Those interested in sports picks have slightly slim pickings in NCAA basketball on Sunday, but we have still found the edge. We look to Valley conference tournament title game, as well as AAC.
Illinois State vs. Wichita State: Showdown in the Valley
Illinois State, an upset victor over Wichita State Saturday, shoots for a spot in the NCAA tournament when it takes on Northern Iowa in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament title game in St. Louis.
Illinois State has won six in a row, after shocking the Shockers Saturday 65-62. The Redbirds trailed by a dozen in the first half, but rallied in the second half and won outright as eight-point dogs. ISU shot 45 percent from the floor, hit six of 14 shots from long range and 17 of 20 from the FT line.
At 21-11 overall, 11-7 in Valley play the Redbirds are not going to make the NCAA tournament unless they win Sunday's game.
Northern Iowa, at 29-3 overall, 16-2 in the Valley, has already done enough to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. So Sunday's game isn't life or death for the Panthers. UNI won 16 in a row before losing to Wichita State in the regular-season finale, and has won two games in this MVC tournament by a combined 39 points. Saturday the Panthers topped Loyola-Chicago 63-49, shooting 51 percent from the floor, covering as nine-point favorites.
Northern Iowa has already beaten Illinois State twice this season, by scores of 54-53 and 83-64. The Redbirds actually led that first meeting by 12 points about midway through the second half, but couldn't hang on. The second meeting wasn't quite as close, as the Panthers led by 17 at the half, and covered as seven-point favorites.
Normally we might fade a team like Illinois State with our NCAA Basketball Picks in a spot like this, coming off such a big upset just one day previous. But conference tournaments are little different, and momentum often seems to flow in the same direction from one day to the next. So we like the Redbirds here, plus the points.
NCAA Basketball Pick: Illinois State +5 at 5Dimes
Tulsa vs. SMU: Hurricane, Mustangs for All the Marbles
SMU and Tulsa meet in Dallas, the winner claiming the AAC's regular-season championship.
The Mustangs had won five games in a row, but ran into a buzzsaw last Sunday and lost at UConn 81-73. SMU scratched back from behind to take a brief lead with about nine minutes to go, but allowed the Huskies to go on a 15-4 run, and couldn't recover. The Mustangs allowed UConn to shoot 53 percent from the floor, and go nine-for-20 from 3-point land.
At 23-6 overall, 14-3 in AAC play SMU has already done enough to earn an at-large invitation to the Big Dance. A regular-season conference title would be the cherry on the sundae, and help the Mustangs' case for good seeding in the NCAA tournament.
Tulsa, meanwhile, had won four in a row, but lost at home to Cincinnati Wednesday 56-47. The Hurricane shot a cold 34 percent from the floor, and got out-rebounded 40-30.
At 21-8 overall, 14-3 in the AAC Tulsa has not done enough yet to feel comfortable about an NCAA at-large bid. A conference title would help, as would a run through the conference tournament.
SMU took the first meeting between these teams this season 68-57 last month in Tulsa, covering as a one-point favorite on the road. That game was close until halfway through the second half, when the Mustangs took control with a 15-0 run. On the night SMU shot 48 percent from the floor, and held the Hurricane to just 28 percent shooting.
Tulsa, somehow, has beaten SMU in Dallas eight times in a row. In fact, the visiting team has won and covered the last seven meetings in this series. But that streak comes to an end today. We'll take the Mustangs, giving the NCAA Basketball odds points.
NCAA Basketball Pick: SMU -8.5 at 5Dimes