Western Kentucky vs. Florida International Pick
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Date/Time: March 11th, 7:00 pm ET
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One of the wackiest tournaments that we have seen to date en route to the NCAA Tournament has been that of the Sun Belt. The league will crown a very unpredictable champion on Monday night in a battle on the college basketball odds between the Florida International Golden Panthers and the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.
The Hilltoppers have to be tickled pink to not have to be dealing with the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders in this one. They would have been huge underdogs to MTSU, but they have a realistic shot of winning their coveted 20th game of the season in this one instead. The Hilltoppers have really struggled to reach this point, as they have already played three games in three days. The two most recent wins against the South Alabama Jaguars and Arkansas State Red Wolves came by a total of five points, proving once again that the magic of March is here. G TJ Price has a real chance to be the Sun Belt Tournament MVP at this point. He scored 24 against the Red Wolves last night, and he just keeps getting better as this tourney goes on. The second year man has scored 18, 22, and 24 points in his three games, and he also has contributed defensively with a total of 14 boards and four steals in three games.
Florida International has a team that has clearly arrived a bit earlier than it was originally scheduled to. The Golden Panthers were just 16-13 coming into the Sun Belt Tournament, and many figured that they would be one and done. Instead, they toppled Arkansas Little Rock, and most importantly, they found a way to beat the seemingly unbeatable Blue Raiders. The defense has been stunning for FIU here in this tournament. This is a team that allowed a very modest 66.6 points per game this year, but all of a sudden in two games, the Golden Panthers have only surrendered 55.5 points per game, allowing teams to convert on just a total of 18 field goals per game. Amazingly, the game against Middle Tennessee was won with just 18 made field goals from the floor. The Panthers were the more aggressive team though, and they got to the foul line 22 times, knocking down 18 of those shots.
We have to wonder whether either of these teams really has anything left in the tank for this one or not. Though normally, we would ere on the side of giving the nod to the team that has played on two straight nights over the one that has played on three straight nights, this time, we’re going the other way. FIU’s game against MTSU was incredibly physical, and it had to be draining to beat a team that had only been beaten a handful of times on the season by anyone else in the country. Take the Hilltoppers to move on to March Madness. Western Kentucky 68 – Florida International 62