It wasn’t an easy win, but it was win to start the week nonetheless. We start the new week 1-0, and trust me, I’m enjoying life a lot more than Travis Ford after his one-time Final Four dreaming Cowboys now find themselves squarely on the bubble after losing a staggering seven straight conference games. Marcus Smart will return this week to try to stabilize the team, ironically, against Texas Tech.
The Cowboys and the victorious Baylor Bears will both be interesting cases down the stretch, as both have Final Four level talent and NIT-worthy resumes. Both still have some work to do if they are going to enjoy Selection Sunday.
There are bunch of bubble teams in action tonight, so let’s take a look at my two favorite matchups on the board (and a narrow third is George Washington at Richmond – a really, really good game in the underrated Atlantic Ten, which could see as many as five bids if things fall right).
Today’s Free Picks:
Iowa Hawkeyes -4 at Indiana Hoosiers
It may be generous calling the Hoosiers a bubble team at 14-11, but in the Big Ten it is possible to stack up three or four Top 50 (or even Top 25) wins in the final three weeks to make the resume tourney-worthy. The Hoosiers face an absolute MUST win tonight, especially at home.
It won’t be easy to knock off Iowa. They Hawkeyes are 19-6 and have plenty of quality wins (and all quality losses). However, they are only 4-3 in their last seven games and have been vulnerable to big, athletic teams like Michigan and Ohio State. Indiana has some of the same interior length and physicality and has enough big bodies to run at the very deep Hawkeyes.
Indiana has come up big at home several times this season. They’ve knocked off Michigan and Wisconsin in Assembly Hall this season. In fact, oddly, their trouble has come against the lesser teams in the league; Northwestern, Penn State, Purdue. Against the top five teams, they’ve been pretty good. They are in the midst of a three game skid including home losses to Purdue and Penn State. So tonight’s IU pick is strictly a gut-feel. The metrics frown on them, but I like a young, athletic and DEPSERATE team at home tonight. Home desperation has been a good recipe for the Hoosiers playing favored teams. I’ll bank on Yogi and Co. once more tonight.
Villanova Wildcats -4.5 at Providence Friars
The last time we saw Villanova, they looked pretty bad. But keep in mind, they are 22-1 this season against teams NOT named Creighton, and their lone loss came at undefeated #1 Syracuse. The point is, Villanova is still really good and not to be taken lightly.
Providence has the home court and desperation in their favor, but unlike Indiana, they are not befert with NBA-level future talent. Providence has some good wins on their resume including home wins over Creighton and fast-fading Xavier, but they’ve lost 4 of their last 6 and have the look of a team destined for the NIT. I like Villanova to bounce back tonight and play sharp after another bad look against Creighton. They are still in the mix for a #1 seed, and can’t afford another misstep. I think they’ll dodge one in a tough road game tonight.