I suppose it is only fitting we pushed last night, with so few options on the board and no real appealing lines, at least we tread water. Tonight things get back into gear a little bit with some quality games featuring ranked teams and a few key conference battles between teams in the massively expanded “bubble conversation.”
The best games on the board are West Virginia at Texas as the Mountaineers look to hold on to a surprising share of the conference lead, and Iowa State at Baylor, with each trying to remain in the conference title mix. But the Big Twelve isn’t the only place for some great action. The SEC has a pair of huge bubble-implication games with Florida visiting Georgia and Texas A&M trying to stop their massive slide against an Ole Miss team with bubble dreams.
And in the Big Ten, a few more bubble outsiders will look to get back in the mix; Ohio State with a big home win over surging Michigan and Northwestern trying to keep faint hopes alive with a road upset at Purdue.
It’s mid-February in a turbulent college basketball season, so it is fair to say that just about every game matters from here on out. Let’s see if we can stack up some more winners after a 6-2-2 ATS run.
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Today’s Free Pick:
Michigan Wolverines at Ohio State Buckeyes -1
At first glance, this is a really even matchup. Both teams are still in the Big Ten race at 9-4 and 8-5 respectively, and both teams have a couple nice wins on their resume; Michigan’s wins over Texas, Maryland and Purdue, and Ohio State’s win over Kentucky. But the records can be a little deceiving.
Michigan is one of the hotter teams in the country, with their conference wins over Maryland and Purdue coming recently, and all four conference losses being very reasonable (Maryland, Michigan State, Iowa and Indiana). Even their three non-con losses are quality; Xavier, UConn and SMU. Meanwhile, Ohio State’s 8-5 conference mark owes a debt of gratitude to the schedule makers. Their eight wins don’t include a single ranked or even above-.500 conference team: Rutgers (twice), Illinois (twice), Northwestern (twice), Minnesota and Penn State. That’s a pretty generous road. Don’t be surprised to see them finish with a thud as the final five games include tonight’s Michigan, home and home’s with Michigan State, a roadie at Nebraska and a visit from Iowa.
Ohio State has been hammered in four of their five conference losses. Indiana beat them by 25. Maryland beat them by two million on CBS, Wisconsin and Purdue beat them by 11, and the return trip from Maryland was a respectable five point defeat.
The point is, there is little aside from the neutral court win over a then-struggling Kentucky to indicate Ohio State can beat top 25-caliber teams, even at home. I think Michigan comes in and gets it done in Columbus, much to the chagrin of the home faithful who don’t enjoy the Team Up North winning in any athletic endeavor.
Michigan has won seven of ten, and has already gone on the road and beaten similar Nebraska and Illinois. Like OSU, they have a tough finishing stretch with trips to Maryland and Wisky and a visit from Iowa, so they can ill-afford a loss tonight if they want to stay in the Big Ten race, as well as the “comfortably in” portion of mock brackets.
Michigan is the far more efficient team, shooting 47.9% to Ohio State’s paltry 44.4%. The difference at the foul line is even starker at 73.5% to 65.7% – that tells me as long as Beilein’s club is aggressive on the road and gets enough whistles, there is a huge edge to Michigan. To top it off, they make an average of nearly five more 3-pointers per game.
I like Michigan to go on the road and get a big win tonight in Columbus.