The Big East basketball race is coming down to the wire. Georgetown holds a one-game lead in the loss column on Marquette and Louisville, but a difficult final push for the Hoyas starts tonight. They visit Villanova (7 PM ET, ESPN2). The Wildcats are right on the NCAA bubble and desperate for a win themselves, having just coughed up consecutive games to Seton Hall and Pitt. The argument for Villanova is built around their success against the conference’s best—the Wildcats have home scalps against Louisville, Syracuse and Marquette. If ‘Nova can add Georgetown to that list, at a time when the Hoyas are the hottest team in the country, you would think it would seal the deal for an NCAA invite.
Georgetown-Villanova is the top game on today’s daily sports docket, and for the fan looking to plan an evening around the TV set, they can have the remote control ready and be prepared to check in on another key game on the East Coast. This one’s in the ACC and its North Carolina-Maryland on ESPN. The Terrapins are likely on the outside looking in right now, but if they beat the Tar Heels, it gives Mark Turgeon’s team a real case heading into this weekend’s game with Virginia and the ACC Tournament next week.
The East Coast Parlay of Georgetown-Villanova and North Carolina-Maryland in the 7 PM ET window is the way for the fan with no rooting interests involved to spend the night. Other key games include Oklahoma State-Iowa State (7 PM ET, ESPNU), where the Cyclones need to keep winning, I think Iowa State should be much safer than they’re generally considered, but my vote doesn’t matter. This would be a good home win against an Okie State team whose freshman swingman Marcus Smart is as exciting as any player in the country. And if you get the Big Ten Network, don’t overlook Michigan-Purdue at 7 PM ET. Indiana’s home loss to Ohio State last night has opened up the conference race to three other teams, including Wolverines. And since Michigan is the team that hosts Indiana on the weekend, UM now controls its destiny for a piece of the Big Ten crown.
ESPN picks up with NBA coverage at 9 PM ET, and Chicago-San Antonio promises to be a good one. The Spurs are playing without Tony Parker for a few weeks and as such, their lead over Oklahoma City for the 1-seed in the West cannot be considered safe. The Bulls are part of an increasingly packed Eastern Conference middle and lower class. The 4 thru 8 spots in the bracket are up for grabs, something TheSportsNotebook made mention of in today’s NBA commentary on the Milwaukee Bucks, the current 8-seed. The Bucks visit the Clippers tonight, while the seventh-place Celtics go to Indiana. Both are good games, but you’ll need to be a League Pass subscriber to watch either one.
In the world of hockey, the Chicago Blackhawks kept it rolling with a win over the Minnesota Wild last night, erupting for four goals. They put their astonishing 20-0-3 start on the line tonight with a trip to Colorado. The game will be shown by the NBC Sports Network and the puck drops at 8 PM ET. Another key game in the Northeast Division is Ottawa-Toronto, where both teams aren’t far off the pace being set by Montreal and Boston in this competitive division.
CLEANING UP FROM LAST NIGHT
I mentioned Indiana’s upset loss to Ohio State. I’d refer you to Jeff Fogle at Stat Intelligence for some thoughts on the long-term implications of the loss for the Hoosiers and what it means. Iowa got a must-win game over Illinois. I don’t know if the Hawkeyes are an NCAA team—I personally have a problem with putting eight of twelve conference teams in the field, since it kind of eliminates the whole purpose of a regular season. But the Committee says such concerns do not matter, and at 19-11, Iowa kept itself alive. They have to take care of business against Nebraska on the weekend and probably make a little splash in the Big Ten tournament, where they would be lined up to play the top seed (anyone’s guess right now) in the quarterfinals.
Iowa was one of the few teams in must-win spots to get it done. Arkansas got crushed at Missouri. St. John’s got hammered at Notre Dame. Fights broke out in that game—could it be the Catholic schools are having the tension overflow as deliberations over the next pope have begun in Rome? Boise State lost a tough one to UNLV in spite of hitting 13 three-pointers. It sets up a big game between Boise and San Diego State this weekend. And Alabama fell to Ole Miss 87-83. Officially, both teams were on the bubble. In reality, ‘Bama probably had a better shot than Ole Miss, so this loss likely hurts the SEC.
I would mention Oklahoma City’s win over the Los Angeles Lakers, but it’s plastered all over ESPN, both the website and the talk shows, as the Lakers have blown away Tim Tebow in the category of Most Undeserved Air Time From A Major Sports Network. And in hockey, the Los Angeles Kings are playing with the urgency appropriate to a defending Stanley Cup champion being out of the playoffs at the halfway point. They beat St. Louis yesterday 6-4. It’s the Kings’ second straight win against a contender, and they’ve scored seven goals in the two third-periods to come from behind both times.
My best bets are now 1-1. I lost a pick’em hockey game on Monday night, and nipped out a pointspread cover with Alabama last night, as the Tide were getting five at Ole Miss. I’m going to go the other direction and look for Michigan to snap out of its funk and smell a conference championship in West Lafayette tonight. I’ll take the Wolverines and lay the (-6.5) against Purdue.
Betting Unit Tally: (-0.1)