With all respect to the greatest non-single day sporting event in American Sports, the NCAA Tournament, my favorite week of the season gets rocking today and tomorrow – conference tournaments.
If you love college basketball and wagering on college basketball, there are more good games played at a ridiculously high level taking place the next four days than you will see on most NCAA Tournament days, if for no other reason than the sheer volume of good games taking place at the same time when the ACC, A-10, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12, Mountain West and SEC (ok, that one’s a reach – but all the games matter with nearly half the conference on ‘the bubble’) all kick off the next two days.
I will do my best to ramp up with a few extra picks starting tomorrow when the slate of games gets crazy, particularly when there are some good value picks hiding among the multitude of games.
For tonight, enjoy a one last “little guy” scrapping their way to their likely first-round dates with Goliath
Lafayette Leopards vs. Bucknell Bison -11
Most basketball fans remember Lehigh, the Patriot League’s entrant from last season’s stunning upset of #2 seed Duke in the opening round of the tourney. They became only the 4th (Norfolk State beat them to the third spot by mere hours) #15 seed to even win a tourney game, and nearly became the first to win TWO games when they gave Xavier all they could handle in the second round.
This season they were looking to build on that success with All-American guard CJ McCollum back in the fold for his senior year. Unfortunately for CJ and Lehigh, his season ended early due to injury, and Lafayette was the most obvious recipient, sneaking their way into the Patriot title game.
Bucknell is another Patriot League team with some tournament magic in their recent past. They made a name for themselves knocking off #3 Kansas nearly a decade ago, and have been a fringe Cinderella candidate many times since. This year? This is no Cinderella story. This team is FOR REAL. They came within a single point of knocking off Missouri in Columbia and their 27-5 record also includes a win at Purdue, a win over La Salle and road losses at Princeton and Penn State. They lost only two games in conference play all season long, and one of them was at Lehigh before CJ McCollum went down.
The other loss? At Lafayette.
So can the Cougars pull off one of the bigger upsets – the first potential “bid stealer” of the season tonight against Bucknell?
Unlikely. The Bison aren’t on the road tonight, they are at home. They are 14-1 at home this season. Lafayette is a meager 5-13 on the road. Ugggh, that’s ugly.
You can expect Bucknell’s star, Mike Muscala, to have a big game and carry the Bison to yet another big margin win in a conference championship game, ala Davidson and Gonzaga.
Free Pick: Bucknell Bison -11
Bonus Picks: I love USC beating up Utah tonight in the opening road of the Pac-12 tourney, and ditto for Washington, who is fresh of the heels of a thriller against UCLA, brushing aside less talented in-state rival Washington State.
Free Picks: USC Trojans -2 & Washington Huskies -1.5