It was a bad day for bubble dwellers yesterday in college basketball as a pair of team might have sealed their NIT fate last night.
Losing to Louisville is certainly nothing to be ashamed of, particularly on the road. But the manner in which Cincinnati was again taken apart puts a huge dent in the tourney dreams. What seemed like a certainty just a two months ago when they were nationally ranked and looking dangerous after a win at Pitt is now an “unlikely” as their recent freefall has them headed towards the NIT.
Likewise for what might be the nation’s most disappointing team, Baylor (though I’ll listen to votes for NC State and Florida State as well). Their loss at Texas last night squeezed the final breath out of their NIT chances and it looks like Scott Drew will be taking his band of future NBA’ers to the NIT.
Tonight we’ll take a look at a pair of BIG Big Ten matchups that have huge importance for different reasons; the first is a game of national intrigue for soon-to-be top seeds, the second might help determine which team will get a seed at all…
So let’s dig in with a pair of free Big Ten picks.
Ohio State Buckeyes at Indiana Hoosiers -7.5
Every time I am about to go all-in with the Hoosiers, they deliver an effort like last week’s at Minnesota that gives me slight pause. I still think this is the best bet to cut down the nets and the most balanced and talented team in the country. And unlike Minnesota and Illinois, tonight’s game is at home, where they are 16-1 this season.
Contrast that with Ohio State’s recent road efforts – a loss at Michigan (in a an admittedly great game), a blowout loss at Wisconsin (in a horrendous effort), and a stagnant close win at Northwestern last time out. They are just 4-5 on the road this season and have looked really shaky in a few of their road wins over far lesser competition. I think Indiana gets the jump on them early tonight at home and never lets up. Ohio State is so limited offensively; hold DeShaun Thomas in check and the rest of the team wilts.
I think IU does just that and gets a big win tonight in Bloomington.
Free Pick: Indiana Hoosiers -7.5
Illinois Fighting Illini at Iowa Hawkeyes -4
This game is an enormous one for Iowa. Lose today, and they can all but kiss their NCAA tourney dreams goodbye. Illinois is in a bit better shape at 21-8 overall with wins over Gonzaga and Indiana, but at just 8-8 in conference play a loss today is a dagger.
Both teams need it, so something has to give.
Iowa has been excellent at home this season, posting a 14-2 record. They have won five in a row, but none of them were against top tier conference foes. However, even their losses have been impressive. They hung around at Indiana last week and went to overtime before losing to Wisconsin and Purdue on the road. However, the troubling thing to me is how rarely they have beaten anyone of note and how relatively weak their conference slate has been to this point.
Illinois is a respectable 5-4 on the road and has won six of their last seven games, including wins over Indiana and Minnesota. I wouldn’t be surprised if they won tonight – they are the more talented team. But either way, getting four points is enticing.
Free Pick: Illinois Fighting Illini +4