There are some great games on the college schedule tonight, highlighted by Indiana at Michigan, and West Virginia trying to stop their slide at a very difficult place to place, Iowa State and their “Hilton Magic.” We came up short on last night’s marquee matchup as the Louisville Cardinals rebounded from their weekend disaster to record their first win over a ranked opponent all season long, downing #2 North Carolina. The Tarheels scored their lowest point output of the season, and yes, they shot poorly, but some credit must also be given to the Cardinals defense.
We will try to balance out the .500 weekend with a winner tonight and start gathering some much-needed momentum for the tournament.
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Today’s Free Pick:
West Virginia at Iowa State -4.5
Teams just don’t win in Hilton Coliseum very often. Kansas and Oklahoma have already lost there as Top 5 teams, and now West Virginia will be attempting to fare better than two teams who are inarguably better than them.
It’s a tough ask.
It becomes even more daunting when you take a look at the absolute shelling WVU took in Gainesville this weekend in the Big 12/SEC Challenge – an unranked team they were favored to beat. Tonight, they are not expected to fare nearly as well. The question is, can they at least compete?
I’m not sure they will. Iowa State is pretty steady with the ball and loves to play at a breakneck tempo, negating the two substantial advantages West Virginia has over most of their foes. Speed the game up? Iowa State will happily hang 90 on you. Pressure their guards? Niang is more than able to be the outlet to advance the ball against the pressure. Iowa State shoots 50% from the floor, fifth best in all of D1, and it is largely a function of getting easy shots in transition. They average 86.9 points a game at home and have beaten 18 of their last 20 home opponents.
Meanwhile, WVU is shaky on the road, where they have lost 20 of their last 21 games against ranked opponents. That is an overwhelming statistic, and one I see no reason to bet against tonight. Four and a half is a VERY reasonable price to pay for a team that could easily win by 15 or more. Iowa State is 5-1 against WVU since they entered the Big 12 and has won all three home games including last year’s 79-59 home win in a matchup between two teams who are very similar to this season in makeup.
I like Iowa State to control the game throughout and to be far superior on the offensive side of the basketball. Speeding them up might be a mistake, but I’m not sure WVU has another way to play effective basketball. I’m laying the points and taking the ‘Clones.