Last weekend the Mainz players were simply stupid to let a 0-2 lead become a 3-2 loss in Hannover. While the 05’ers were a little fortunate with the second goal, they were bloody naive with a couple that went against them. However, that match was on the road and Sandro Schwarz’s side are much better with a fully packed house at the Opel arena. The hosts are still without goalkeeper Rene Adler, but that’s not an issue with Robin Zentner playing well. On a positive note, Bell, Muto and Hack are all nearing return, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a few of them back today. One player sure to be included is Danny Latza, because he is now ban free. In the last round Stuttgart won their first competitive match in six against Hertha Berlin (1-0). However, they didn’t play particularly well and the only goal of the game was an unfortunate own goal. The other thing to note is Mainz recently beat the visitors (3-1) in a cup match, and that scoreline could have been bigger. Hosts look good to get the three points!
The Minutemen saw their 3 game winning streak come to a crashing halt as they suffered a humbling 73-51 defeat to Rhode Island on Wednesday. Saint Louis hasn't had the ideal start to conference play at 2-4 against A-10 opponents but the Billikens have been competitive in every game save for their conference opener against La Salle. Rhode Island by and large shut down the Minutemen guard combo of Carl Pierre and Luwane Pipkins, limiting the duo to just 18 points on 6 of 22 shooting. The Billikens aren't on the level of the Rams but they do bring one of the better defenses in the A-10 to this game and have shown their ability to guard the periemeter. Even worse Billikens teams in the past have had a tendency to do well in this match up and this year's version is much improved! Visitors to bog the game down and keep it within a single possession!
Fran Dunphy and the Temple Owls face off against Dunphy's former school, Penn, that he coached at for 17 years prior to taking the job at Temple. Ironically, Dunphy's last season at Penn in 2006 was the last time Penn won this annual match up between these two Philadelphia schools. After a few promising early season wins against South Carolina and Wisconsin, the Owls have really struggled in conference play with a 2-5 record against AAC opponents and only narrowly got by Tulsa on Wednesday by a score of 59-58 as 8 pt favorites. Penn has cruised to a 12-5 record and is undefeated in Ivy League play at 3-0 though admittedly against a much weaker schedule and in a much weaker conference. Still, the early season success for Temple hasn't looked the same with each passing week as Wisconsin and South Carolina appear to be middling major conference teams at best. On the other side, this is the best team Penn has had in a while and the Quakers appear more confident than ever that they can break the streak today. Temple relies on solid 3 point shooting but this is an area the Quakers defend quite well and rebounding should also be at an advantage for the hosts. The Palestra will of course be electric as it usually is in this match up and as long as the hosts hold their nerve, this should be a winnable game for them. The Owls have the higher star recruits, the better athletes, the more household names, etc. but this is a Penn team that's high on confidence at the moment and we feel no worse than 50/50 on their home court here!
The Seminoles have had a tough go of it in conference play with just 2 wins in their first 6 games albeit against a tough slate of opponents in Duke, UNC and Miami (FL). Virginia Tech has not done much better at 2-3 but with the exception of a 26 point loss to Virginia, the Hokies have proven to be a dangerous team on their home court. The Hokies rank 2nd nationally in field goal percentage at 52% and are even better at Cassell Coliseum where they make 54.3% of their shots. However, some of these stats are inflated against an extremely weak non-conference schedule and the Hokies have been outrebounded at an alarming rate in their last 5 games. This plays into one of the major strengths of the Seminoles who are always active on the glass. The Seminoles have the athletes to match up well against the Hokies at every position and while this should be an electric atmosphere at a sold out arena not to mention a bit of a coaching mismatch in favor of the Hokies, we believe the hosts will have to have a perfect shooting night to come away with the win here.
Just 11 points separate places 2 to 14 following 18 Bundesliga games this season. That suggests it’s Bayern first and them much of a muchness. However, with that said their are still 16 games remaining and we can always expect the cream to come to the top. Traditionally speaking Dortmund are usually fighting it out for second place behind Bayern, and you can be sure Peter Stogger will fancy his teams chance of at least qualifying for the Champions league. However, if we are being analytical about the visitors, we have to point out they lack consistency and last weeks 0-0 draw against Wolfsburg was bordering on dire. BVB did end the first half of the season with a win against Hoffenheim (2-1) and Mainz (0-2), but overall they are struggling to convert goalscoring chances. Hertha went 6-6-6 from their first 18 matches, so eleventh place feels about right. The hosts are 4-2-3 at home, albeit three of those defeats came in the last five. Schalke (0-2), Monchegladbach (2-4) and Frankfurt (1-2) all left the Olympiastadion with wins, and earlier on in the season Dortmund won the reverse fixture 2-0. Nevertheless, a 2-3 over second placed Leipzig tell us the Berlin club have the stomach to face better teams. With regards to team news, the hosts are just without Rekik. That means Alexander Esswein and Jordan Torunarigha could return to first team action this evening. Dortmund on the other hand are without second top scorer Philipp, while all of Reus, Rode, Schmelzer, Guerreiro and Larsen remain sidelined. Hertha won this fixture last season (2-1), and they look in good physical shape ahead of tonight. We would make the hosts shorter in the betting, so that’s the bet!
One of the more heated rivalries in the MAAC, the Monmouth Hawks host the Iona Gaels in New Jersey. Monmouth experienced some roster turnover this year and as results have shown, they have taken a step back and are just 1-4 in conference play. Meanwhile, Iona has represented the MAAC in the NCAA Tournament the past 2 years and appear on track again at 5-1 against MAAC opponents. Hawks leading scorer Micah Seaborn has been dealing with a sprained ankle and has played just once in the last 3 games and is not expected to play tonight. While this is big rivalry, we can't see an already lackluster squad without a reliable scorer keeping up with the class of the MAAC.
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!
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!