Detroit Titans @ Valparaiso Crusaders -1 — Horizon League Championship Game
For those of you not intimately acquainted with the Horizon League, it’s “where Butler plays.” Only this year, Butler won’t be playing in the championship game. That’s because the Bulldogs’ stranglehold on the Horizon League, as well as mid-major tourney dream fancy, has been ended thanks to a thorough 19-point drubbing by Valpo Saturday afternoon. The win improved Valop to a perfect 3-0 against Butler this season. Now Bryce Drew’s (yes, that Bryce Drew) Crusaders attempt to go someplace they haven’t been since his legendary “homerun throwback” buzzer-beating miracle back in 1998; the NCAA Tournament.
In order to do that, they are going to have to get past a very tough Detroit ballclub, who enters at 22-10, and winner of nine of their last ten and fourteen of sixteen overall. They finished at 14-4 in a balanced, if not overwhelmingly talented, Horizon League and tested themselves in the pre-conference schedule with games against Notre Dame, Mississippi State and Alabama; all hard-fought single-digit losses. However, the fact that they also lost games to Bowling Green, Akron, Youngstown State and George Washington make this conference championship an absolute must-win if the Titans would like to continue playing into March (even the NIT is a bit of a long-shot).
Valpo has the unique benefit of playing the conference championship game in their home gym, one of the unique structures of the Horizon League’s tourney format as their reward for winning the regular season crown. With so much at stake for the usual one-bid league, it is actually a pleasantly equitable way of settling who gets to Dance. Valpo took full advantage of it Sunday, hammering Butler and running their season home record to an impressive 14-2. Much like Detroit, Valpo did little to improve their profile in the pre-conference schedule. They took on Arizona and took a 33-point drubbing at Ohio State, but did notch wins over Akron, Bowling Green (who each beat Detroit) and beat a decent Duquesne team on the road. However, with losses to IUPUI, IPFW they are S.O.L when it comes to any post-season aspirations short of a win tonight in the championship game.
Detroit has been one of the worst teams against the spread in the league in 2012, going just 11-19-1 ATS. Valpo has been about where they should be, at 14-14-1. However, Detroit is just 4-9 in their last 13 road games ATS, while Valpo is 5-2-1 ATS at home. With so much at stake, and two teams pretty evenly matched (Valpo swept them, in two very close, well-played games), I give the edge to the home team. TO only have to lay a scant one point to get it is a great value, and one I can’t pass up. Give me Bryce Drew putting his signature on yet another Valparaiso milestone; this time from his seat on the bench, just like Pops.
Free Pick: Valparaiso Crusaders -1 <– Click for $500 betting bonus