Nick’s Picks: ‘A Visit From St. Pickolas’ Edition

I'm actually questioning the the idea of fruitcake in this picture...

I’m actually questioning the the idea of fruitcake in this picture…

‘Tis the picks before Christmas and all through Kosciusko,Conference games with local teams are a must go.
The stages are set for both Warsaw and Wawasee.
While rivals square off in Akron and South Whitley.
One Triton team goes East while the other stays home.
Meanwhile, to the Maple City, Lakeland Christian will roam.
On Sunday the Colts hope to make the Chiefs look silly,
Then in prime time, the Bears kickoff in Philly
That’s ten picks so far, and that could certainly do,
But there’s twelve days of Christmas, why not twelve picks, too?
I’ll add a bonus NLC pick that will surely not fail,
Then later a pick involving Kevin McHale.
Yes, this week truly has it all,
Rivalries, rhyming and still some football.
I feel like St. Pick bringing these joyful picks for everyone.
Now I just need a sleigh, wouldn’t that be fun?
I’d have eight glorious reindeer that would bask in local fame,
As they would each share a local coach’s name.
“Now, Kindig! now, Harter! now, Bradley and Wik!
“On, Wessel! on, Zolman! on, Ogle and Patrick!”
That’s just wishful thinking on my part,
I’ll wrap this up so the picking can start.
This is it for 2013, for now I am done.
After the new year, I’ll be back for more picking fun.
Finally, have a great holiday full of loved ones and cheer.
Merry Picksmas to all, and a Happy New Year!

Last Week: 6-4
Overall: 115-54

Girls High School Basketball 12/21

Lakeland Christian Academy (2-5) v. South Bend Trinity (1-3), 11:30 a.m. Bethany Christian Classic
The Scoop: There is not a lot of holiday cheer surrounding either of these team’s seasons. LCA is on a five-game losing skid and Trinity has only scored over 27 points one time this year (Spoiler Alert: It was the only game in which Trinity was victorious). This is not an automatic win by any means for either school, but this is still a game that LCA should win. Trinity is having issues scoring as it has scored just an average of just 24.6 points per game in its three losses. LCA does not have a potent offensive attack, but it is better than three of the four teams that Trinity has seen. LCA just needs a player to step up and get things rolling early. Hannah Remington, I am looking at you. You are the senior captain, this is your team. Get them ready to go and get this win.
The Pick: Lakeland Christian 41, SB Trinity 26.

South Central (3-4) at Triton (6-3), 7:30 p.m.
The Scoop: A potential sectional match up takes place in Bourbon on Saturday night and it should be a fantastic game. Both teams are better than their records suggest. Triton has gone toe-to-toe with some of the area’s more talented teams as has South Central. Both team’s defensive and offense averages are within three points or less of each other. It just comes down to what team can make plays. That team is Triton. While both teams have played quality competition, only Triton has multiple teams with winning records. Yes, South Central almost beat a currently undefeated John Glenn team, but what did Triton do when it played an undefeated Rochester team? Anybody? Oh, right, Triton won on Rochester’s home court. South Central has yet to win a road game in its three attempts.
Plus, South Central’s mascot is the Satellites. What is that about? How does that strike fear into an opponents heart? I searched far and wide for the meaning of that mascot choice and I cannot find anything. If you have the answer, email me, please. Anyways, Trojans>Satellites.
The Pick: Triton 54, South Central 43.

Whitko (6-3, 2-0) at Tippecanoe Valley (5-4, 1-1), 7:45 p.m.
The Scoop: I am intrigued by this game because the winner has a really good chance at winning the Three Rivers Conference. Yeah, it is pretty early to be saying that but the conference is wide open after you look past Wabash and Northfield (who also play this weekend). But this is a game you have to win if you even want to be in title talk. Valley’s only TRC loss came to Wabash so if it can win tomorrow night, they are back in it. But a loss tomorrow for Valley takes them out of the mix. Both of these teams have been a pleasant surprise this year and have each played some noteworthy competition but Whitko has been playing better as of late. The Wildcats are on a three game win streak that includes two TRC wins and a victory over a talented West Noble team. I like what each team has done this year to this point but I really like Whitko to get a tight road win.
The Pick: Whitko 42, Valley 41.

