Maybe this USC Trojans team can get things turned around after all. I didn’t like them last night at home as they hadn’t shown me any ability to beat good teams this year. I wasn’t all that confident that Arizona was, in fact, a good team, but liked them to win on the road, nonetheless. But after seeing what this Arizona team did in the first half, I am starting to wonder if any of these PAC-12 teams are tournament worthy. Arizona managed just nineteen points in the first half, and even though they played much better in the second half, they still finished the game shooting an abysmal 27% from the field and 20% from three.
You are never going to win a road conference game when you shoot like that. But I do want to give some credit to the Trojans as they played a great game and Nick Rakocevic and Bennie Boatwright both had double-doubles in the win. It really was a must-win game for the Trojans, and they took care of business. USC’s next two games are against Arizona State and Washington, the two best teams in the PAC-12 right now. If the Trojans can find a way to win both of those games, they will give themselves a chance to get back on the right side of the bubble.
Joe Lunardi of ESPN has just two teams from the PAC-12 currently in the field of 68, Washington and Arizona State. He has the Huskies at a nine seed and the Sun Devils playing in a play-in game. It is certainly a sad state of affairs right now out west. And if a couple of these teams don’t start really separating themselves from the rest of the pack, we could easily see the so called “conference of champions” get just the one auto-bid this season. For today’s pick, we are going to leave the dreadful PAC-12, and head to a conference that could threaten with as many as ten teams in the tournament, the Big 10, as the Indiana Hoosiers host the Michigan Wolverines.
The Michigan Wolverines are looking to bounce back after a rough last week that saw them lose their first conference game and then need a buzzer-beater not to lose two straight. It’s not all bad for Big Blue though as they find themselves in the top five of the AP Poll and are currently projecting as a two seed in the NCAA tournament. For Indiana, the wheels have seemingly fallen off recently as they have lost five straight games, all against Big 10 league opponents. The Wolverines are -4-point road favorites. The game total over-under is set at 133.5-points. Tipoff is scheduled for 3:30 PM PST from Assembly Hall in Bloomington.
We know what this Michigan team brings to the table. They never turn the ball over, and they play a suffocating brand of defense. Kenpom has the Wolverines as the third best defensive team in the country, behind only Virginia and Texas Tech. And while they don’t score a lot of points as they play a very slow-paced game at times, they come in at number 31 as far as offensive efficiency. So, this team really can do it all, and they look to be a better overall team than the one that made the Final Four last season.
The breakout star for the Wolverines this year has been freshman phenom Ignas Brazdeikis. The rookie forward is averaging fifteen points and five and a half boards a game, while also hustling hard on defense. When the Wolverines went into Madison last week and lost to the Wisconsin Badgers, much of the blame fell on the shoulders of Brazdeikis as he did not score in twenty-three minutes of action. If Michigan expects to go into Bloomington and knock off the Hoosiers, they are going to need a much better effort out of the freshman.
Speaking of freshman, Romeo Langford came into this season looking like the savior of Indiana basketball. The former Indiana Mr. Basketball was a top-five recruit, and many saw him as the Hoosiers ticket back to the Final Four. Yeah, it hasn’t really worked out that way. And it’s not really Langford’s fault as he is leading the team in scoring at nearly eighteen points a game. When these two teams matched up a couple of weeks ago in Michigan, Langford scored seventeen points and had six rebounds, but it wasn’t enough though as the Wolverines won 74-63.
When these two teams played in Ann Arbor on January 6th, the Indiana Hoosiers had won seven straight games and were undefeated in conference play. Not only did they look like a legit tournament team, they looked like a team that could be a top-four seed. But after losing to Michigan, the Hoosiers have lost their way, losing five straight games. Since that game they have really struggled to score the ball, it is almost like the Wolverines laid out the blueprint on how to beat Indiana.
Home underdogs are my favorite bets to make, especially in league play. And so, it makes sense that the early morning bettors all backed Indiana and moved this line from -5.5 to where it stands now at Michigan -4. And in a game where their won’t be a lot of points scored, I can understand that logic. But I think this number has moved too far. I see Michigan as the much better team, and I see them winning tonight. The number is going to be a tight cover for sure, but I still think Big Blue finds a way to win and cover the game late. So, I will back the Wolverines as I see them completing the season sweep of the Hoosiers. Give me the Michigan Wolverines laying -4-points tonight!