Indiana vs Ilinois Pick NCAA Basketball – Feb 25th

We notched a second straight winner last night, this time going against the #1 ranked team in the nation in a brutal road game against Xavier. As projected the Xavier depth and balance was the difference (in addition to some efficient rebounding and defensive intensity). Now it will be interesting to see if Xavier, who is in a major conference but still seems to carry the last hangover of their small major past in terms of national perception, moves into the legitimate discussion of #1 seeds and teams that can win an NCAA Championship. I’m not sure the discussion heads that direction, but it certainly should. This team is legit, and has been all season long with more consistency than any other team in the nation as far as avoiding bad results and trap games on the road.

This season is heating up and we are down to just a week of regular season action remaining for the smaller conferences. Hopefully we can keep heating up along with it… Let’s get to today’s free pick.

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Today’s Free Pick:

Indiana Hoosiers -7 at Illinois Fighting Illini

Indiana got a pleasant gift with the surprising losses by Maryland and Iowa last week and now find themselves in a real position to win the Big Ten if they can avoid a similarly bad loss. Like tonight.

So can they? This is an Indiana with some real bad ones on the resume already. Their early season foibles are well documented, losses to UNLV, Wake Forest, and the recent BAD loss at Penn State (who also beat Iowa…) But Penn State aside, they’ve been pretty money in conference play. They are 12-3 in league play, and frankly have been a different team since the injury to Blackmon and the emergence of O.G. and several other role players. The team defends better but still shoots VERY well, and with an offense spearheaded by arguably the best point guard in the conference (country??) in Yogi Ferrell, the Hoosiers can be devastating offensively.

Meanwhile, things are a real mess in Illinois. They are 4-10 in league and 12-15 overall. They have losses to North Florida and Chattanooga and their best win is a stunner over Purdue early and then… um… wins over Rutgers twice and Minnesota. Bad year.

In fact, their losses to ranked teams have been pretty ugly at times; 25 to Michigan State and by 34 to Indiana earlier this year. Indiana is WAY better and unless they sleepwalk, they should win easy. I never like laying points on the road in this season of insane parity, but the Illini have been immune to parity. They have one real win and a bunch of REAL bad losses. Look for IU to roll, setting up an ENORMOUS final week with a trip to Iowa and hosting Maryland. If they avoid disaster tonight, they control their championship fate. Look for them to play with that alertness and hunger that they have had in 2016 after lacking it in 2015’s start.

Free Pick: Indiana Hoosiers -7