Warsaw (2-6, 0-1) at Wawasee (1-6, 0-1), 7:45 p.m.
The Scoop: Ouch, what a rough season it has been for two of the premier girls programs in the area. Warsaw is really the superior team here, bringing a lot more experience to the table. Last season the Lady Tigers were undefeated coming into the game against their rivals and were nearly knocked off by a below-average Wawasee team. That was partially due to a nice night from Wawasee’s KiLee Knafel, who is now at IUSB. Wawasee can win this game, but only if it has a scorer step up and carry the team. That is the only way Wawasee wins. That is asking a lot from a team full of young girls that are still learning their rolls. This will be an entertaining game for the most part, but ultimately one that entertains fans in orange and black more.
The Pick: Warsaw 45, Wawasee 32.

NorthWood (5-3, 1-0) at Plymouth (7-2, 1-0), 7:45 p.m.
The Scoop: Bonus pick number one! NorthWood and Plymouth square off in what I am just going ahead and calling the NLC championship game. Go ahead, NLC fans, start complaining. “There is still six games to go after this weekend, blah blah blah.” I don’t care. I don’t care how good Goshen looks or how good Northridge has been. Whatever team wins tomorrow night in Plymouth will be getting a piece of the NLC crown at the end of the year. I am calling my shot now. The fact that I have already denounced a share of the NLC crown from Northridge has Mike Ganger spinning in his headset. That is a joke for those of you who know of Mr. Raider Ganger.
If I am wrong, call me out on it, but we have until February to find out. Until then, assume I am right.
The Pick: NorthWood 39, Plymouth 36.

Boys High School Basketball 12/20-12/21

Tippecanoe Valley (3-1) at Whitko (1-4), 7:45 p.m.
The Scoop: This is going to be short and sweet. Tippecanoe Valley is going to win this game. Not because the Vikings are that much better than Whitko. Not because Whitko isn’t a far better team this season than last season, because they are much improved. It’s just because Valley simply has more big time scorers. Any players on that team can get hot and the Vikings will have a chance to win any game. They proved it last year in the IHSAA tournament and it rings true to this season. Whether it is Chainey Zolman, Tanner Andrews, Ben Shriver or Robby Groom, they are all capable of having a big night. Whitko is leaning on Nate Walpole, who is a fine shooter and good all-around player. But he is a freshman and the Vikings are talented enough defensively to key on him and take him out of the game. That leaves Whitko without a scorer against a team that has four or five scorers to choose from. Not a favorable situation.
The Pick: Valley 58, Whitko 39.

Speaking of teams without reliable scorers…

Wawasee (1-5) at Warsaw (3-2), 7:45 p.m.
The Scoop: A rivalry that has been anything but competitive takes center stage in the Tiger Den tonight. Warsaw has won six straight games over its rival from the north, the longest streak since Al Rhodes beat the Warriors nine straight times in seven seasons. The Tigers have taken the last two meetings by 20 points each time. This year both team come in with similar stories.
Each team has decent potential but lacks that one true player in a star role to carry the team late in games. Both teams could, and probably should, be better than their record. Both squads have lost painfully games close games at home and on the road. Also, each is still looking for a breakout game. Warsaw has the upper hand in this game because it has the home court advantage.
Wawasee coach Steve Wiktorowski said after his team’s win on Tuesday that the Warsaw game will be a big test for his young team. He described Warsaw as a hostile environment and knows a lot of his kids have yet to play in a gym like that.
That being said, here are your keys to to the game: If Wawasee can shut out the crowd and get things going inside early, it can win. But if the crowd is a factor and Jordan Stookey gets going for Warsaw, it will be a long night for the Warriors. Wawasee needs to key on Stookey and take him away from the get-go. After that, focus on shutting down Rashaan Jackson. Warsaw needs to control the paint and not let Stori Bright build up any momentum and force Wawasee’s  Alex Clark to make plays. They don’t need to take him away from the team, just take the team away from him. Both teams are pretty reliable from the charity stripe so both need to stay out of foul trouble as long as possible.
Can you tell I have been thinking about this game for a while?
The Pick: Warsaw 51, Wawasee 40.

