Besides the Irish, the Heels also have road trips to Clemson, Virginia and Miami. I see UNC finishing with seven to eight wins this year.

Miami 3/1 – Al Golden enters his fourth year with a 22-15 record and seven starters returning on each side of the ball. QB Jake Heaps who is with his third team now, seems to have the keys to the offense but Golden has yet to commit. The Canes were selected as the favorites to win the Coastal and that possibility obviously exists with their talent. Miami opens at the team they last saw in a game and that’s ACC newcomer Louisville who blasted the Canes in last season’s Russell Athletic Bowl. They also have trips to Nebraska, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech as well. They do get Florida State and Duke at home. The division title is there for them but is the schedule too much?

Beamer

I have a feeling Frank Beamer and the Hokies will challenge for the Coastal Division if not win it.

Virginia Tech 3/1 – The Hokies return nine starters on offense but just five on defense from a team that struggled last season with just eight wins and a blowout bowl loss to UCLA. QB Logan Thomas is gone and I think that’s a good thing as he never lived up to expectations. Despite few starters back on D, the talent is there especially in the secondary and on the D-Line. If the offensive line can gel, then the Hokies are a legitimate threat to win the division. The tough road trips are to Ohio State, North Carolina and Duke.

Duke 6/1 – The Blue Devils return eight starters on offense and six on defense as they look to follow up last year’s division title. Duke must replace three starters on the defensive line and Anthony Boone is the only QB with experience. The Blue Devils should roll to a 4-0 record against weak non-conference opponents but then they have four conference road games in their next five and among them are trips to Miami, Pitt, Syracuse and Georgia Tech. I do not see repeat for Duke in 2014.

Georgia Tech 8/1 – The Yellow Jackets return just 10 starters from last year’s team that featured some big wins and heartbreaking losses. Because of the offensive system, losing backs isn’t usually a big deal. Coach Paul Johnson just reloads in the backfield. Other than Georgia to finish the season, the non-conference slate is easy. Besides the trip to Athens, GT also has trips to Virginia Tech, North Carolina and NC State. If the defense comes together, the Jackets can be a threat in the division.

Pitt 25/1 – The Panthers come off of a 6-7 record in Paul Chryst’s first year in Pittsburgh. Eight starters return on offense and just five on defense. Pitt will rely on a new quarterback but he’ll have the benefit of receiver Tyler Boyd who was even better than Larry Fitzgerald was as a freshman. Tough road games are at Boston College, North Carolina and Miami. 6-6 is very possible again in the Steel City.

Virginia 25/1 – With 16 starters (9-Off/7-Def) returning, Mike London has no more excuses especially considering the solid recruiting class as well. London is one of America’s ‘coaches on the hot seat.’ The first four games will tell the story for the 2014 Cavaliers. They host UCLA, Richmond and Louisville and then travel to BYU. The only way London survives is by getting to a bowl game and even that isn’t a guarantee.

The Pick: I have a feeling Coach Frank Beamer will have his Hokies ready to be back among the elite in the ACC.The Tar Heels could put pressure on both Miami and the Hokies but I’m not sure I’m buying the UNC hype.

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Duke 7.5 Chalk at Home, Florida double-digit Favorite …

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Duke hosts North Carolina on Saturday looking to bounce back against the streaking Tar Heels. North Carolina, ranked No. 14, is 23-7 SU and 16-14 ATS.

The Tar Heels have won 12 straight games and faceoff against Duke, ranked No. 4 in the nation at 23-7 SU and 17-12-1 ATS.

The game will be played at Cameron Indoor Stadium. In the first matchup of the season, North Carolina defeated Duke 74-66 as a 2-point dog on February 20.

In the 12-game winning streak, the Tar Heels covered the first 9 games but have failed to cover in their past 3. However, North Carolina has covered in 7 of its past 8 visits to Cameron Indoor Stadium.

The current line on Bovada has Duke favored at home by 7.5 points. However, Duke has had leadership problems this season and has struggled lately from beyond the three-point line, which is not a good sign heading toward the home stretch in the regular season.

The win streaking by North Carolina is the longest it has had since it was 13-0 to start the 2008-09 season. The Tar Heels have won their past three games by four points or fewer.

Duke is 12-7-1 ATS on its home court and 1-4-1 against the number in its past six games played. The UNDER has cashed in 5 of the past 6 games Duke has played.

The UNDER has cashed in 9 of the past 11 games the two teams have played head to head. Duke has covered the spread in 6 of the past 9 games following a loss against the spread.

The Blue Devils were embarrassed during the week losing to Wake Forest after being a double-digit chalk. That most likely lit a fire under the Tar Heel players and they should have additional motivation to win this matchup.

Duke has more talent and the home court advantage the Blue Devils enjoy at home is huge. Duke is a perfect 16-0 at home this season.

Pick: Duke by 11

Kentucky ranked No. 25 in the nation visits the No. 1 ranked Florida Gators. The Gators are 28-2 SU and 12-11-3 ATS. Kentucky is 22-8 SU and 14-13-2 ATS.

Florida was a 2.5-point dog in the first matchup and won outright on February 15.

