Four more tickets were punched last night (though Gonzaga’s wasn’t really in doubt) with Robert Morris, North Dakota State and Valpo earning their way into the Field of 68. I know many of you know I am partial to the Horizon League, largely because they are the only games to handicap on Friday nights, but don’t be stunned if Valpo wins a game in the tournament. Lunardi has them as a #12 against #5 Carolina in today’s mock. I don’t like that particular matchup, but I would give them a decent shot against Butler, Georgetown, Arkansas, Utah…
Meanwhile, we’ve been in a bit of a win some, lose-some funk over the last few weeks. We took the loss with BYU letting it get away late in an otherwise really fun game in the WCC Final. Despite the margin, it’s hard not to watch that game and think two things; one, Gonzaga can ABSOLUTELY get to the final four if they aren’t slotted with Kentucky. They have two legit All-Americans, great size, at least three or four future pros (not necessarily NBA) and elite defensive wings. Secondly, BYU is easily one of the best 30 teams out of the pool to be considered for an at-large bid. I watch a lot of hoops and I watch it critically and from an evaluator perspective. BYU is better than Illinois, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, UCLA and Stanford. They just are. I’ll take Texas and IU over BYU barely, but the other bubble teams? Give me the Cougars any day.
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Today’s Free Pick:
Pitt Panthers vs. NC State Wolfpack -3 *** ACC Tournament Second Round Finals
To say this game is HUGE for both teams is an understatement. With Pitt likely JUST outside NCAA consideration and State likely just IN, the winner of this game, especially if it is NC State has a good chance to dance. The loser of this game, especially if it is Pitt, is looking at the NIT. So start the Madness in earnest tonight in Greensboro.
NC State enters winners of five of six and looking like a dangerous team in the Tourney. Their backcourt, especially Trevor Lacey, can win you a few games in the Dance. Meanwhile, Pitt dropped their last three to go from, “bubble” to probably needing to win today AND beat Duke in the semifinals to get an invite.
Though this isn’t technically a “home game” for NC State, it will certainly be a road game for Pitt. The Panthers are a miserable 2-8 on the road this season. It makes the three-point line seem a little to slim. Truth be told, I’d like NC State at an even steeper price. They have a de facto home game, they are the much hotter team and are far more talented offensively than Pitt. It seems like a pretty obvious play tonight, so why fight it? Give me the Pack laying a slim three and sewing up their tourney bid.