I'd like to think I'm not subject to the east coast bias that the left side of the country swears that we have. The amazing thing is that they probably have the better brand of basketball right now. One of the most captivating games of the early season was San Diego State @ Brigham Young which showed us the great talents of Jimmer Fredette. Utah State is ruling the roost in the WAC and will bring a stellar record into the field of 68. They are ranked as of right now and rightfully deserve to be. Jump to the West Coast Conference which is no longer Gonzaga's playground. St. Mary's lost Omar Samhan from last year's tourney team, but they haven't lost a beat. The Gaels are 20-4 and have proven themselves to be a tough out. Oh yeah, Gonzaga's not going to go away quietly. I smell a run for the Zags in the future. We may not have heard the last of them yet.
The PAC 10 features Arizona, UCLA, Washington and Washington State who each will be threats in the tournament. The Wildcats are the only team ranked right now, but that's because Washington has yet to figure out how to win away from home. The Huskies are one of the most exciting teams in the land to watch with their up and down style. This is conducive to high-scoring affairs. UCLA and Washington State have the talent to upset a team or two. We mentioned the Aztecs and Cougars above as one of the better games of the season. The Mountain West also features UNLV and New Mexico who each have also stepped up with nice wins this season. The Running Rebels may need some help to get in, but Tre'Von Willis and Chace Stanback are pretty tough on opponents. They need to improve on the 0-4 record against the three teams ahead of them on the standings. Heck, Colorado State is 16-7 this season and playing good basketball.
With the ACC and SEC having down years, the balance of power in this country may actually finally be balanced. Granted the Big East's 17 team conference still has the most power overall, but the balance of the PAC 10, Mountain West and WCC helps out. The Big 12 represents the Midwest nicely with Texas, Kansas, Texas A&M and Missouri all playing good ball right now. Point is, no matter what part of the country you currently live in, chances are you are near some good basketball. Now that the NFL is over, go support the local school...whether they are Kansas or Centenary who is still looking for their first win.
It's on to the picks now. Yesterday we went 1-1 with the Clemson total going way over and Wichita State losing outright. That was a shock. Here's a few more winners.
Kent State -13.5 -- The Golden Flashes hope to continue their streak of double digit conference home victories on Wednesday night when they host woeful Eastern Michigan. KSU is 15-7, 6-2 in the MAC and currently on a four game win streak during which they've won every game by at least 13. The team scores 68.5 points per game while giving up 63.5 which is good for 40th in the country. Kent State has a multitude of scoring weapons beginning with Justin Greene (15.7 ppg), Rodriquez Sherman (12.1 ppg) and Carlton Guyton (11.5 ppg). Eastern Michigan doesn't have that luxury. They are led by Brandon Bowdry who averages 20 points per contest. The next highest scorer is Derek Thompson at 9.9 ppg then Darrell Lampley 6.6 ppg. They score only 61.6 points per game as a team which is 147th in the nation. The Eagles have won just one road game against woeful Toledo. They fell by 14 at Ohio and 17 at Western Michigan in conference. Overall, EMU is 6-16, 3-6 in the MAC. They have played "better" at home which is not where they will be Wednesday night.
Richmond -5.5 -- The Spiders play their rematch with George Washington on Wednesday. Richmond defeated GW 68-58 at home on January 19th in a rugged type of game. The Spiders have actually played better on the road this season winning seven straight. Five of the seven victories away from home during that streak were by double digits. Richmond is led by Justin Harper (17.7 ppg) and Kevin Anderson (16.4 ppg). They also get contributions from Dan Geriot and Darien Brothers. GW is 12-11, 5-4 in the Atlantic 10. They are led by Tony Taylor and his 14.8 points per game. The Colonials score only 65.4 points per game while giving up 66.4. They are a hard team to figure as they've won at Oregon State, but also lost to Harvard and St. Bonaventure at home. The Colonials have lost five of their last seven games and are entering this one off a 73-67 win at Charlotte. The Spiders have what it takes to win on the road in this one.
Missouri State -15 -- We've been fading Bradley as of late and unfortunately without much luck. The Braves hit the road for the 2nd straight game to play Missouri State. Bradley has won two straight games knocking off Creighton and Southern Illinois. They had lost 11 straight contests in conference including the first meeting with the Bears. On January 16th, Bradley fell 78-67 at home. It's been chronicled that the team relies on Andrew Warren (19.3 ppg) and Dodie Dunson (10 ppg). BU scores only 63.7 points per game while giving up 68.5. Missouri State is 18-6, 10-3 in the Missouri Valley. They score 70.5 points per game while giving up only 62.7. This is a balanced attack with Kyle Weems (16.4 ppg), Will Creekmore (11.7 ppg) and Jermaine Mallett (11.4 ppg) leading the way. At home, this team takes out the trash when it comes to bad teams. They beat SIU by 13, Evansville by 15, Illinois State by 11, St. Louis by 16 and Arkansas Little Rock by 34. I will continue to fade Bradley especially on the road against the cream of the MVC crop.