Cleveland State’s D’Moi Hodge plays against Ohio State during an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)
- The No. 1 seed Cleveland State Vikings (17-7, 16-4 Horizon) take on the No. 8 seed Milwaukee Panthers (10-11, 7-10 Horizon) in the first semifinal of the Horizon League Tournament on Monday, March 8
- The teams split their regular-season matchups this year
- Read below for odds, analysis, and best bet for this matchup
The No. 1 seed Cleveland State Vikings (17-7, 16-4 Horizon) take on the Milwaukee Panthers (10-11, 7-10 Horizon) in the first semifinal of the Horizon League Tournament on Monday, March 8, in Indianapolis. Tip time is set for 6:30 pm ET at Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
The Panthers knocked out pre-tourney favorite and No. 2 seed Wright State 94-92 in overtime in the quarterfinals Tuesday on the Raiders’ home court. Milwaukee also beat No. 9 seed IUPUI 84-72 in the first round. Meantime, after a first-round bye, the Vikings needed three overtime periods to finally get past No. 10 seed Purdue-Fort Wayne 108-104 in the quarters.
Now, the Vikings — the team with the best pre-tourney odds still alive — are favored to get to the title game over the Panthers.
Milwaukee vs Cleveland State Odds
|Milwaukee||+3.5 (-110)||+142||Ov 140.5 (-110)|
|Cleveland State||-3.5 (-110)||-168||Un 140.5 (-110)|
Odds taken March 7 at FanDuel.
60% of the Time …
The Panthers have already exceeded expectations by getting this far. They entered tourney play at +2500, the second-longest odds of any participant. But thanks to sophomore guard DeAndre Gholston’s career-high 31 points, Milwaukee overcame a 24-point deficit in the final 6:26 of regulation to eventually claim that stunning two-point victory over Wright State in OT.
Gholston came up huge all night, hitting the game-tying three-pointer to force the extra period with less than two seconds left in regulation, as well as going 6-for-6 from the free-throw line in the final 38 seconds of overtime to help Milwaukee claim a comeback for the ages. Gholston scored 26 of his 31 points in the second half and overtime, adding nine rebounds.
NO! YOU WERE NOT DREAMING!!
The Panthers are headed to Indianapolis after completing a 24-point comeback in the final 6:26 of regulation!!@TheDreeGholston (31 points/9 rebounds)@too_smoove23 (25 points)
— Milwaukee Men’s Basketball (@MKE_MBB) March 3, 2021
Te’Jon Lucas finished with 25 points, adding five assists.
While we can’t expect a performance like the one the Panthers had against the Raiders Monday when they take on the Vikings, don’t count out Pat Baldwin’s team if they’re down again.
The Panthers have recorded victories four different times this season after trailing by at least 10 points. The epic affair against Wright State was just the capper. And while you may speculate there will be a hangover effect, Baldwin has had nearly a week between games to prepare for Cleveland State and let his team recover both physically and emotionally from such a contest.
2021 NCAA Men’s Tournament Championship Odds Tracker
With both Wright State (No. 67) and Detroit Mercy (No. 146) eliminated, Cleveland State (No. 157) is the highest-rated team still alive in the tourney according to KenPom. That said, it took CSU three extra periods to finally vanquish the Mastodons in another thrilling quarterfinal outing.
Cleveland State wins it in TRIPLE OVERTIME to advance to the next round of the Horizon Conference Tournament, and this was the shot to force it to Triple OT! pic.twitter.com/yS5fKMflWl
— Matt Mamba (@MattMamba24) March 3, 2021
The Vikes were the talk of the league early, starting the conference slate 9-0 (the best in school history) before finally suffering their first loss. Dennis Gates’ club finished with a 16-4 mark in conference play to earn the No. 1 tourney seed.
Gates has been in the league two seasons and has already claimed Coach of the Year honors twice. The Vikings rank second in both field-goal defense (.428) and points allowed (70.9) in the league. A trio of players average in double-figures, paced by Torrey Patton at 14.6 points per game. D’Moi Hodge goes for 10.3 points per contest, while Tre Gomillion adds 10.0 points per game. Patton also leads in rebounds with 7.8 per outing and was named First-Team All-Horizon League.
Congrats to the Cleveland State Vikings on an amazing 3 OT Horizon tournament win tonight! I love this team and the shot by @godsplayer2 will go down in history at CSU! Let’s get ready to go earn that championship next week! Go Vikes! @CSU_Vikes @CSU_MBasketball @CSU_Athletics
— Coach Mitchell Hartel (@forge_golf) March 3, 2021
The Vikings are a formidable crew that got a massive scare in the quarters — but, now, could pillage their way through the next two games in the Hoosier State to earn a trip to their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2009.
As noted above, the Panthers and Vikings split their two games this season. Cleveland State came out on top 64-53 in the first matchup, then lost 81-80 in overtime the next night. That Milwaukee victory in OT was one of those ridiculous comebacks noted above.
Yesterday, Cleveland State led Milwaukee 66-53 with 1:50 left.
The Vikings had a 99.9% chance of winning.
They lost! 81-80 in OT.
Per @kenpomeroy, Milwaukee’s win was the least likely of the entire season so far (2,333 games).
— Brad Powers (@BradPowers7) January 24, 2021
The Panthers lead the series all-time, 31-25, but the Vikings have won four of the last five, sweeping the series last year with a 70-53 victory at home followed by a 70-68 nail-biter in Milwaukee. The Vikings won that game on a 3-pointer with just 6.8 seconds remaining. So, this one should be close. But as only 3.5-point favorites, it still feels like Cleveland State is getting disrespected in this spot. I love the Cinderella run Milwaukee has already had. But I think the clock strikes midnight Monday.
The pick: Cleveland State -3.5 (-110)
Blair Johnson is a veteran journalist and seasoned sports content creator. He has been writing and producing content as long as he can remember, with such familiar names as CNN, NFL Media and Yahoo. Blair currently lives and works in the greater Los Angeles area.