As we expected the Hokies had a difficult time against Florida St on Saturday as they were dominated on the boards and lost by a score of 91-82 despite shooting 53.3% from the field. Tonight they face another athletic team with plenty of size and length and who also rebound the ball extremely well. This will again be an issue for the Hokies and we expect much the same result unless they can shoot immaculately from the floor. Our only concern is that the Tar Heels aren't the best coached team and often unprepared, thus just 1 win ATS in their last 7, but we feel the match up is too much in favor of the visitors here!
Since they only have 6 points on the board, the chances of Köln escaping the relegation zone are probably remote. With that said, at least they won their last match against Wolfsburg and their are plenty of other teams that will continue to struggle. Whatever the outcome, only a win today will help their situation. On a positive note the hosts are at least seeing players return from injury. With regards to todays team news, the likes of Risse, Horn and Bisseck will need to pass the doctor. Bittencourt, Cordoba, Maroh and Queiros are confirmed absentees, but they only played 26 games between them this season. Players returning include strikers Yuyu Osaka and Simon Zoller, plus defender Jonas Hector is now available. Köln warmed up with a friendly win against Hertha Berlin (1-0), so they should be fully revved up here. Borussia Monchengladbach failed to qualify for European football, and they were recently knocked out of the German cup. That means Dieter Hecking’s side have just the league to concentrate on, and on that note they could go second or third with a win today. However, the visitors have only won eight of their seventeen games to date, and they are 3-2-3 on the road. Furthermore, they lost back to back away games and have a negative goal balance of 14-17. This is a local derby with just 44KM separating the two clubs. The visitors are 8-1-2 against Köln over their last 11 meetings, and 4-1-2 since the hosts were promoted back to the Bundesliga. During the same period matches at this stadium played out 1-1-1. Gladbach were a little fortunate to win the reverse fixture (1-0), and they will be up against a very motivated team here. With home advantage and their strongest team for a while we can imagine the hosts making this interesting!
Virginia enters this game as the #2 team in the country and is a perfect 6-0 in conference play with their only loss to non-conference opponent West Virginia, another top 5 team in the country. The Cavaliers have another top defense this year and Tony Bennett's pack line system has been tough to crack. Wake Forest has struggled mightily in conference play with just 1 win against an ACC opponent but there are some things in play that we feel give the Demon Deacons a chance to make this game competitive. Wake Forest size in the middle with their 2 7 footers already give them a good rebounding edge but should give them some crucial 2nd chance opportunities on the offensive glass and this is one of the areas that the Cavaliers struggle a bit with their zone-like defense. The Demon Deacons also spread the floor and move the ball well with good shooters in the backcourt although they will of course be tested against an excellent perimeter defense. The Demon Deacons are limited on defense but the Cavaliers prefer to play very slowly and we feel this is a large number given the circumstances. Wake has clearly struggled but against a team with a somewhat similar profile in Syracuse (though of course not nearly as polished as Virginia), the Demon Deacons were able to pick up their only conference win earlier this year, downing the Orange at home 73-67. While a win might not be too realistic, we believe the Demon Deacons have some favorable matchups to keep this within single digits. All the better that this will be a nationally televised standalone game in what should be a sold out arena!
Iona nearly had a meltdown on Friday, blowing a double digit 2nd half lead but in the end, held off Monmouth for their 5th win in a row and 6th in conference play. The Gaels sit at 6-1 in conference and are tied with their opponent today, Canisius, for the lead in the MAAC. In fact, it was the Golden Griffins that dealt the Gaels their only conference loss back in late December and we can't imagine things will be too much different this time around besides the obvious home court advantage for the Gaels. Iona's defense has been lacking and we believe the visitors to be the more well rounded team. There should be no shortage of motivation as this is for the lead in the MAAC and we believe the Griffins can keep this within a single possession.
Siena is just 2-5 in conference play but the Saints have shown some encouraging signs lately, including an outright win over a very good Canisius team and nearly pulling off an upset on the road against Iona. We took a chance on Quinnipiac against Niagara and despite holding a large lead in the 2nd half, the Bobcats were atrocious down the stretch and couldn't even cover the spread at the end. As you would expect, the Bobcats don't do much of anything well and their rebounding is quite poor although when these teams met earlier in the year, the Bobcats did manage a surprising 32-21 rebound advantage. Nevertheless, we consider this an anomaly and in fact, as it ended with a Quinnipiac win, we believe this will give the Saints even more motivation to return the favor. Saints to win comfortably.
We don't see too much difference between these teams to warrant a spread larger than 3. In fact, it is the Jaspers who have done better in conference play with a 4-3 record in the MAAC and have 2 road wins at Marist and Fairfield. Saint Peter's, meanwhile, has been in terrible form, losing their last 3 games and sit at 2-5 in conference play. Both teams focus on defense and play at a slow pace and thus we have a hard time seeing either side winning by too much margin. The Jaspers actually played well against Canisius, holding the Griffins to just 68 points on 40.7% shooting but turned the ball over 19 times. We see this as more of an anomaly and the Peacocks will have to have a terrific shooting night to win this by more than 4 in our opinion!
Long Beach St simply does not defend well enough for us to ever want to lay points with them. Ranked near the bottom 50 in the nation in that regard, the 49ers do have some scorers but are error prone which is compounded by the break neck pace they play at. The Titans don't mind a fast game and come into this match up in good form, winners of 4 out of their last 5 and should be able to go toe to toe with the 49ers, who may also have one of their key contributors in Bryan Alberts sidelined with an injury.
USC plays at a moderate pace to begin with and this is a bit of a deviation from the recent past where they were one of the fastest teams in the nation. But it's noticeable the last 5 games that the Trojans have slowed it down even more letting their opponents dictate the pace of play. The Trojans' scoring is still highly efficient but face an Oregon St team with an improving defense and one of the slowest teams in the country. We expect the Beavers to put forth the same formula as they did against UCLA and based on recent form, we see a tight lower scoring game with good defenive rebounding that doesn't have enough possessions barring overtime!
UAB should be kicking themselves for losing against Western Kentucky on Thursday as they firmly took control in the 2nd half only to completely crumble down the stretch. In any case, the Blazers are a team we rate very highly and they have the shooters to keep up with this Thundering Herd team that we believe still have a major liability on defense. UAB should dominate on the glass and perhaps will have a bit more luck with fouls and free throws this time around.
It's been very much a down year for the Seahawks but to their credit they have fought hard and made a game of it against Charleston on Thursday. The Seahawks have covered 3 in a row but face a Towson team that's been steamrolling their opponents and have really found some form of late. The Tigers have won 4 of their last 5 and their offense has really come to life shooting 50% or better in 4 of their last 6 games. Towson is a defensive team first and foremost and they are capable of covering this number based on the strength of that alone.
Jacksonville St had a tough time getting by Morehead St much as we predicted but in the end, the Gamecocks came away with the win. They have struggled a bit in their last 2 games but this presents the perfect opportunity to get back on track against a very poor Eastern Kentucky team that is actully winless at home in conference play. The Colonels don't do much of anything too well and will be at a severe advantage on the glass and defend the 3 ball extremely poorly. Visitors should win with minimal fuss.
Coastal Carolina has really struggled in conference play, losing their last 6 games after a 90-65 win over UT-Arlington back in late December. We expected as much as this Chanticleers team has been overrated by the market and face a Trojans team that's beginning to find its footing with a win over South Alabama and 3 covers in their last 4 games. Aside from their poor away record, the Chanticleers have really struggled from long range which was about the only thing that would give them a chance to make this competitive. We don't see that changing today