Green Bay held off a buzzer-beating attempt from Valpo last night to secure a 51-50 win, as well as hang on to first place and their unbeaten record in the Horizon League. The game was everything you want (except aesthetically pleasing) in a battle between two good mid-major teams that know the only path to The Dance goes through the other. The Valpo easy cover notched us a win as well, our fifth in six NCAA games – some momentum we will try to carry into a big weekend of action.
There are some big conference games in most of the major conferences today; especially in the ‘Bigs’ as in Ten, Twelve and East. Wisconsin goes to upset-minded Michigan, while Michigan State visits similarly last-stand minded Nebraska. The Big East has a hidden gem with DePaul trying to keep their stunning run going at Xavier, while the Big Twelve, by virtue of eight of its ten teams being good, continues to churn out must-see television, giving us Okie St. @ Kansas State, Kansas @ Texas, and Oklahoma @ Baylor.
It should be a good day of hoops, with most of the action tipping off early, so be sure to check tip times.
Today’s Free Picks:
Arkansas Razorbacks -5 at Missouri Tigers
This one is easy for me. Arkansas is legitimately good, led by SEC POY candidate and leading scorer, Bobby Portis. Missouri is miserable and one of the few major programs with a WAY under .500 record. Both teams have failed to cover in their last three games, but I like Arkansas to have a nice bounce-back effort today and really take advantage of one of the few opportunities to get a far inferior opponent in this year’s balanced SEC.
Missouri has lost their last four games by six or more points. I am not including an average, because the Kentucky game is in the mix and it wildly skews the numbers, but the other losses are to Texas A&M, Tennessee and Auburn. I’d put Arkansas a notch above all three of those teams.
Look for Bobby Portis and company to roll today against a rebuilding Missouri program.
DePaul Blue Demons @ Xavier Musketeers -12 (*** WARNING – NOON TIP!)
I’ll be brief on this one after the expansive write up on DePaul earlier this week. The short: DePaul is 5-2 in conference play with wins over Seton Hall, St. Johns, Creighton, Marquette and Xavier. Two of them were even on the road. They’ve already beaten the Muskies once this season so there’s no intimidation factor. It’s the Big East where whoever is at home seems to win, so I like X to get the W, but I don’t see a blowout. DePaul has covered seven straight games; a perfect 7-0 ATS in conference play.
Their six-game losing streak to a parade of non-tourney teams may keep them out of the Big Dance, but what Oliver Purnell is doing in conference play is worth noting – the Blue Demons are actually a bubble team right now and a win today pushes them even closer to the improbable.
Take the dozen points and enjoy a sneaky good game.
Wisconsin Badgers -10.5 at Michigan Wolverines
Michigan, like DePaul, struggled mightily and was written off prior to conference play, but their 5-2 record in a power conference at least keeps them in the tourney discussion. Of course, Michigan making the tourney isn’t a big story like DePaul would be, so let’s end the similarities right there – but from a 2014-2015 season arc perspective, it is similar.
The big difference today is that this game is AT Michigan. Michigan has covered two of three home conference games this year, however today is the first top-tier team they’ve had to play in conference. The two best teams they’ve played; Illinois and Ohio State yielded mix results. They took down Illinois in OT, but Ohio State absolutely took them apart in Columbus.
I don’t see the upset here today, but ten points is a LOT to give a team that is playing decent basketball, that has talent, AND has home court advantage in a conference game. For those three reasons I’ll take Michigan and the points.