I hate to ever bet against the Butler Bulldogs at Hinkle Fieldhouse. It is just always such a tough place for opposing teams to go in and play. But everything about last night’s game made me think an upset was coming. So, I backed the Villanova Wildcats as one and a half point underdogs and expected them to sneak out of Hinkle with the win. And that is just what happened. The final score shows you that this game was close, it wasn’t. Villanova dominated the action throughout and had a fifteen-point lead with under a minute left to play.
The Bulldogs hit a couple of meaningless shots in the game’s final moments to save face a bit, as the Wildcats won 80-72, making the game seem much closer than it actually was. Eric Paschal had yet another big game in Big East play as he scored twenty-three points for the Wildcats in the win. With the win, the Wildcats remain undefeated in Big East play and are pulling away with the regular season title. Only Marquette stands in the way of Villanova putting away the title as no other team in the league has a winning record in conference play.
The Big East isn’t nearly as good this year as it’s been in the last several years, and all of the teams are doing a great job of beating each other up. With the league having so much parity this year, it could end up costing them on Selection Sunday as they could get as few three bids to the NCAA tournament. As much as I love the program they have built at Butler in the last decade, it looks like this season is going to end with the Bulldogs missing the tournament altogether. For today’s pick, I will head to the Big 12 and break down the game between the Texas Longhorns and the TCU Horned Frogs.
The Horned Frogs of TCU are looking to get back to .500 in Big 12 play tonight as they host Shaka Smart and the ever-dangerous Texas Longhorns. We keep waiting for the breakout season for Texas under Smart, but the guy that made VCU a household name has mostly underwhelmed in his four seasons in Austin. For TCU, the Horned Frogs are looking to get back to the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive season. The Horned Frogs are small -1.5-point home favorites. The game total over-under is set at 137 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 4:00 PM PST from Schollmaier Arena in Fort Worth.
Just when we start to think Shaka Smart has things turned around at Texas, they regress backward. Last year Smart had a top ten recruiting class but failed to live up to expectations. This year, at times, they have looked like an elite team. Like when they beat North Carolina, Purdue, and Kansas State. But losses to Radford, VCU, and Providence are just hard to understand. This team just can’t seem to give a consistently good effort. Which is surprising with Smart at the helm.
Texas had lost three straight games before they rebounded and beat a solid Oklahoma team at home in their last game. The losses were all close ones to good teams, but this is life in the Big 12. There are very few easy games, and if Texas wants to get into the tournament this year, they need to start winning some of these conference games.
The TCU Horned Frogs finally broke through last year and made the NCAA tournament for the first time in a decade. And this year, they look to have another tournament caliber team. TCU has played a fairly soft schedule to start out the season, and their biggest win in the non-conference was against a bubble at best USC Trojans team. The Frogs have fallen on hard times in Big 12 play as they have lost three out of their last four games, with the lone win coming against a struggling West Virginia team.
Both of these teams are struggling right now. Big 12 play seems to be eating them both up, and they are struggling to stay relevant in the league. It is way too early to start talking about must-win games, but whichever team wins this game will be happy to add it to their resume in March, as they both need the win badly. In my book these teams have a very similar level of overall talent. Jaylen Fischer has yet to break out like many thought he would for TCU, but this team seems to have enough talent to contend with the top teams in the Big 12, they just aren’t right now.
With all things seemingly being equal, I will lean on the home team tonight. I just don’t think Texas is a good enough team to go on the road and upset a solid team like TCU. So, I will lay just a little bit of wood and back the home team in this one. Give me the TCU Horned Frogs laying -1.5-points tonight at home!