East Carolina has been one of the worst teams in all of Division I from a higher profile conference. To make matters worse, the Pirates could be out 3 key contributors as Kentrell Barkley is suspended and Isaac Fleming and Jabari Craig are questionable. The Pirates put up a fight against Connecticut last game but SMU is certainly a class above, even without Shake Milton, who is sidelined for the Mustangs with a hand injury. SMU has lost 5 in a row but to their credit they have faced a brutal run of opponents and we're not sure the hosts have the consistent enough scoring options against a still very good SMU defense.
The Tar Heels have been on a roll in February going 5-0 and are coming off a 93-76 demolition at Louisville over the weekend. Syracuse has been a bit under the radar but the Orange have won 6 of their last 9 and is coming off a 62-55 win over a solid Miami (FL) team. The Carrier Dome is typically one of the toughest environments to play in all of college basketball and this game is projected to be the largest crowd of the season. We feel UNC has been playing a bit above their level and the Orange will look to frustrate the Tar Heels team that sometimes lacks direction that comes from good coaching.
Iowa St sits at the bottom of their conference after their 78-66 loss at Kansas St over the weekend. It's been a disappointing season for the Cyclones as they are the clear worst team in the Big 12 and while TCU has been wildly inconsistent, their offense presents matchup problems and as such, the first meeting went the way of the Horned Frogs 96-73. Iowa St has been a tough nut to crack on their home floor but with the regular season winding down, we don't see enough motivation for the hosts, who perhaps are looking ahead to Saturday where they can upset the Moutaineers again. Not to mention that 2 key contributors Solomon Young and Nick Weiler-Babb will both be sidelined with knee injuries!
Florida has struggled losing 4 out of their last 6 and is coming off back to back losses to Vanderbilt and Georgia. The Georgia loss is particularly heartbreaking as the Gators had a 6 point lead with under 30 seconds left but the Bulldogs came away with a miracle win in overtime. Nevertheless, Tennessee is going through some issues of their own as they have lost 2 out of their last 3 and looked anything but convincing in their win over South Carolina. We're more concerned with the Vols' recent form and we see both teams opting for a slow paced defensve games where neither side can pull away.
The problem with Troyes is instantly clear, they don’t have many goals in them. Striking trio Adama Niane (6), Said-Eddine Khaoui (5) and Hyun-Jun Suk (5) are what we would call moderate converters. By that we mean they need far too many chances, and more often than not the ball ends up in the stands. And, while the hosts did win at the weekend against bottom club Metz, they needed a fortunate 88th minute winner! While Troyes might play reserved football, the same can’t be said of tonights visitor. If ever a French team went for the jugular, it’s got to be Oliver Dall’Oglio’s side. To be analytical, Dijon can appear very naive on occasions, and that’s the reason you see a lot of big score lines against their name. Nevertheless, this is a entertaining team that go at it for 90 minutes, and earlier on in the season that was enough to get a 3-1 win over todays opponent. Troyes are now without suspended holding midfielder Bellugou, while Dingome and Darbion remain injured. Hyun-Jun Suk is available tonight, but he’s likely to start on the bench. Marie, Xeka and Moutou are out for Dijon, they were all sidelined at the weekend. Good news is Sammaritano is fit again, expect him to line up! Visitors too strong!
Upto the weekend defeat by Fulham (2-0), Aston Villa had been in good form under Steve Bruce. With that said, they were not overly impressive in beating Burton or Birmingham. And, they needed a 90th minute winner against Sheffield United, and they rode their luck for the whole match against Forest. We have a sense of feeling that the Villains have been pointing, but they are nothing special. Preston are just one place out of the play-off zone, and come into this unbeaten in six league matches. At the weekend, North End led league leaders Wolves until they had a player sent off. Nevertheless, it was still a great performance from the Lillywhites to hold out with a man less for over 30 minutes. Preston are one of the best travellers in the league, and they appear in better physical shape than their opponents for tonight. In fact, while Alex Neil is without suspended John Welsh and Sean Maguire, both Pearson and Cunningham are returning from one match bans. Only Tom Clarke and Gallagher are slight doubts. Villa have doubts over Mohamady, Adomah and Grealish, while Samba, Kodjia and Andre Green are definite absentee’s! Take Preston to point here, and the win option is also a decent bet!
