Seton Hall Pirates @ Louisville Cardinals -4
Seton Hall became a popular punching bag for pundits looking at how “soft” the bubble is this year, how many mediocre teams have a shot to get into the Big Dance. However, with the Pirates no-doubt blowout win yesterday over Providence, their Dance card seems pretty secure at this point (yahoo has them as a #10, Lunardi does as well). It also helped that many of the conferences whose tournaments have already concluded ended with a likely NCAA entrant winning the automatic bid. Murray State, Creighton and St. Mary’s all handled their business and prevented a “bid-stealer” from crashing the party. That makes many of the Big East teams playing in today’s second-round breathe a little bit easier.
So, with some of the must-win pressure taken off of today’s contest, but the definite real need to get one more quality win to feel secure, does Seton Hall replicate yesterday’s dominant effort today against the Cardinals?
The two squared off once this season, with Louisville winning 60-51 at home. However, Louisville’s last six games don’t have Pitino and the Card faithful feeling too confident about this team’s postseason chances. They are just 2-4 over their final six, and one of the wins required overtime to beat conference doormat DePaul. Granted, two of those losses are to Syracuse who has lost just once all season (to Notre Dame on the road without Fab Melo), but losing is still never a real good sign. The losses to Cincinnati and South Florida, both bubble teams who are liking their chances more every day, casts even more doubt on the Cardinal’s validity.
Seton Hall hasn’t exactly handled their business down the stretch, despite their relatively good position to make the Tourney. A win today would all but seal it. However, finishing the regular season with a 28-point blowout loss to DePaul and losses to Rutgers and Cincinnati at home make things a little dicey (and fuels a lot of the ‘soft bubble’ talk).
Neither team has been particularly impressive the past month, but top to bottom, I think the Cards have much better depth and are frankly more talented. Laying four in the Garden on a neutral floor is a fair line, but one I think the Cards cover with a good solid performance. The letdown factor for Seton Hall after clearly putting so much focus and energy on the floor last night is likely to take a little toll down the stretch, and I like the Cards to pull away late.
Free Pick: Louisville Cardinals -1 <– Get $500 Bonus!