Indiana State travels to Saint Louis in a battle of to mid-major powers. The Sycamores and Billikens are each coming off of a win over the weekend and enter Wednesday evening in search of a win that would bolster either’s resume come tournament selection time. Saint Louis opens as a medium sized, eight-point point favorite on its home floor where it has lost just once all season.
The Sycamores have been good to bettors that back them as ‘dogs in the last season or two and this year has been no different. ISU has lost just two games all season – at Belmont by one point and at a neutral site to Tulsa, again by just one point. Toss in a true road victory over a Notre Dame team that was nationally ranked at the time and the Sycamores are making a compelling case for NCAA Tournament consideration thus far. Jake Odum is the heart and soul of this Indiana State side but he has plenty of help that all return from a team just outside of the Creighton/Wichita State tier in the Missouri Valley of a year ago. Justin Gant is the team’s second-leading scorer that’s taken a quantum leap in his development in just a year. The 6’9″ junior from Tara Houte joins Odum and two other seniors as ISU’s main options. The other two seniors being Dawon Cummings and Manny Arop that man the two-guard and three/four spot, respectively. Indiana State is a hard-nosed side that can shoot, rebound the ball, pass, play defense and play the game with intelligence. That doesn’t leave much for Saint Louis to exploit and the Billikens may struggle to put distance between them and the Sycamores.
Saint Louis is a team I’ve loved since early last season but the Billikens have disappointed thus far this season. Despite losing just two brutally tough games – neutral site to Wisconsin and home against Wichita State – SLU hasn’t impressed in terms of looking good in many games. SLU was fortunate to hang around in the two games it lost after playing poorly for much of both and hasn’t blown out teams that it should probably blow out. I still think SLU is a team that will be there in March and will likely play into the second weekend but it isn’t the type of team that wins games handily. Dwayne Evans will look to physically defeat Manny Arop – who can match up with Evans athletically but not necessarily strength-wise. SLU rolls if Evans gets the best of Arop like he can.
SLU is definitely the more compelling side to win the game straight-up as the slightly better team on its home floor. But ISU keeps games close and so does SLU. With neither team likely to lose the other (in either direction) I’ll take the eight points.
Free Pick: Indiana State +8