We covered our Kentucky selection last night to get an easy win (the 10-point final margin was as large as it got the entire night, most of the game was tight until the final 90 seconds or so), but one team that definitely did NOT get an easy win was the preseason number one, and currently number two, Indiana Hoosiers.
Bo Ryan should have to pay taxes in Bloomington, because he absolutely OWNS Indiana University. Last night Bucky went into Bloomington as 11 point underdogs. They left with their 11th consecutive win over the Hoosiers and as the only unbeaten team in Big Ten play. Wisconsin is no better than the 5th most talented team in the conference (behind IU, Ohio St, Michigan, Minnesota, and probably even Michigan State), yet this team does what Bo Ryan teams seemingly ALWAYS do; win tough games in improbable spots.
If there was any doubt as to the best and deepest conference in America this season, it was firmly laid to rest last night…
On to today’s free pick:
UNLV Runnin’ Rebels at San Diego State Aztecs -3
The best game in the country tonight will take place with little fanfare of television eyes east of the Mississippi, but make no mistake about it, tonight’s Mountain West clash is right on par with last weekend’s Duke v NC State and Ohio State v Michigan games in terms of pitting two teams with Final Four talent and aspirations in a pivotal divisional contest.
UNLV isn’t entering tonight’s game playing Final Four caliber basketball however. They needed overtime to squeeze out a win at Air Force this weekend and lost 65-60 at New Mexico (though The Pit is arguably one of the toughest places to play in the country). They also lost to North Carolina over Christmas break as well. The talent is certainly there with the best freshman (player?) in the country, Anthony Bennett who has scored at least 22 points in each of his last six games, and a finally-healthy Mike Moser.
San Diego State was seemingly a little unfocused last week as well – perhaps both teams were looking ahead to tonight’s glamour matchup – struggling with both Colorado State and Fresno State. That said, their only two losses this season are a one-point loss to Arizona and a season-opening loss to Syracuse on a windy aircraft carrier. This team is legit, and have the veteran leadership of Jamaal Franklin to guide them. Franklin is Bennett’s chief competition for Conference POY honors, and to this point would have to be considered the slight favorite based on conference production (he was MWC Player of the Week last week). He will need to come up big tonight at home for the Aztecs to win.
And I think he will. SDSU struggled a bit while their other two best players were gutting through a rough bout of the flu. Both Case Tapley and Xavier Thames are back at full strength, and I think that plus a raucous home crowd are enough to carry SDSU to the win tonight.
Free Pick: San Diego State Aztecs -3