It was a pretty light day in college hoops last night, and we made it a good one by escaping with a cover thanks to the USC Trojans holding on at Arizona. The Trojans weren’t able to remix the magic from last meeting’s four-overtime thriller, but they were able to overcome a slow start and hang around just enough to cash a winning underdog ticket.
In other college basketball action, Denzell Valentine took a huge step towards capturing Big Ten Player of the Year honors as his Spartans used a brilliant second half surge to blow out the Indiana Hoosiers. It’s the second straight year Valentine has come up huge on Valentine’s Day (much to CBS broadcaster delights). Not only did the performance put him now WELL ahead of Yogi Ferrell, it might have also gotten him back close enough to Buddy Hield for National POY as well. If you grant him a little slack for a tough return from a brief injury, no player has been as consistently integral in a nationally-relevant team’s success as Denzell Valentine.
It’s a really light Monday (which seems like a scheduling gaffe, given that there are no NBA games, football season is over, baseball is still two months away – what a great night to steal the media cycle and get some pre-tourney buzz), with only a few ranked teams in action and all three are heavy, heavy home favorites. So we need to go off-the-grid a bit for tonight’s free pick (unless you want to lay a pile of points with UVA or Kansas…)
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Today’s Free Picks:
Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panthers at Green Bay Phoenix -2
I’m not sure what the Green Bay Phoenix did to the Horizon League scheduling office, but tonight will be their first home game after a lengthy five game road trip and just their fifth conference home game this season after already enduring nine roadies. The pain of that schedule is that their record looks really rough. The nice part, is that starting tonight, their final five games are at home, and aside from a finale against Valpo, they should be favored in all of them.
Given that nine of their fourteen games were on the road, their 7-6 conference mark starts to look a lot more reasonable. They lost at home 111-95 in a wild one to Oakland, but Kahlil Fielder has made a lot of teams look silly this year (he darn near masterminded an upset of Michigan State earlier this year before Christmas).
Milwaukee had a promising start to the year with a competitive loss to Notre Dame and wins over Wisconsin and Minnesota (who knew Minny would be THAT bad at the time). But their fortunes have soured lately, as much like their in-state foes tonight, they had to hit the road for long stretches. They’ve dropped three of four games and after tonight, they too will be home for the rest of the year. But for now, they are still on the road, still facing a team with a very similar makeup and resume in a tough road game.
This should be a fun game, as the point total of 170 indicates. My first glance at that line screamed “UNDER” until I looked closer at some of their recent scores in conference. Green Bay has played eight games where a team has recorded 100 or more points, and plenty others in the 90’s and high-80’s. However, Milwaukee has the majority of their games in the 70-mid 80’s range, so I am staying off the total in this game. I expect some points, but 170 feels oddly right.
Instead, I’m going with the home team. Both have been good at home, and rough on the road. And in like MOST conferences this year, when all things are relatively equal, go with the home crowd and the home gym friendly rims. Green Bay is 21-3 straight up in their last 24 home games and has covered seven of ten in this rivalry.