We picked up another win last night when we backed the Providence Friars laying just one point against the Butler Bulldogs. The Friars had beaten the Bulldogs twice in the last three weeks, including blowing them out at home in their last game. I expected more of the same and laid a little bit of wood on PC. The game itself wasn’t remotely competitive as the Friars jumped out to an early double-digit lead and coasted to a twenty-three-point victory.
While the win won’t be enough to get Providence into the NCAA tournament, it does get them into the next round of the Big East tournament where they will face the defending national champs, the Villanova Wildcats. If the Friars can find a way to sneak past Villanova, they just might get a look from the selection committee. For Butler, the loss ended what was a very disappointing season for the Bulldogs. For today’s pick, we will head to the Big 10 tournament where the Minnesota Golden Gophers square off against the Penn State Nittany Lions.
The seventh-seeded Golden Gophers of Minnesota will host the tenth-seeded Penn State Nittany Lions tonight in the second round of the Big 10 tournament. The Gophers are sitting right on the bubble and could see their postseason dreams go up in smoke if they can’ take care of business tonight. The Nittany Lions are more or less trying to play the role of spoiler as they had a disappointing season and would need to win the Big 10 tournament to get into the Big Dance.
The Nittany Lions are -3-point favorites. The game total over-under is set at 135.5 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 4:00 PM PST from the United Center in Chicago.
I think this Minnesota team has done enough to get an at-large bid into the tournament. When you look at the full body of work, they have nice wins over Washington, Iowa, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Purdue. But the committee loves to punish teams that bow out early in their respective conference tournaments, and a loss to a 14-17 Penn State team could very well be enough to keep them out of the field of sixty-eight.
When these two teams matched up earlier this year in Minnesota, the game was a thriller. The Nittany Lions built a big lead only to see the Gophers mount a huge comeback and the Gophers won the game on Dupree McBrayer’s free thrown with just two seconds left on the clock. Something tells me that this game won’t be as close as in that one, the Nittany Lions outshot the Gophers from the field as well as hit eight three-pointers. And even then, they came up short.
I was very surprised to see the Nittany Lions as favorites in this game. But when you look at the last ten games for both teams, Penn State does seem to be the hotter team. Penn State is 7-3 in their last ten games. That includes wins over Michigan and Maryland. Their last two losses have come against Purdue and Wisconsin, both ranked teams. So, while this team didn’t have a good year, they are having a great finish.
And for Minnesota, the Gophers are just 3-7 in their last ten games. But they did manage to beat a streaking Indiana Hoosiers team and a highly ranked Purdue team during that stretch. And of those seven losses, five of them came against teams that were ranked. They aren’t losing to bad teams, but the losses are starting to pile up.
This is just a bad number. I get that Penn State is playing fairly well right now, but to see them laying three points against a team that is very likely going to make the tournament, and already beat them head to head earlier this year, is shocking. When Minnesota has been in must-win spots this season, they have found a way to sneak out with victories. They haven’t been the most consistent team in the league for sure, but when they need a win, they get the job done.
Tonight, they need a win. And I think that is just what will happen. And even if they do struggle somewhat and the ball doesn’t bounce our way late in the game, we have a three-point insurance policy to fall back on. If I had to pick an outright winner, I would lean heavily towards the Gophers. But I don’t. I can snatch up the three points and feel like I am certainly on the right side of things. Give me the Minnesota Golden Gophers and the +3-points tonight from the United Center!