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Valparaiso Crusaders vs. Illinois-Chicago Flames Pick-Odds-Prediction - 3/4/14 Horizon First Round

Illinois-Chicago Flames (6-24) at Valparaiso Crusaders (17-14)

College Basketball: Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 8:05 pm (Athletics-Recreation Center)

The Line: Valparaiso Crusaders -10 -- Over/Under: See the Latest Odds

TV: not listed

The Valparaiso Crusaders will have the home crowd behind them when they open the Horizon playoffs with Illinois-Chicago.

A 1-15 conference record should explain the struggles Illinois-Chicago endured in 2013-14. To elaborate the Flames dropped their first 14 Horizon games with problems at both ends of the floor. That doesn't mean the Flames were hammered everytime they took the floor nor were they an easy win because neither are true. UIC suffered their share of poor performances but dropped a surprisingly high number of close games which I attribute to having no go to scorers down the stretch. The best scoring option is Kelsey Barlow at 15 points but he is a volume shooter at under 40% marksmanship and this team needs others to step up at the offensive end.

Valparaiso Crusaders vs. Illinois-Chicago Flames Pick-Odds-Prediction - 3/4/14 Horizon First Round

David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

Valparaiso was the best the Horizon had to offer a season ago but when the bulk of their talent fell victim to graduation they were in for an obvious drop in the standings. They did drop but I'm willing to bet it wasn't as big a fall as some of the so called experts believed it would be. A 9-7 record and fourth place finish is hardly something to be ashamed of but losses in three of four to close out the year has to be something of a concern. The real worry in those defeats is the generally dependable offense never broke 59 points and that will be the job of LaVonte Dority (16 ppg) and Alec Peters (12 ppg) to change.

This hasn't been a real close series in recent years but I always pause when I see anything close to a double figure spread. I am reluctantly going with the stronger team and hoping they play like it...

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