We had a nice night in college hoops yesterday, going 2-0 with both Gonzaga and Davidson taking the suspense out of their conference championships and winning with relative ease. The nation’s two longest winning streaks remain intact heading into the big dance, and I would assume the Zags locked up a #1 seed, though there still seems to be some debate about them falling to a #2.
Tonight several more teams try to lock up their automatic bids in the tourney, and nearly all of them are teams with no at-large prospects should they lose. It should make for some entertaining and intense action. Let’s take a look at a few of those games for tonight’s picks.
Wright State Raiders vs. Valparaiso Crusaders -8
Most people only recognize the name “Valpo” from Bryce Drew’s buzzer-beating miracle that launched he and his father, Coach Homer Drew into the national spotlight more than 15 years ago (has it really been that long?? Wow…). However, if you haven’t paid attention since then, you’ve missed some pretty good hoops. The Crusaders enter tonight winners of eight of their last ten and 14 of 17 overall. This is a good team that beat Murray State and played respectable games against St. Louis and New Mexico.
Another factor working in their favor is that tonight’s game is at home. Due to the relatively small following of the Horizon League, especially since Butler departed, there isn’t quite enough money to play on a neutral floor. So, with a 13-3 league record and the top-seed, Valpo gets to play at home tonight for a trip to the tourney.
Wright State will give them a decent game, but the fact that they are still alive is a bit of a surprise. Detroit with Ray McCallum was the obvious challenger to Valpo, but with their upset win over Detroit and a buzzer beater to knock off Green Bay, the Raiders at just 10-6 has a chance to Dance.
I like Valparaiso, not just because they are the better team but especially because of the enormous advantage playing at home in the Conference Final will be for the Crusaders.
Free Pick: Valparaiso Crusaders -8
North Dakota State Bison -1.5 vs. South Dakota State Jackrabbits
First off, you have to love the SDSU mascot. You don’t get to don a ‘jackrabbits” t-shirt too often in many other sporting venues. More importantly, you have to love Nate Wolters. He is one of the best players in the country and has delivered big games against big opponents this season. He torched Alabama in Tuscaloosa and hung 50 recently last month.
SDSU has won games against Marshall and New Mexico, so they have jumped up and fared well against better mid-major conference foes. These two split the season series, but I am going to go with Wolters and the Jackrabbits to become the 15 seed no one wants to see in their bracket next Sunday.
Free Pick: South Dakota State Jackrabbits +1.5