Midweek Basketball Report
Let the mini-tourney games begin! The College Basketball Conference Tournaments are ready to take center stage 'round the land and we'll be offering up quick-hitter previews/comments on all of the tourney action and so let's get right to it beginning with Wednesday's action:
BIG 10 TOURNAMENT ... Wednesday-thru-Sunday
at Madison Square Garden -- New York City, NY
Let's just say that midtown Manhattan will be bustling with Midwestern hoop fans the rest of this week as the 14-team Big 10 Conference zooms into New York City (and word is this is a one-time-only event in the Big Apple). No doubt that Michigan State, Purdue, Ohio State, Michigan and Nebraska all will be NCAA Tournament-bound after this mini-tourney wraps up but there's bubble teams abounding and gotta believe Penn State and Maryland have to win at least one game here while Indiana likely needs a minimum of two wins at MSG to secure one of the 68 berths in the NCAA Tournament. P.S., if Michigan State (28-3) wins this fandango, then Tom Izzo's club - no matter all the outside noise (see FBI) -- will be a numero uno seed in the NCAA Tournament and maybe even THE number one seed in the big tourney while Purdue (26-5) can maneuver its way into a top seed in the "Big Dance" by winning this thing and getting some outside help. While Michigan State roars into this mini-tourney on a 12-game SU (straight-up) winning streak, check out this Michigan team that's won its last five in a row and is clicking neatly under great tourney head coach John Beilein. Both Nebraska and Ohio State stand to improve their NCAA seed level by a couple of notches should they make a deep run here.
THE FAVORITE: Michigan State
DARK HORSE: Maryland
PLAYER TO WATCH: Purdue G Carsen Edwards (18.2 points per game and a 40.5 percent shooter from beyond the three-point arc) is an electric player who can will his team to the winner's circle and we would love to see Edwards and Company square off with Sparty at some point in this mini-tourney.
OHIO VALLEY CONFERENCE ... Wednesday-thru-Saturday
at Ford Canter - Evansville, IN
Here's one of the many one-bid leagues out there and there's always a chance that co-stars Murray State (24-5) and/or Belmont (23-8) will stub their toe en route to the championship game - so be careful if you happen to think they'll have a joy ride to the title tilt. Still, it would be a major surprise if it's anything but a Murray State vs. Belmont championship game and keep in mind the Murray State Racers charge into this mini-tourney on an 11-game SU winning streak (note Belmont's won eight of its last 10 games) although it's worth noting that the Bruins won the only matchup of the season with a 79-72 home triumph back on Jan. 19th, thanks to 21 points apiece from Austin Luke and Dylan Winder.
THE FAVORITE: Murray State
DARK HORSE: Tennessee Tech
PLAYER TO WATCH: Murray State's six-foot G Jonathan Stark averages 21.9 ppg and shoots 42.2 percent from trey-land.
Next Up ... The Missouri Valley Conference and the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tip off their mini-tourney action on Thursday and come Friday we'll be watching out for the Horizon League, the West Coast Conference and the Southern Conference.
Here is the up-to-the-minute NBA Odds to Win it All when it comes to the league's heavy-hitters (all based on $100 per-play wagers) ...
|TEAM||ODDS TO WIN IT ALL|
|Golden State||- 350|
Okay, so no "biggie" that the defending champion Golden State Warriors are odds-on favorite to snag this 2017-18 title but the fact of the matter is the Houston Rockets entered Tuesday night's action with the best overall won/loss mark in the league (see 47-13, .783) and riding a ridiculous 13-game SU winning streak.
Are the Las Vegas and offshore oddsmakers so convinced that the Rockets can't win four games against the Warriors in the NBA Western Conference Finals this May that they make G-State such overwhelming favorites to win this whole thing?
Wait, isn't it at all possible that Mike D'Antoni's club wins a Game 7 at home - yes, we're saying for now that the Rockets sport the better won/loss mark by regular season's end - with G James Harden and PG Chris Paul playing at their "max" levels?
Just seems to us that it's a foregone conclusion that the Warriors (now 47-14 following Monday's 125-111 win/cover at the 12-point underdog New York Knicks) are gonna breeze right through the post-season this year and the Rockets are getting precious little respect from the number-crunchers (or the mass media folks, for that matter!).
Here's something to chew on as we inch closer to the NBA Playoffs: It's possible that the Rockets - who are an NBA-best 29-8 against fellow conference foes - will be the team that wins a couple of short-and-sweet playoff series before ever getting to the Western Conference Finals and maybe the Warriors will be the ones that experience some turbulence when playing against the likes of Oklahoma City, Portland or New Orleans in the earlier rounds. We'll see.