On topbet and betonline, Florida is favored by 8.5 points. With a win, Florida can go to 18-0 for the first time in SEC play.

Kentucky won its last time out over Alabama by 7 points to avoid three straight losses. Kentucky is second in the SEC at 12-5 but trails Florida by 5 games.

The UNDER has gone 7-2 over the past 9 games Kentucky has played. Kentucky has covered just 3 of its past 17 games played on the road.

Pick: Florida by 15 and the UNDER

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Four Bowl Games on Tap for Today

Bridgewater
Bridgewater

Tonight could be the last time Teddy Bridgewater throws a pass in college.

The 2013 College Football Bowl seaosn is in full swing and there are four big games on the slate today so let’s get to them!

Rutgers vs. Notre Dame (-14) – The New Era Pinstripe bowl features one team many think should be in the Big Ten and one who is headed there. Notre Dame and Rutgers meet in this one and you can expect a large Irish contingent in the Bronx. In fact, you’ll probably see more gold than you will scarlet despite the close proximity of Rutgers.

Rutgers finished just 6-6 on the season while Notre Dame had a respectable 8-4 consdering the change at quarterback and the loss of numerous players from last season’s BCS Title Game Team. The one area the Knights could find some success is running the ball. With Louis Nix III out for the season, the Irish run defense failed miserably in his absence and wasn’t much better when he was in there. Because of that issue I like the Knights and the 14 points.

Cincinnati (+3) vs. North Carolina – The Bearcats and Tar Heels meet in the Belk Bowl in a match-up of the AAC and the ACC. Don’t read that too fast or you could get confused as I did. I have to believe the over/under (57) is going to get the way of the over with both teams averaging over 32 points per game. Neither team plays great defense either so expect a shootout.

The oddsmakers like the Heels based on level of competition but I’m not biting here. I like Cincinnati and the three points.

Morris

Morris would like his final game for the 'U' to end in a 'W.'

Louisville (-4) vs. Miami – The Russell Athletic Bowl has been getting a decent amount of attention as speculation swirls around the futures of Teddy Bridgewater and Charlie Strong. For Bridgewater, he will announce after the game whether or not he has chosen to turn pro with most thinking he will head to the NFL.

Meanwhile, Strong has been considered a ‘strong’ candidate to replace Mack Brown at Texas. Whether or not that comes to fruition is a moot point right now because like Bridgewater, he is focusing on the Hurricanes at the moment. That isn’t the only drama in this one though because the Cardinals will be joining the ACC next year and will see the ‘Canes much more often. Oh, and don’t forget that Bridgewater orginially committed to Miami as well.

With so many things going on, they’ll still need to play a football game and without Duke Johnson at running back I think the Canes could be in trouble. Stephen Morris is a capable QB but he will force throws and commit turnovers. Miami is 1-6 against the spread in their last seven games while the Cards are just 2-6 ATS in their last eight. Take the Cards to cover tonight.

Michigan vs. Kansas State (-6) – These two teams from the midwest head west to the desert where the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl awaits. Both teams enter at 7-5 on the season but had very different endings. K-State won five of their last six games while Michigan started 5-0 and then struggled down the stretch. Despite a heroic 42-41 loss to Ohio State, Michigan is still not where it wants to be in terms of bowl games.

Regardless, they will move forward without quarterback Devin Gardner who broke his foot in the loss to the Buckeyes. That means Michigan will start freshman Shane Morris who gets his first collegiate start in the bowl game. The Wildcats will actually use two quarterbacks, Jake Waters and Daniel Sams, and both will attempt to get the ball into the hands of play-making wideout Tyler Lockett.

I expect a valiant effort by Michigan but I fear the pressure will be too much for the freshman signal-caller. I like the Wildcats to cover.

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Rivalry Games Dot the College Football Landscape Today

Meyer

 

Meyer

Miller and Meyer look to extend their winning streak against Michigan.

Its rivalry week which means anything can happen in games in Auburn, Ann Arbor and Chapel Hill but do I like the dogs or the favorites in today’s action? Check it below.

Ohio State (-16) at Michigan – It’s amazing how cyclical this rivalry has been over the last two decades. Under Lloyd Carr, Michigan dominated the series with the Buckeyes while Ohio State behind Jim Tressel turned the tables. OSU Head Coach Urban Meyer is 1-0 against the team from ‘up north’ while Brady Hoke is 1-1 against the team from ‘Ohio.’

For the Buckeyes, the stakes are simple. They already have a date with Michigan State next week in the Big Ten Championship Game but in order to have any chance of reaching the BCS National Title game they must win in Ann Arbor and win convincingly. Because Michigan has drastically under-achieved this season, a slim victory over the Wolverines probably won’t sit well with pollsters.

Michigan has struggled to run the ball and has struggled even more in protecting quarterback Devin Gardner whose play has declined in recent weeks. The Wolverines are 1-6 against the spread in their last seven games at home versus the Buckeyes. Meanwhile, OSU is 4-2 straight up in their last six trips to Michigan Stadium. I see a big time beat down by the Buckeyes in the Big House. Take Ohio State to cover.

