West Coast Conference showdown pits last year's NCAA Championship runner up Gonzaga against St Mary's. The Gaels enter this match up at 17-2 and have not lost since an overtime game against Georgia back in late November. Gonzaga sits at 16-3 with all 3 losses coming against top 50 teams. This is a match up that Gonzaga dominated last season but the Bulldogs aren't quite the same team as they were and the Gaels are improved and should be better prepared. If the Gaels can shoot marginally well from long range, this should be an easy cover!
Two of the better teams in Conference USA square off tonight as 13-5 Western Kentucky hosts 13-5 UAB. Both teams are in good form with the Blazers 7-1 in their last 8 with the only loss against Middle Tennessee St and the Hilltoppers perfect in conference play at 5-0 and winners of their last 6. We believe these teams to be very much equals thus the visitors are a must play at these odds. The Blazers are a force on the boards and have the offense to keep up with the Hilltoppers.
Coastal Carolina has struggled this season much as we anticipated and after destroying frontrunners UT-Arlington to begin conference play, the Chanticleers have lost 5 straight games to Sun Belt opponents. South Alabama's defense has improved much this year and the Jaguars have managed to stay afloat at 2-3 despite playing a tough conference slate thus far. The Chanticleers don't do much of anything well and they have been abysmal on the road. The Jaguars perhaps still remember this fixture last year where the Chanticleers won in heartbreaking fashion in overtime and we believe this game will have much importance in that regard. Hosts to exact some revenge against an overrated team!
Northern Kentucky slipped up once against a tough Wright St team at home but is otherwise on track to win the Horizon League at 5-1 in conference play. We believe Milwaukee is better than their 2-5 record against Horizon League opponents and should give the Norse everything they can handle tonight. I'm going to throw out the 99-92 loss to Green Bay on Monday as the Phoenix simply could not miss from long range and the Panthers inexplicably decided to play at a fast tempo even though that is not their style. The Norse are more deliberate and this should be more in tune with how the Panthers like to play and the type of game that they are at their best. The Norse are the class of the Horizon League for sure but in a tough road environment, I can see a close win if not an outright upset.
Middle Tennessee St has another fantastic program this year and looks for another tournament appearance though they will see a challenge from Western Kentucky. Marshall is much the same as well with an explosive offense that plays at blazing speed but a poor defense that ranks in the bottom 100. There is a reason that the Blue Raiders have typically owned this match up and it's because they play hard physical defense and force terrible shots from their opponents. We don't see the Thundering Herd getting the backdoor cover as they did against Old Dominion. The Blue Raiders are too efficient on both sides of the floor!
The Dukes have struggled mightily this season en route to a 4-15 overall record and are winless in 6 conference games thus far. Nevertheless, they have come close on a number of occasions of pulling off a major upset and again, came up just short last game against Delaware, though the Dukes were favored in that one and if you remember we recommended a bet on Delaware that game. Elon has always been rather inconsistent and their last 2 games illustrate this perfectly with a win over Charleston and a loss to UNC-Wilmington, 2 teams on opposites ends of the CAA. G Joey McLean remains out for the Dukes but the 2 freshmen guards Darius Banks and Matt Lewis have filled in adequately and should have the team competitive down to the wire!
Niagara continues to get respect from the market and perhaps rightfully so but we're still cautious despite some early praise for them that we have given in the past. The fact remains that the Purple Eagles defense leaves a lot to be desired and despite their explosive scoring threats, they have a hard time winning by margin. We saw this in their previous game against Saint Peter's where they were unable to hold a large lead and nearly gave it away at the end. Quinnipiac are one of the poorest teams in Division I but they should have a rebounding advantage and their taller guards could make life difficult for the outside shooters on the Purple Eagles. Bobcats have shown their home court advantage has bite with wins over Massachusetts and Monmouth and we believe this won't be so easy for the visitors!
This is a complete mismatch in every aspect of the game. UNC-Greensboro brings a top 75 defense and while they like to play at a slower pace, they will gladly run with The Citadel given the Bulldogs' inability to stop anyone with their bottom 5 defense in the entire nation. The Spartans have some size down low as well so we expect the rebounding to be completely lopsided in their favor against a Bulldogs team really lacking any interior presence. Even out on the perimeter will be difficult where the Bulldogs take most of their shots.
Austin Peay have made a nice turnaround this year under first year head coach Matt Figger. The Governors are 10-8 on the season and currently tied atop the OVC at 5-1 in conference play including an 87-67 win at Jacksonville St on Saturday. For Tennessee St, it's been a disappointing start to the season as they sit near the bottom of the Ohio Valley at 2-4. The Tigers have had issues closing out games and could easily be 5-1 themselves if not for poor game management against SIU-Edwardsville, Tennessee Tech and Tennessee-Martin. The Governers are much improved but will face a tough defensive team that presses and forces turnovers at a high rate. We believe the Tigers can leverage the home crowd and turn this into a slow paced and foul-heavy game that's much more to the hosts' liking.
IUPUI continues to stay afloat in their first season in the Horizon League as they easily dispatched of Detroit on Tuesday by a score of 81-66. The Jaguars are 4-3 in conference play and have covered 5 of 7 games thus far. Cleveland St was expected to be on the bottom rung in the Horizon League and are a dismal 1-5 in conference play with their lone victory coming against Green Bay. Despite covering their last 3, not too impressed with the Vikings as their covers against Oakland and Northern Kentucky were merely a result of their opponents disinterest. The Jaguars are in good form and have proven capable on the road. Visitors should be the clear favorite.
Delaware made it 3 in a row on Saturday as they squeaked by James Madison on the road 61-60 to follow up wins over Drexel and UNC-Wilmington. Hofstra enters this matchup at 4-2 in conference play and have garnered some big wins both in and out of conference but haven't been the most reliable at home. The Blue Hens are a team we feel is underrated in the CAA and they have been on a roll recently winning 3 in a row. The Pride have a top 100 offense but there is much to be desired from their defense and we can't see how they make enough stops to win by a sizable margin. In fact, the Pride's largest margin of victory this year against a Division I school not ranked in the bottom 30 was by just 6 points against James Madison and that game went into overtime! Hens to keep it close!
Jacksonville St coach Ray Harper has done terrific things in his 2nd season with the Gamecocks, leading them to an NCAA Tournament appearance last season as the Ohio Valley Conference's representative and again has them as one of the teams in the mix this year. With that said, it is evident the market has caught on to this team as they have frequently been given some inflated lines this year. Morehead St has struggled to a 1-5 start in conference play but did finally notch their first conference win last game against Tennessee Martin on Saturday. The Eagles have proven to be tough competitors with a 4-2 record ATS against Ohio Valley opponents and even nearly pulled off the upset against the Gamecocks in the reverse fixture as 13 pt underdogs. Despite some struggles at home, the Eagles match up well here and should put up a good fight.