Saturday's Picks: Big South, Ohio Valley and Atlantic Sun Championship Games
Because the best way to feign actual knowledge on a subject is an accurate prediction, I introduce The Picks. Every weekday, Monday-Thursday (hopefully) I will pick the televised games of the night, against the spread of course, and follow the results to see if I actually know something about basketball. The results should be both entertaining (for readers) and soul-crushing (for me). And if I'm wrong, I'll just do what all the TV "experts" do: never bring it up again and avoid all accountability. And since I won't be betting actual money (that often), I win every time!
I'll also be occasionally picking against one of my roommates, Craig, so we can have a rational method of settling all disputes involving rent, household matters, etc.
OK, the regular season is done, but that doesn't mean the
Big South, Winthrop at UNC Asheville (-2.5)- There is a reason for the "at" in the match-up, the game is on Asheville's home court. This should be a really great game. Winthrop has dominated the league lately, but the Bulldogs won the regular season title, beating the Eagles twice. If Asheville loses at home after beating the Big South overlord twice already and can't snap the Eagles three-year championship streak, well let's just say it would suck to be in Asheville today (especially when you are 7-8 like Kenny George). For some reason, Kenny George is top search term that leads people to this here blog, even though I only wrote about him once and it was for getting dunked on. Perhaps it says something about my writing (or my readers) that people only come here to see an inhumanly large man get embarassed on video but I'll choose to believe otherwise. As goofy as the guy is, he is an incredibly effective at deterring offenses. You basically can't drive into the lane without a kick-out or a clever dump-off in mind and expect to score. So Winthrop, which is a decent three-point shooting team at 37 percent is going to need a hot night from star guards Chris Gaynor and Michael Jenkins. Look, these two teams know each other so well, strategy can be thrown out the window. The winner is going to be who can knock down shots and get after each other defensively. I think Winthrop will do that; they aren't ready to give up this league just yet, even if they have to climb eight feet in the air to get it.
Ohio Valley, Tennessee State vs. Austin Peay (-3)- This one is being played in Nashville but don't think that gives Tennessee State any advantage. The Tigers made the OVC Finals as a No. 6 seed and are playing a team that is clearly the class of the conference, an Austin Peay team that went 16-4, won the league by three games and has beaten Texas Tech this year. That being said, the previous two meetings this year were split, with the home team winning each one by four or less. The Governors' strength is their frantic defense that tries to force a ton of turnovers (they are first in the nation in steal percentage) but in both games this season Tennessee State found a way to take care of the ball. Both teams have a pretty balanced attack although State's Bruce Price is probably the player most worth watching. The Tigers like to push the pace and its Price that both runs the show and jacks up the shots. Austin Peay has one of the better defensive guards in the league, the 5-9 Derek Wright, but will probably put one of their bigger wings on Price. This should be an entertaining up and down game, that will be close than the seeds indicate, but I don't see Tennessee State's run continuing.
The Pick: Austin Peay
Atlantic Sun, Jacksonville vs. Belmont (-6)- This league was the early season darling after Gardner Webb beat Kentucky, Mercer beat USC and Belmont took down Cincinnati. But it's likely this game is for a No. 14 or 15 seed, albeit a dangerous one. Belmont has owned Jacksonville recently, winning the last five meetings. The Bruins have also beaten Alabama this year and took Wright State to overtime. They run a fast-paced balanced game that includes an incredible amount of threes. They are No. 7 in the country in three-pointer/two-pointer ratio, third in three-point attempts and first in made threes. And reaching that number is a largely team effort (now you can see why Belmont would be a dangerous 14 seed). The Dolphins (real nickname) are the No. 2 seed despite having an eight-game losing streak in the non-conference slate that included losses to UAB, Michigan State, Georgetown and South Alabama. They play a much slower game and shoot very few threes so this should be a real clash of styles. Jacksonville does defend pretty well, especially beyond the arc, but look for Belmont's pace to force the Dolphins into turnovers, bad shots and cans of tuna.
The Pick: Belmont
Championship Week Record: 0-0
Overall Record: 55-44-4
Regular Season Record: 55-44-4
Big 12: 6-10-2
Big East: 17-6-1
Big Ten: 8-7
Missouri Valley: 2-0
West Coast: 6-1
Big West: 0-1