It’s a fairly slim slate of college hoops action tonight, with the best game on the docket likely the Iowa @ Michigan tilt. Both teams are teetering on the bubble, Michigan likely more teetering than Iowa and in desperate need of a win as their injury depleted roster seems to be careening towards the NIT. The lack of big-time action allows for some teams who rarely get featured to enjoy a little spotlight. There are two games in second-tier conferences with big implications tonight.
Belmont travels to Eastern Kentucky in a battle for OVC conference supremacy and Louisiana Tech tries to keep slim at-large hopes alive in a tougher-than-advertised trip to UAB to see who sits atop C-USA. UAB is .500 on the season at just 11-11, but figured it out in a major way in conference play and is just a game out of first in Conference USA at 7-2. A home win tonight would be amazing for the Blazers, but tough for a conference with multiple at-large hopes to have a .500 team with a 158 RPI win the league…
My favorite game tonight is a pair of former C-USA mates who will be doing battle for AAC supremacy. It’s been a down year for the AAC with the struggles of UConn and Memphis, and of course, the departure of Louisville, but the two teams linking up tonight have designs on March runs.
Today’s Free Pick:
Cincinnati Bearcats at SMU Mustangs -6
Cincinnati has been without Coach Kronin for much of the season, but is still fighting valiantly. They are 15-6 on the season and 6-3 in conference, good enough for a 41 RPI. That puts them in decent but still precarious position from a March perspective. A road win tonight would be HUGE for the Bearcats.
But it won’t be easy to earn. SMU is 18-4, 9-1 in conference and has battled back to #23 in the country and a near lock for the Big Dance after being snubbed last season. They had a few early season struggles as they waited for some key players to return from injury/suspension but have been rolling since a loss to Arkansas back in December, winning 16 of 17 games. They have a tough stretch, facing Cincy tonight and a huge showdown with Tulsa looming this weekend. However, I don’t expect them to look past UC. The Tulsa game means more for their conference championship hopes, but Cincinnati is a much bigger ‘name’ – expect the Mustangs to be focused and ready to roll.
Plus, their only loss during that stretch was a 56-50 loss at Cincinnati back on January 6th, so they should be revenge-minded tonight in Dallas. They are the highest scoring team in the AAC at just over 70 ppg. Meanwhile, offense has never been the Bearcats strong suit. I don’t think they can score enough to keep up with the ‘Stangs tonight and the six point line will be tough to cover.
I like SMU by 10-12 points tonight, and will gladly lay the half dozen for one of the nation’s hottest teams. Keep in mind this was a consensus Top 15-20 team preseason before they stumbled a bit without some key players. They look like exactly who people thought they were – a Sweet Sixteen caliber team with a ton of talent and an All-American caliber point guard in Nic Moore.