It was a loaded Saturday of college hoops, and perhaps the most important game of the day went relatively unnoticed and uncovered. I missed it in my pre-day write up and very little media coverage focused on it; after all, Duke vs. Louisville, Florida State vs. North Carolina, Xavier vs. Butler and a ton of other bigger conference, higher profile games were slated.
But none had more impact than Gonzaga’s flat-out thumping of St. Mary’s. If anyone had a shot to knock the nation’s lone remaining unbeaten off their perch, it was the Gaels. Suffice it to say, they came up a little short in a 79-56 blowout. They still get the return visit at home – Gonzaga’s last real test (aside from a trip to BYU), but last night’s showing introduced the real possibility that we could have an unbeaten team entering March Madness.
We had an odd day as well. Butler got a miracle B.S. backdoor push with two meaningless free throws with 0.4 seconds after Xavier’s desperation inbound heave was intercepted in traffic. Then UCLA gives AWAY our push when Utah scored a last second two-point basket when down three – something that doesn’t happen particularly often…
Weird day. But we get plenty of games to look at today to get back to our winning ways (We are still 8-2 ATS in our last ten college plays with a result).
Today’s Free Pick:
Michigan State Spartans at Ohio State Buckeyes -2
It’s been fashionable this season to dismiss the Spartans. After all, they offered up plenty of evidence with losses at home to Northeastern and a narrow home escape over Florida Gulf Coast. They are just 12-6 overall – a very non-Izzo like early performance.
But they are having an Izzo-like pre-Spring surge, only a little earlier than usual. Michigan State has six losses, and I listed the BAD one. Their first four were to Arizona, Kentucky, Baylor and Duke – all on neutral floors prior to Christmas. They are 4-1 in Big Ten play and have swept Minnesota. Their lone loss is at Penn State, but the Nittany Lions aren’t nearly as bad as people think. In fact, PSU is a legit bubble team at 11-7 and 3-2 in conference with wins over Michigan State, Georgia Tech and Minnesota.
Sparty is rounding into form and looks like formidable challengers in the Big Ten.
Meanwhile, Thad Motta is experiencing angst like he never has in his professional career. Ohio State missed the tourney last year and they are all but dead in the pursuit to return this season. They enter today at 10-7 overall and 0-4 in the Big Ten. They have a home loss to FAU, a two-point win over UNC Asheville, and double-digit losses in their last two conference games.
Now – they aren’t as BAD as their record. They’ve got competitive losses at Virginia, at Illinois and at home against Purdue. But they certainly aren’t very good this season.
I think the misery continues today. They’ll compete. Michigan State isn’t good enough to blow them out without some exceptionally abnormally good shooting. But I still think they’ll lose.
This game is usually must-see television. I can’t say the same this year, but I do expect a good game and a hard-fought Michigan State victory.