One of the many things you look for as the season unwinds are teams that need a key win to give themselves a chance to make the tournament. One team that fits that category:
Notre Dame plus-3 vs. Louisville.
As it stands now, Notre Dame is out of the tournament, but its remaining schedule is very favorable. The biggest game they have left is tonight vs. Louisville. Win this and most of the winnable games left and the Irish have an outside shot at the big dance. After seven consecutive losses, a win could at least help salvage the season. Louisville is beatable. Rick Pitino's team is banged up a bit and, last Sunday on the road, the Cards struggled to put away a very mediocre St. John's team. A month ago Louisville closed a 6.5-point home favorite against Notre Dame and won by 14 in overtime. That was the start of Notre Dame's current seven-game losing streak. The line has been adjusted quite a bit, with Louisville a 6.5-point favorite at home to now being a three-point favorite on the road. I believe it is an over-reaction. No doubt the Irish are struggling, but I feel they still think they can make the tourney. To do so, it must win tonight. They will play with their tourney lives on the line. With an effort similar to our Arizona selection vs. Washington hopefully returning to the team that played so well to start the year and beat Texas on a neutral court. The Irish may also be catching a Louisville team that peaked and is now headed the other way. The Irish plus-3 is the call.
Middle plus 1 vs Troy.
Handicappers have a habit of being stubborn. I am no different. Last week I wrote of my love of Middle vs Denver. But they were never in the game. It was a terrible bet. Again, one game does not a season make. I always look at the big picture and I still feel Middle Tennessee is the class of the conference. Tonight's game is a battle for second place in the eastern division of the Sun Belt. The leader, Western Kentucky, still has games at Troy, at Little Rock and at Middle. It could lose all three, which makes this game even more important. The winner could win the division, and with it a bye in the conference tourney. Troy began the conference season 2-3, but since then has been on a tear, winning eight in a row. Middle on the other hand, started off red hot and has recently fizzled. Its last conference game was that Denver loss. In addition, one of their key players, guard Kevin Kanaskie, is playing hurt. Now, these two met to start the conference season. Middle won 81-53 as a 15-point favorite. No doubt Troy has improved immensely since then and no doubt Middle is not playing as well. But I cannot be wrong. I still believe Middle to be the way better team. I still believe they are the class of the conference. Tonight they will show it. Middle plus one BIG!!!