Just can’t believe that Barnsley are in the relegation zone. Afterall, the Reds are a really good passing side, and they certainly play some high octane football. At the weekend they outplayed the in form Sheffield Wednesday for much of the match, so it was a bit of an injustice that they could only draw (1-1). Prior to that the Tykes lost three league games on the spin, albeit each of those results could have been different with a bit of fortune. Here’s the thing, if Barnsley can’t beat a rugged but limited Burton it’s time to call it a day. The latter had the rub of the green when Forest went down to ten men on 28 minutes at the weekend. However, despite the man advantage for over an hour they couldn’t win that home fixture. The Brewers were tormented and ultimately beaten 2-4 in the reverse fixture, and boss Nigel Clough will need to do without defenders Ben Turner and Tom Flanagan this evening!
The Lions like to get their fans behind them at the Den, and it’s that which makes it an intimidating place for opposing teams. We also recognise that Millwall are unbeaten in their last six home matches, and they are a two places and five points above tonights opponent. However, the visitors have lost just one of their last ten matches, and they are clearly doing much better under the guidance of new boss Jos Luhukay. At the weekend in the FA cup, the Owls drew with premier league side Swansea (0-0), and prior to that they had beaten then second placed Derby County (2-0). We should also add that the visitors won the reverse fixture during a quiet spell. And, they can be buoyed by the fact they kept six clean sheets in their last nine league matches. The Owls are expecting upto 4 players back for this evening, and they are 5-3-0 against Millwall over the past 8 meetings! Easy call!
Yes we can read the stat that the Tricky Tree’s lost their last five home games, and they are without newly suspended Eric Lichaj. However, when we consider they played Burton with a man less for over 60 minutes and stopped them scoring, we believe it showed a lot of character from the host. Reds Boss Aitor Karanka is almost certainly the right man for the job, and having Michael Mancienne back tonight is a massive boost. In our opinion Reading are their for the taking, and that’s despite having up to three players back for tonights match. Forest won this fixture the last three times and scored ten goals in the process.
Sunderland are in the danger of suffering back to back relegations. At the start of the season the Black Cats were one of the favourites for promotion, but since then they have done nothing but disappoint. Suffice to say the fans are already calling for the head of Chris Coleman, but maybe it’s not the former Wales managers fault because he’s picked up a team with so many issues. In fact, injuries are going from bad to worse with Ruiter (first GK), Wilson, Gibson, Watmore and LuaLua confirmed absentees. While McNair and Kone are likely to be available, both Oviedo and Ejaria are also big doubts. Bolton lost back to back league matches, but to be fair a red card at the weekend left them playing with a man down against QPR. Back at home the Trotters are clearly much better, and this looks a great time to play an under pressure Sunderland.
FLEMERINA is certainly the one to beat for her in form yard, but carrying 11-10 and being the same odds makes her a take-on. HEPBURN falls into the too much weight category, while MASSINI’S LADY needs to prove she wants it and can jump. Since KILLCULLEN LADY has a lot to prove, we believe it’s worth taking a chance with chasing debutant HONEYCHILE RYDER. Dianne Sayer’s seven year old made a pleasing return, and she could do better now she’s going over the larger obstacles. All in all, these odds are very tempting!
A few of these have been winning and that means they have gone up the weights. CUCKLINGTON is one who is finding it hard from his new mark, while stable companion MUFFINS FOR TEA will struggle with 105. HEY BILL and SPEEDALONG are also penalised for winning last time out, and neither have much scope for improvement. Back to back point to point winner was found out by his massive weight last time out. Today the 8 year old is receiving from the principals, and he should prove better still on this decent ground. James Best is a good booking, and odds of 7/2 are fair enough.