Last night’s college hoops action played right to theme. Two top ranked teams, Iowa (#4) and Oregon (#11) were underdogs to unranked teams. And for good reason. Both lost. Indiana’s home win over the Hawkeyes created a fun log jam in the Big Ten with Iowa, Indiana and Maryland all knotted with two losses apiece. Purdue, Michigan and Wisconsin are just two games back in the loss column with Michigan State and Ohio State still breathing life at 7-5.
Meanwhile, Cal notched a huge bubble-bolstering win by knocking off Oregon in blowout fashion. It was the Ducks third loss, and though they have two more wins than USC, the two are even in the loss column. Arizona is just one game back in the loss column at 7-4 (with a big game against UCLA tonight) and Utah, Washington, Colorado and Cal just two games back with five losses. The Pac-12 has a wild three weeks ahead of them and it’ll be fun to watch.
The bad losses aren’t just limited to the biggest conferences. Just when VCU looked like an easy tourney lock, they got dropped by lowly UMass, Northern Iowa continued their resurgence in the Valley and dealt what might have been a final death blow to Evansville’s flimsy tourney dreams.
Friday’s are usually pretty light slates of college hoops action, but thankfully (especially with the NBA off as well) there are two good Pac 12 games and a quality Dayton at Rhode Island Atlantic 10 matchup to keep us sated until tomorrow’s ridiculously packed schedule.
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Today’s Free Pick:
Dayton Flyers -2 at Rhode Island Rams
I hung in for a long time on Rhode Island. I thought they had a shot to contend in the A-10 back in November. I took the Valpo and Providence narrow losses as encouraging and the blowout to Maryland as no big deal. But their total body of work includes some decent losses but NO quality wins other than perhaps Houston. Every quality conference team, GW, St. Joe’s (twice), St. Bonnie, has beaten them. They even lost to UMass. Their conference wins are over Fordham, Mason, LaSalle (twice) and St. Louis.
In summary. Good team=Rhode Island loss. All season long.
Dayton might be a little more than a “good team” in fact, this may be Archie Miller’s best team since arriving in Dayton and that is saying something considering his ample success in March over the last three years. The Flyers enter at 20-3 with wins over Alabama, Monmouth, Vanderbilt, Arkansas, George Washington and Iowa (a GREAT win). This team has the resume of a #4 or #5 seed in March, and has shown a propensity for not overlooking lesser opponents, blowing out the majority of bottom tier conference foes (with the exception of the lone conference loss at LaSalle). It is easy to punish the Flyers for the A-10 being a little down this season, but their resume is impeccable and they are visibly GOOD when you watch them play.
Going on the road is never easy, especially against a desperate team that has under-performed all season long. But Dayton is the better team, and has been consistently for three months. I like them to go up to Rhode Island and get the big win. With VCU’s loss last night, Dayton can hold on to sole possession of first if they avoid a loss tonight. I think they come out focused and play well – and if they play at 80-90% of their best effort, it should be enough to win and cover with a little room to spare.