We got off the schneid last night with a college hoops winner. LSU was good enough to notch the home win, but Arkansas made them earn it up to the final possession and easily tucked within a covering range. Hopefully this is the start of good things to come. It’s been an insanely unpredictable college hoops season so far. Just last week five teams (and six times, Duke lost twice) Top Ten teams fell. Five of those were to unranked foes and two of the games were to unranked foes at home. Add in losses from Providence, Pitt, Kentucky, Arizona and Gonzaga and the polling turmoil is likely to continue tomorrow. Who knows who is landing where – but it makes for a seemingly endless string of quality games every week. Even today, Sunday, a typically slow college hoops day save for a Big Ten afternoon game and an evening ESPN game (often ACC) becomes high-quality, with games like Oregon State at Utah, Connecticut at Houston, Virginia at Florida State and Oregon at Colorado all having NCAA Tournament implications.
Let’s see if we can use yesterday’s slump-buster as the start of better things to come… Two free picks today.
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Today’s Free Pick:
Iona Gaels -3 at Rider Broncos
I get it. You don’t really come to this site to read about MAAC hoops (I’m assuming. Maybe you do. If so, today is your lucky day). But this game, more specifically, this LINE, is just too good to ignore. Iona lost this weekend at home to Monmouth in a wildly entertaining 110-102 game. I missed that pick. The loss snapped a 26-game home winning streak and was the Gaels first loss in conference. NBA likely AJ English had a ridiculous 46 points, but the Monmouth Hawks, who are LEGITIMATELY GOOD, won the game with an insane second-half offensive barrage. Georgetown, Notre Dame, UCLA, and USC (all Monmouth victims) know how that feels too.
But Iona is still a quality basketball team capable of springing some March magic. Think of English as this year’s potential RJ Hunter (Georgia State). He’s that good.
Rider, is not. As in, not good. At all. They enter at 5-12 overall and 1-5 in the MAAC after their double-overtime win over similarly hapless Marist. They’ve lost at home to Fairfield and Wagner, albeit close games. In fact, they’ve played close with a lot of teams this year, hence the ‘way slimmer than it seems it should be’ line. But other than Providence, none of those teams were as good as Iona. And they are going to get a pissed off Iona team as well. The Monmouth game ended with shoving and plenty of unpleasantries. I imagine they will be itching to get back on the court and exact their pound of flesh.
Iona isn’t losing this game. The Broncos haven’t come within 9 points of Iona in four seasons, so unless we get backdoor covered, I feel as good about this pick as any I’ve spouted since the North Carolina at Florida State winner.
Michigan Wolverines at Iowa Hawkeyes -7.5
It’s pretty well documented I am on board with this year’s Iowa squad. I have been yapping about Jared Utoff’s All-American candidacy for about four weeks and am not surprised this team is about to become a Top 10 team (maybe as high as 6 or 7?). They are an excellent, veteran, balanced ballclub and the consolidated the break against Michigan State without Valentine earlier in the month by going into East Lansing and undressing the Spartans at full strength this week. Iowa is really good and could very well be a Final Four team with a decent draw.
But Michigan is a nice, sneaky little sleeper. They survived the injury to Caris Levert, their best player, and actually thrived a bit in his absence. They are 2-1 without the NBA-bound guard and have gotten emerging performances from Muhammad-Ali Adbur-Rahkman who tallied 39 points in the first two games without Levert (before a quiet third game) and step-up performances from Zak Irvin and Duncan Robinson who chipped in 22 and 17 in their impressive win over Maryland.
Michigan was highly-regarded before the season for a reason; they have some talent and are really well-coached. I don’t think they beat Iowa today, but they have a great opportunity to make this a game. This is an emotional trap game for Iowa if I ever saw one; fresh off the win of the season in a game where they played nearly-perfect basketball they host a hungry team that is gaining some confidence after their 3-1 resurgent start to conference play. They’ve already beaten Maryland without Levert. There is a good chance he plays today, and I don’t think that’ll hurt them any. In fact, it just gives them another dynamic option to compliment the scorers who have blossomed in his absence.
I like a good game today at Iowa and for Michigan to compete for 40 minutes.