We're combing through another short college basketball betting card for Friday night, and our handicapper believes he has found a couple of winners is a pair of crucial Horizon League battles.
Losing the Butler Bulldogs after the 2011-12 college basketball betting campaign certainly didn't do the Horizon League any favors. Butler helped put the conference on the map with back-to-back NCAA Championship Game appearance in 2010-11, but left the league for supposedly bigger and better things.
If the Horizon League can take any consolation in Butler's departure, it's that fact bigger and better things have yet to materialize for the Bulldogs in their alliances with the Atlantic-10 before jumping ship again to the Big East.
The Horizon League can also take some consolation in having the bulk of the spotlight Friday evening when the top four teams in the standings are all set to collide against one another. That includes the final matchup on the short NCAA basketball odds card as Valparaiso visits Green Bay in a matchup of two teams sporting 5-1 conference records.
Detroit Titans vs. Cleveland State Vikings
Before we get to that all-important clash, we need to first make a stop in Ohio where the Cleveland State Vikings are hosting the Detroit Titans. A big crowd is expected at Wolstein Center for the 7 PM (ET) tip, ESPN3 streaming the action.
Betting on Cleveland State requires one to give up 6½ points, the spread up slightly from its first appearance on SBR's live college basketball odds.
Picked to finish third in the Horizon League, Detroit (10-10 straight up, 8-10 against the spread) needs to close strong on the slate to put itself in position for what should be only two -- at most -- NCAA Tournament invites the conference receives. The Titans are presently fourth in the mix with a 3-2 HL mark, but should be feeling good about themselves following Monday's 89-69 overtime win at Northeastern where they were 6 point underdogs.
Juwan Howard Jr. scored 16 in that victory, and leads Detroit with an 18.5 PPG average. The senior forward has just one game this season that he failed to reach double-digits in the scoring column.
Cleveland State (11-9 SU, 10-7 ATS) has picked up back-to-back wins and covers since its only Horizon League loss at Valparaiso nearly two weeks ago, a game the Vikings also beat the NCAA Odds. Head coach Gary Waters' group features three players averaging 11.6 PPG or more, led by junior guard Trey Lewis (16.5 ppg). But the CSU back court could be a bit thin for this matchup with reserves Andre Yates and Terrell Hales both doubtful with ankle injuries.
The Vikings won and covered both meetings last season, cutting into Detroit's all-time series record of 37-20. The Titans haven't won in Cleveland in nearly five years, and I'll go with that trend with a free pick on CSU.
NCAA Basketball Pick: Cleveland State -6 at The Greek
Valparaiso Crusaders vs. Green Bay Phoenix
One team will emerge with an early line on the regular season title in the Horizon League when the Valparaiso Crusaders kill off a 3-game road trip at the Green Bay Phoenix. The matchup tips a little past 9 PM (ET) with ESPNU providing the telecast.
Green Bay opened as 5 point chalk, that number boosted a half-point in overnight action.
Bryce Drew brings Valparaiso (18-3 SU, 10-5-1 ATS) to Green Bay on a 5-game run since dropping an overtime decision at Wright State in the conference opener. The Crusaders built a nice halftime lead at Youngstown State on Tuesday before leaving with a 77-62 triumph, the fourth time during the win streak Valpo backers owned winning tickets. All signs point to Valparaiso being with junior guard Keith Carter (9.7 ppg) for a fifth consecutive game.
Green Bay (16-4 SU, 11-6 ATS) has posted back-to-back league wins after dropping a close one at Oakland a little more than a week ago. The Phoenix beat the NCAA odds in the victories at Detroit and back home Tuesday vs. Illinois-Chicago, both contests going 'over' the totals to leave Green Bay 4-1 O/U in conference action.
The clubs split home wins and covers last season, giving Green Bay a 26-20 advantage all-time vs. Valparaiso though the Crusaders have won eight of 15 Horizon League encounters. Let's make it a clean sweep on the home favorites for our NCAA basketball picks.
NCAA Basketball Pick: Green Bay -5.5 at 5Dimes
Season: 25-28 (-5.80)