There's one very big injury among the top mid-major teams that bettors need to be aware of regarding a potential sleeper in the NCAA Tournament - if said team gets there. That would be to Valparaiso and its star big man Alec Peters. Valpo finished tied atop the Horizon League with Oakland after the Crusaders lost their regular-season finale at Northern Kentucky with Peters sidelined. He has been diagnosed with a stress fracture and will be re-evaluated Wednesday in the hopes he can play in the Horizon Tournament. Peters presumably will be the conference's player of the year as he leads it in scoring (23.0 ppg) and rebounding (10.1 rpg). That loss gave Oakland the top seed in the tourney. Valpo opens the event Saturday against either Detroit or Milwaukee. Valpo won't win the conference tournament without Peters and would likely be NIT bound.
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Michigan at Northwestern ( -1 )
Big Ten Network game at 7 p.m. ET. ESPN has both these teams in the Big Dance, with Michigan a No. 8 seed and Northwestern a No. 10. I've said it before but will again: Northwestern is the only Power 5 conference school to never make the NCAA Tournament. I thought the Cats were practically locks a couple of weeks ago, but they are making things interesting in losing two straight and five of seven . They totally collapsed on Saturday at Indiana in leading 62-55 with 1:33 left before being outscored 8-0 to close the game. NU was going for quite the trifecta in that game: breaking the school's single-season record for wins (team has 20), matching the school record for most road wins in conference play (has nine) and sweeping the Hoosiers for the first time since 2008-09.
Both UM and Northwestern are hoping for a Top 4 finish in the Big Ten; they are tied for sixth but just one game behind three teams in third. Michigan is trending up on a two-game winning streak and taking five of six. It upset No. 14 Purdue 82-70 on Saturday for a second victory this season over a ranked team. Moritz Wagner scored 22 of his 24 points in the first half, and Derrick Walton Jr. had 17 points and 11 rebounds in his final home game. It was the 208th win at Michigan for Coach John Beilein. He's one away from the program's coaching victory leader, Johnny Orr. This is the only scheduled meeting between Michigan and Northwestern. UM won both last season.
Key trends: The Wolverines are 0-5 against the spread in their past five Wednesday games. The Wildcats are 2-5 ATS in their past seven. The favorite is 5-2 ATS in the previous seven meetings.
I'm leaning: Northwestern.
VCU at Dayton (-4)
Atlantic 10 game at 8 p.m. ET on the CBS Sports Network. It's the game of the year in the conference as Dayton leads VCU by a game. The Rams won the first meeting with the Flyers 73-68 on Jan. 27 behind 18 points and nine rebounds from Justin Tillman. VCU had a 41-24 rebounding edge, an 18-8 edge on the offensive side and a 26-8 advantage in second-chance points. So needless to say, VCU would win the league tiebreaker with a victory here. It closes the regular season Saturday at home vs. George Mason, while Dayton is at George Washington.
This is Senior Night at Dayton, which has won eight in a row. The senior group of Kyle Davis, Scoochie Smith, Kendall Pollard, Charles Cooke and Jeremiah Bonsu owns the program record for most victories in a class with 101. Dayton's 14-2 record in the A-10 matches the best start in the program's history. UD has not won the outright championship since the conference did away with divisions. It shared the title last season with VCU and St. Bonaventure. VCU had a nine-game winning streak snapped Saturday at Rhode Island, 69-59. Dayton is currently a No. 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament by ESPN and VCU a No. 9. Both should get in regardless of what happens in the conference tournament.
Key trends: The Rams are 2-5 ATS in their past seven on the road. The Flyers are 6-1 ATS in their past seven vs. teams with a winning record. The road team is 5-0 ATS in the past five meetings.
I'm leaning: VCU.
Washington at No. 3 UCLA (TBA)
Pac-12 game at 11 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1. This could be a bit of a letdown game for the Bruins, who are one game back in the loss column of first-place Oregon and Arizona in the Pac-12. UCLA kept its regular-season title hopes alive with an impressive 77-72 win at the then-No. 4 Wildcats on Saturday. UCLA, avenging a 96-85 home loss to Arizona on Jan. 21, trailed 53-49 at the half but took control with a 19-4 second-half run. UCLA had 19 second-chance points to Arizona's four. The Cats had won 21 straight at home. The Bruins finished February with a perfect 7-0 record, marking the first time since 1995 in which they went undefeated in that month.
Washington is ahead of only sorry Oregon State in the Pac-12, which is a joke with Markelle Fultz on the UW. The Huskies dropped their school-record 10th straight game on Sunday, 79-71 at Washington State. Fultz did sit that one out - the third in the past five he has missed -- with a knee injury and there won't be a line for this one until his status is known. I wonder if he's sitting out on purpose to avoid injury ahead of the draft. Fultz leads the Pac-12 with a 23.2 scoring average and should go No. 1 in the 2017 draft. Washington was clobbered at home by UCLA 107-66 on Feb. 4. Bruins freshman Lonzo Ball outplayed Fultz with 22 points (7-for-12 shooting), six rebounds and five assists. Fultz was no slouch with 25 points, six rebounds and five assists.
Key trends: The Huskies are 3-12-1 ATS in their past 16 vs. teams with a winning record. The Bruins are 2-6 ATS in their past eight at home. The road team is 8-3 ATS in the past 11 meetings.
I'm leaning: Wait on Fultz, but I do think UCLA could play rather sluggish here and fail to cover a big number.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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