We officially have our first Cinderella. Never mind the fact that the Governors have next to no chance of winning an NCAA Tournament game (well, unless they are in the 16/16 play-in game) and will almost assuredly be a #16 seed, but for four magical days, Austin Peay was living the dream. The Govs capped off an incredible week with a relatively easy win over heavily-favored Tennessee-Martin, who themselves were attempting to fit in a glass slipper in their first ever tournament appearance, and completed the first conference championship for a team seeded 8th or worse in Ohio Valley Conference history.
This small conference madness we are seeing so far might actually LESSEN the chance for an insane first day of the Round of 64. Instead of potentially dangerous foes like North Florida and Belmont looming as 14 or 15 seeds, instead, we have Austin Peay and likely Florida Gulf Coast, which could bump the former 16 seeds up a line, etc.
And speaking of upsets, there are a lot of bubble dwellers less than pleased with Wichita State’s overtime loss yesterday. The Shockers should still get an at large bid, which means the winner of Northern Iowa and Evansville today “steals” a bid that the ACC and SEC were desperately hoping for…
Lots of good action on today’s final day of the regular season, but my pick focuses on a conference tourney final with a bid to The Dance on the line.
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Today’s Free Pick:
Stetson Hatters at Florida Gulf Coast Eagles -7.5
I’ll admit. I WANT FGCU to win this game. The fact that Stetson, who is ineligible for the NCAA Tournament, could win this game tonight and the automatic bid for the Atlantic Sun would revert back to North Florida, the regular season champ, who got blown off their home floor by FGCU two days ago, is insane.
But my “want” has no bearing on the pick today. Florida Gulf Coast is the better team and they are playing at home, where they are 15-4 this season, including a 29 point win over Stetson a month ago. Stetson did return the favor with a surprising upset win over FGCU in Deland, but was still just 4-12 away from home on the season.
Florida Gulf Coast is no stranger to the pressure of the A-Sun tournament and the bright lights of March. Every member of the Dunk City magic has graduated and moved on, but this core of players has played under the increased attention the March run brought and played in conference final games the last two years.
Stetson caught fire this week, blowing out favored NJIT and Lipscomb. But I think the magic ends tonight. This is their third straight true road game, this time against a better opponent in what is sure to be a rocking crowd. A-Sun games don’t draw much attention, but the Ft. Myers faithful adopted this team in a major way three years ago. Expect a sellout crowd and a raucous one as well. This won’t be an AAU-like empty gym road game. This will be a TRUE road game, and I expect it to propel FGCU to the comfortable tourney bid-clinching win.