Late in the year you sense that there are lame duck games for teams that go on the road. The kids are worn out, the season is long, guys are getting the crap beaten out of them by coaches. It's a big money sport and these kids are like robots. It doesn't seem like kids are playing for the sake of playing. Instead they are playing to make money for the school. They are trained as professional athletes and are no longer kids playing for joy.
But the weight room is key now, being fit is essential, and what you often see are teams that very rarely let down. It's what I have learned this year: A lot of teams you think would be flat or have a letdown or lack energy actually don't because they are so fit. Playing nightly is not a big deal.
However, when some teams get to February, no matter how fit they are, if their only way into the NCAAs is through winning their conference tournament, they may not put their best foot forward. They'll save it for March.
Loyola Marymount plus-5.5 at home against San Francisco
For instance, San Fran, whose coach suspended four players recently, is fresh off a win against Santa Clara, the Dons biggest rival. Now it takes on Marymount and the motivation for going down there is not high. They just beat their big rival, from ten behind in the second half and five in OT. Because of that they figure to let down against Marymount in a game that means nothing. Marymount is a freshman-laden team but it plays hard every night. Max Good demands it. It has shown a lot of fight and this is a winnable game. Getting five-and-a-half is fair and I expect a motivated Mayrmount to beat a flat San Fran team.
Florida International plus 3.5 at home against Middle Tennessee
Middle Tennessee has its spot in the conference tourney locked up. And its final game of the year is senior night at home against Western Kentucky. It's going on the road to Florida International, a team that hasn't been healthy all year, until now. Even banged up it beat Western Kentucky at home. Now the Panthers face a Middle team that seems to have mailed it in since losing its chance to win the conference regular season title. Middle's coach says his team wants to build some momentum, but I don't see it, as I have found out the hard way by losing money on this group the past month. I think the player's minds will be on their final game of the season on senior night. International will be super focused because if it wins its last two it might get a chance at a home game in the conference tourney. Even the Middle coach said that when FIU is healthy it could win the conference. This is a chance to salvage a hard luck year by knocking off the pre-season favorite. So I look for FIU to beat my favorite team. Florida International plus-3.5 is the play.