The LSU Tigers have had some huge wins in the last two weeks. They knocked off Kentucky in Lexington, and they followed that up by beating the Tennessee Volunteers at home to give them a share of first place for the SEC regular season title. But the win they picked up last night, might have been the most impactful of them all, as they were able to avenge their lone loss in their last nine games, by beating the Florida Gators on the road.
I suspected this would be a very competitive game, but I felt like backing the Tigers as small road underdogs was the play, as I expected them to get their revenge. And I was right on both accounts. The game was a fantastic back and forth affair, and it took extra time to decide a winner. Tremont Waters came away as the hero for LSU as he sent the game into overtime when he tied it up with just one second left in overtime and led the team with nineteen points and six assists.
Like I said above, the win was an enormous one as the Tigers are looking to lock up at least a share of the SEC regular-season title and move up into a top three seed with Selection Sunday just over a week away. The Committee loves to reward teams that finish strong, and the Tigers have now won eight out of their last nine games, with the one loss to Florida, now avenged. Do not sleep on this Tigers team, they can absolutely win the SEC and should be considered a threat to make it all the way to Minneapolis for the Final Four.
For Florida, it was another close call, and despite most expert bracketologists having the Gators firmly in the field of sixty-eight, I am just not sure. The Gators lack signature wins, and the losses are really starting to pile up. Florida already has thirteen losses on the year and they wrap up the regular season Saturday in Lexington against the Kentucky Wildcats where they will be significant underdogs. A 17-14 record with very few real wins? That is what constitutes a lock these days? In the immortal words of Lee Corso, not so fast! For today’s pick, we will head to the Big 10 and focus in on another bubble team, the Indiana Hoosiers, as they head to Illinois to play the Illini.
The Indiana Hoosiers jumped back into the bubble conversation last week when they knocked off Wisconsin and Michigan State, both ranked teams, and got their record above .500 for the year. The Hoosiers will look to stay hot tonight as they head to Champaign to play the Illini of Illinois. For the Illini, they started out the season dreadfully slow, but have picked up the pace in the second half of the season, successfully playing spoiler in the Big 10.
The Illini are -2-point home favorites. The game total over-under is set at 141 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:00 PM PST from Assembly Hall in Champaign.
Two weeks ago, I wrote an article on which teams I thought would make it into the NCAA tournament. And I had Indiana making the cut. At the time, they were just 13-14, and my readers all laughed at me. But I just had a feeling this team was going to find its stride and figure out a way to string together some wins and back door into the madness. And now just a couple of days later, the Hoosiers have won back to back games against ranked teams, and all the sudden people are talking about them being on the bubble again.
There aren’t many bubble teams that can match the signature wins that the Hoosiers have this season. They beat Michigan State twice, they beat Marquette, they beat Louisville, they beat Butler, they beat Wisconsin. And now that the regular season has hit its final week, they have two very winnable games left against Illinois tonight, and then at home against Rutgers on Saturday. If they win out and can find a way to win a couple of games in the Big 10 conference tournament, I think this team gets into the field. But that all starts tonight by knocking off the Illini on the road, something that isn’t going to be easy to do.
When these two teams matched up in Bloomington in early January, the Hoosiers were ranked in the top twenty-five, and the Illini were huge double-digit point underdogs. The game was a close one, where Indiana came away with the win, but it was hard fought. Since then, the Hoosiers have completely fallen apart in Big 10 play, and the Illini have surprisingly played fairly well.
Illinois has Big 10 league wins over Maryland, Nebraska, Michigan State, Rutgers, Ohio State, and Northwestern. So, when you look at their 11-18 record, they are playing much better than that at the moment. Don’t let their slow start fool you, this team is playing fairly well right now.
I don’t know what made me think Indiana was going to get hot and run the table, but after knocking off two really good teams, I have even more confidence that is what is going to happen. Illinois has done an admirable job of playing much better down the stretch, but on a raw talent standpoint, this Indiana team is much better. The Hoosiers have two all-confernce level players in Juwan Morgan and Romeo Langford, and the Illini just can’t match that level of talent.
I think the Hoosiers will have their hands full tonight, and this game will come down to the final few possessions, but I think there is something special going on with this Indiana team. I expect that they will win tonight, and hold court against Rutgers on Saturday, and hit the Big 10 tournament with all kinds of momentum. If this team does find its way into the tournament, nobody is going to want to play this team. Give me the Indiana Hoosiers +2-points tonight in Champaign!