Illinois State and Oakland do battle in one of the slower nights in college hoops this week with just a small slate of games on Monday evening. The Red Birds of Illinois State are coming off of a win against 25th ranked Dayton, while the Golden Grizzlies fell in an extremely tightly-contested affair with the Michigan State Spartans at the Palace of Auburn Hills. Oakland returns home for this one and the Golden Grizzlies open as small 3.5-point favorites.
Illinois State comes off of its biggest win of the season Saturday when it was able to take down Dayton. The win gives ISU some real confidence and a feeling that it can compete with anyone in the Missouri Valley Conference that begins play right at the start to 2014. That game was at home, though, and the Red Birds travel West for this game. ISU observers over the years certainly realize the harsh discrepancy this team sees at home versus the road. Going on the road on a quick turn-around against a pretty good Oakland team doesn’t necessarily bode well for ISU but the Red Birds boast some talent. Daishon Knight and Zach Lofton are Illinois State’s only two double-digit scorers and and Bobby Hunter is right there with 9.8 points per game. Sophomore Kaza Keane has been a disappointment thus far, buried in an athletic backcourt after coming in as one of ISU’s better recruits last year. ISU features very balanced scoring, with seven players averaging over 5 points per game on the year.
On the other side, the home team sees much less balance with Travis Bader averaging 20 points per game for the Golden Grizzlies. The 6’5″ senior guard is having a sensational season shooting the basketball – where the connects from over 36 percent of the time from the three-point line. Duke Mondy had a career day Saturday against Sparty with 24 points. The fellow senior is the other Grizzly in double-figure scoring this season and is crucial to providing Bader with some scoring help. Oakland is just 2-9 this season but don’t let its record necessarily fool you. Oakland has played one of the toughest schedules in the country this season – taking on the likes of Gonzaga, California, Indiana, North Carolina, UCLA and Michigan State. The Golden Grizzles have had their tests to begin the season and will look for some wins now. What better place to start than at home against a solid – but beatable – ISU side.
The rule of thumb with these two teams is to look to back the home side. All signs point to the same formula providing a winner here. Oakland gets its third win of the season.
Free Pick: Oakland -3.5