Triton (4-1) at New Prairie (2-1), 8 p.m.
The Scoop: Triton continues to look good this year. The Trojans put up over 80 points on their last two opponents and have now scored 70 or more in three of their four wins. This is one of the few area team that can score well and do it consistently. New Prairie is a team that, so far, has no been overly sound on defense. The Cougars have given up an average of 59 points per game but have managed to score an average of 60 a game. Only one of New Prairie’s opponents (LaPorte) has a winning record and that was the team that beat them by 11 points at home. Triton has a better resume at this point and can score at will.
The Pick: Triton 74, New Prairie 58.

Lakeland Christian Academy (0-4) at Bethany Christian (2-4), 11:30 a.m. Bethany Christian Classic
The Scoop: I am sorry to say that the boys team will not have the same experience as its girl counterpart this weekend in Goshen. LCA has struggled all year to lock down on defense, giving up nearly 70 points per game. Bethany Christian does not have an outstanding record, but the Bruins have found the win column twice this year, one of those wins was against LCA in a blowout 71-43 victory. I hate to say the writing is on the wall for LCA, but…
The Pick: Bethany Christian 64, Lakeland Christian 42.

NBA 12/20

Houston (17-9) at Indiana (20-5), 8 p.m. ESPN
The Scoop: Bonus pick number two! I cannot believe I am saying this, but the Pacers are on a losing streak! Indiana has dropped two consecutive games and I know the Pacers are hungry for a win. Indiana lost a heart-breaker Wednesday night at Miami (still waiting for a foul to be called on that last shot, by the way. This made me feel better, though.) The Pacers return home to take on one of the better teams in the Association in Houston (Who is coached by hall of famer Kevin McHale, there it is!) but more importantly, Danny Granger is set to return for the Pacers for the first time in what seems like decades. Granger has been out with a knee injury and will be a nice rotational addition to the Pacers. Now they just need to find a pure point guard and you can hand them the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Houston will be very tough, but I can’t see the Pacers dropping three straight.
The Pick: Indiana 94, Houston 81.

NFL 12/22

Indianapolis (9-5) at Kansas City (11-3), 1 p.m.
The Scoop: Wake me up when it’s over. The very inconsistent Colts travel to one of the toughest environments in the NFL in Arrowhead Stadium to take on the tenacious Kansas City Chiefs. If all stays as it is now, these two teams will be meeting up against in two weeks in Indianapolis. The Colts are currently the four seed while Kansas City is second in its division, making them the five seed currently for the AFC playoff bracket. This is a game where both teams will try not to show their hand too much, but will still be trying to win at all costs. The Colts lost starting linebacker Pat Angerer to a knee injury earlier this week, but that’s okay. The truth is, the defense plays better without him. Unfortunately, I do not think it will matter this week. The Chiefs are very, very good this year and are even better than normal at home (which makes sense, I know). The Colts will make it a game but ultimately this Sunday will be the Chiefs time to shine. In two weeks, however, it will be different story.
The Pick: Chiefs 31, Colts 20.

Chicago (8-6) at Philadelphia (8-6), 8:30 p.m. Sunday Night Football
The Scoop: Jay Cutler came back for the Bears last week and got a win. I just do not think they won because of him being back, the defense made a lot of big plays to keep Chicago in the game and that was ultimately why they won. This week the Bears are again on the road and again facing a tough defense. The difference now is that the Eagles have a good offense, where last week’s opponent (the Browns) did not. If the Bears can muster just a tiny bit of defensive prowess this Sunday, they win. But that is easier said than done. If the Bears get down early and are forced to drop Cutler back in the pocket, this game is over. The Eagles defense has a good pass rush and will tear the Bears protection apart if given the chance. I am big on home field advantage this week, I’ll stay true to form.
The Pick: Eagles 27, Chicago 23.

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