NCAAB: Searching for college basketball's tough spots

NCAAB: Searching for college basketball's tough spots

Searching for college basketball's tough spots
By Marc Lawrence

The final week of the 2008-09 regular season will find teams scrambling for conference seeding with postseason tourneys right around the corner.

Because of various circumstances surrounding each team in these critically important games, there is added value during the final week of play. Let’s take a look at three such games on this week’s card

Tuesday, March 3

Illinois Fighting Illini at Penn State Nittany Lions

A funny thing happened to the Illini some six weeks ago. They hosted the Lions and somehow forgot to show up for the game. Or so it seemed when they managed to muster just 33 points in a puzzling 38-33 loss in Champaign.

It was so bad columnist Nick Shepkowski wrote that it was the worst basketball game he had ever seen, leaving him to ask, “What the hell was that?”

Illinois (23-6, 11-5) was outscored 18-3 over the final 10: 30 minutes of the game as it failed to attempt a single free throw for the first time ever at Assembly Hall.

Penn State (20-9, 9-7) enters off its 20th win of the season, reaching the coveted 20-win plateau for the first time ever during the regular season.

Couple the Illini’s series dominance (21-7, including 22 games in a row as the favorite) along with the nasty aforementioned revenge and it looks to us as if the Lions’ celebration should be short lived.

Wednesday, March 4

Memphis Tigers at Houston Cougars

If streaks are made to be broken then the Tigers are in a double dilemma Wednesday.

Not only does Memphis (26-3, 14-0) bring the nation’s longest winning streak into this contest it is also looking to extend its 56-game Conference USA win streak as well. We’re betting against them on both counts.

For openers, Houston (18-9, 9-5) has excelled at home under head coach Tom Penders. It's gone 64-12 under his lead, including 19-2 SU and 14-6-1 ATS from Game 22 out.

On the flip side, Memphis is just 4-5 SU and 1-8 ATS as a road favorite of eight points or less when taking on a .625 or greater opponent that is off a win.

Look for the Cougars to scratch and claw their way to a win in this battle of felines.

Thursday, March 5

Cal State Northridge Matadors at UC Davis Aggies

The Matadors can clinch the top spot in the Big West with season-ending wins at Cal Davis Thursday and at Pacific Saturday. But that's easier said than done.

Northridge (14-12, 10-4) sits atop a very weak Big West Conference thanks to a lofty 10-2 mark at home this season. Put it on the road and it plays matador-like defense, allowing 74 points per game, resulting in a 4-10 mark on the highway.

Cal Davis’ (12-17, 7-8) sterling 7-2 SU and 8-1 ATS mark when playing on four or more days rest should put a damper on any hopes the Matadors have of landing the top seed in next week’s Big West tourney.

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