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Mid-Majors: Wounded Giants

   by Ben Burns - 02/11/2009

Can you imagine if Stephen Curry wasn’t at the Big Dance?

It could happen.

It’s going to be extremely difficult for teams from mid-major conferences to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. So teams like Curry’s Davidson squad would be wise to take all risk out of the equation by winning their conference tournament.

Davidson, Siena and Northern Iowa are among the mid-major teams that have the best chances to earn an at-large berth, if they don’t win their conference tourneys.

But each went down last week.

Now, the pressure’s on these three wounded giants not to slip up again. How will they react?

Davidson (20-4, 10-10-1 ATS): A 16-point favorite, the Wildcats blew a big second-half lead and lost straight up at home to Charleston.

The loss snapped a 43-game conference win streak.

Curry went ice cold in the second half and finished with 25 points on 7-of-23 shooting.

Curry, the most fun player to watch in the nation, has brought a lot more attention to Davidson. It had really made it difficult to pinpoint any value when betting on or against the Wildcats; hence, the 10-10-1 mark against the spread.

The Wildcats will try to rebound Thursday at Wofford.

Davidson covered as 20.5-point favorite in a home win against Wofford in late January.

Figuring the public and odds makers will be expecting the Wildcats to take out some frustration during Thursday’s game, it will be interesting to compare the line to their previous meeting with Wofford.

Siena (19-6, 9-12-1 ATS): Somewhere along the way, Siena earned an awful lot of respect.

Were December wins over Buffalo and at St. Joseph’s really that impressive?

Saturday’s loss at Rider was Siena’s first in conference, but the Saints are not the dominant force they’ve been made out to be.

Siena has been favored in all 12 of their MAAC games, but have only covered in three.

The Saints rebounded from the Rider loss to beat Loyola-Maryland Monday. They host Manhattan Thursday.

Northern Iowa (17-7, 10-10 ATS): The Panthers have looked like the dominant team in the Missouri Valley. They had won 11 straight conference games, covering in all but two, before getting knocked off at home by always-tough Creighton.

Even with the loss, the Panthers are built to win tight ball games and will be a tough out in the MVC tournament. They are excellent free throw shooters (13th in the nation at 75 percent) and they turn the ball over just 11.5 times per game, fewest in the conference.

UNI looks to bounce back from the loss to Creighton Wednesday against Southern Illinois.

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