Cutcliffe

Cutcliffe has worked wonders at Duke and has them on a seven-game winning streak.

Duke (+6) at North Carolina – It isn’t the same as the rivalry on the hard-court down on Tobacco Road but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot at stake in this match-up. The Blue Devils can clinch a spot in the ACC Championship Game with a victory over their rivals. A loss would create a three-way tie with Duke, Virginia Tech and Miami who won their season finale yesterday.

The over/under is 58 and I’m loving the over as both teams average over 32 points per game and each gives up about 24 per game defensively. Duke has won seven straight games and is riding a wave unseen in these parts in a long, long time. UNC is 8-1 straight up in their last nine home games with the Blue Devils and that concerns me.

What also concerns me is Tar Heels’ tight end Eric Ebron who could find himself as the top tight end entering the 2014 NFL Draft. If Duke cannot handle or at the very least contain Ebron it could be a long day for their defense. With that said, Duke is too much to pass up at +6. Take the Blue Devils in this one.

Alabama (-11) at Auburn – I’ve struggled to get a grip on this one all week but I finally feel like I’ve got some things to go on. The knock on Alabama has been the fact that they don’t win dynamically enough or put up the points that Florida State and/or Ohio State do. That won’t mean a lick to Nick Saban and it never has. He knows a win means a trip to Atlanta to play either South Carolina or Missouri in the SEC Title Game.

Auburn and first-year coach Gus Malzahn also know what is at stake for them. They’ve already completed the season’s biggest turnaround in terms of wins and losses versus the previous season but now they can take another step. A win sends them to Atlanta and puts a bitter end to their rivals’ tremendous streak of success.

The Iron Bowl will be a vicious battle but I think it comes down to two things; big game experience and defense and both of those favor the Crimson Tide. In order for the Tigers to have any success they must run the ball early. It will help them set up their passing game which is typically not much of a threat. Can Auburn handle the pressure of this type of game? It’s a fair question.

The Tigers are 3-6 against the spread in their last nine games at home against the Tide which bears some thought but I really like Alabama to win this game but 11 is just too big so take Auburn getting those points.

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Four Rivalry Games That I Find Enticing on Saturday

Winston
Winston

I expect Winston and the Seminoles to roll over Miami.

Four rivalries highlight my selections for Saturday. Some will be slugfests while others will be shootouts. See if you like my thinking.

Miami at Florida State (-21) – I honestly have no clue how Miami is ranked in the top ten but hey, it is what it is. Everyone from one side of this country to the other has FSU covering in this game and I can’t for the life of me find a reason to disagree. Al Golden is doing a really nice job in Miami and his team can flat-out run the football at a clip of over 200 yards per game.

The problem is that this Seminole defense is absolutely flying right now. They are more disciplined and detail-oriented than ever and it is showing. FSU is giving up just 13 points per game and to be really fair, some of those were garbage points scoreddd late by opponents.

The only way the Canes pull this off is by creating turnovers, running the ball effectively and QB Stephen Morris has to be efficient and error-free. I just don’t see those things happening. The Noles have too many athletes on both sides of the ball and this Jimbo Fisher team just seems different. I like Florida State to cover… Like everyone else I guess.

Georgia (-3) vs Florida – The last time these two both entered on losing streaks I’m pretty sure cars were just starting to roll off the assembly line. I refuse to call this game anything other than the “World’s Largest Cocktail Party” because that’s what it is and I’m not falling into the political correct world here.

The Gators will hang their hopes on their defense which continues to be pretty good despite a rough outing at Missouri. They rank eighth in the nation in points against and they will need every bit of that to contain Aaron Murray and the Georgia offense. The Bulldogs also will be getting running back Todd Gurley back and I think he could be the difference.

The one area the Gators could find an advantage is in special teams where Georgia struggles. Even if Florida gets a score off of special teams, I think the Goergia offense will be too much. I like the Dawgs to cover.

Gardner

Gardner must take care of the ball for the Wolverines to have a shot against Michigan State.

Michigan (+5) at Michigan State – The Battle for the Paul Bunyan Trophy heads back to East Lansing. Both teams have their respective fates in their hands in terms of a Legends’ Division title and the Spartans could grab a really firm hold with a win and a fairly weak schedule down the stretch.

The Spartans boast the nation’s top defense which is giving up 12 points per game. Last week in Champaign, the MSU offense found its’ groove for the very first time in scoring 42 on the Illini.

Michigan has had an odd season needing late-game heroics to beat lowly Akron and UConn while scoring at will Notre Dame and Indiana. This game always comes down to two things; who runs the ball better who takes better care of the ball. It’s that latter issue that really worries me if I’m Michigan. QB Devin Gardner can be a turnover-machine and that could play right into the hands of Sparty.

I like MSU to win, but I expect it to be within the line so take UM.

North Carolina (-5) at North Carolina State – Let’s get right to the heart of this one. The Tar Heels can throw the ball at will. The Wolfpack run the ball a little better than UNC does. They both give up around 25-27 points per game. North Carolina’s Bryn Renner is the better QB so take the Heels to win a shootout in Raleigh.

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