Every week we’ll be previewing the games we’ll be watching and making picks. When we pick against each other there’s a beer at stake, but there’s no obligation to make a pick on any of the games we choose. Nor is there any set number of picks we’re expected or required to make. We make picks when we like the spreads. These are the rules.
Unsurprisingly, Nate has been far better at this so far. However, I’ve been putting myself out there a lot more with my Atlantic 10 picks, which is mainly an exercise to see if I know what I’m doing with A10 teams and so far…no. No I don’t. This is the week that all changes!
Here we go!
Mike: 17-17 (5-5 A10)
Saturday (all times Central)
#3 Maryland (14-1) at Wisconsin (9-7), Noon, ESPN
Line: Maryland -3.5
Reason to Watch: Diamond Stone returning to Wisconsin, the school he spurned to attend Maryland. Melo Trimble is always worth the time investment but unfortunately he is questionable for this game. As for Wisconsin…they aren’t good. If you’re tuning in, you’re tuning in to watch Maryland.
Mike: I’d love to pick Maryland -4 here but with the uncertainty around Trimble’s injury I’m just not sure I can. Wait, what am I saying? Even if Trimble doesn’t play I’m taking Maryland -3.5.
Nate: This Trimble injury doesn’t sound too good, and Maryland doesn’t seem like a team that would play on the road well without him. Wisconsin is pretty bad, but I’m going to pass on this one.
LSU (9-5) @ Florida (9-5), 12:30 p.m., CBS
Line: Florida -3.5
Reason to Watch: To see if LSU has really turned a corner. It’s infuriating to hear announcers refer to Ben Simmons as “maybe the best freshman in the country” when he’s obviously the best freshman in the country and maybe the best player in the country. You want to watch him play. Florida hasn’t beaten any good teams this year unless you count St. Joe’s, but that’s a stretch.
Mike: I’m inclined toward LSU but I’m not sure I trust them yet. Pass.
Nate: Florida -3.5. This is the prototypical action/reaction game. Florida just lost by 14 at Tennessee (and it wasn’t even that close), and LSU just beat Kentucky. I think this one is pretty easy.
Vanderbilt (8-6) @ #22 South Carolina (14-0), 2 p.m., ESPNU
Line: Gamecocks -3.5
Reason to Watch: Is Vanderbilt the team that circumcises the Cocks?
Mike: No. That Dayton win over Vandy is looking worse and worse by the game. The last 5 times Vandy has played a team you could call “legitimate” Vandy has lost (Baylor, Dayton, Purdue, LSU, Arkansas). South Carolina might not be all that good (seeing bubble team here), but they’re playing better than Vandy. South Carolina -3.5.
Nate: Are they on a trick or treating walk of shame? Kornet’s back and as long as Frank Martin keeps “the family” away from the floor, Vandy wins this one outright. Vandy +3.5. BEER BET!
Baylor (11-3) @ #13 Iowa State (12-2), 2:00 p.m., ESPN2
Line: ISU -7
Reason to Watch: After that Kansas-Oklahoma game earlier this week you should be all-in on games featuring the cream of the Big 12 crop. Both of these teams should be there at the end of the year, but both have been trending in the wrong direction lately – particularly Iowa State. Also, both have a lot of work to do if they want to catch Kansas or Oklahoma.
Mike: Too many points for my liking but I don’t trust Baylor against a solid team playing at home.
Nate: Mike said it perfectly. I have no idea what happens in this game.
#24 Pittsburgh (13-1) @ Notre Dame (10-4), 3 p.m., ESPN3
Line: ND -4.5
Reason to Watch: Pittsburgh has played exactly one good team (Purdue) and lost by 13 at home. The reason to watch is to see if Demetrius Jackson parlays his performance against BC into another gem. Wait, why is this game not televised??????
Mike: Irish win this one basically because of home court advantage – which is serious since this is Pitt’s first road game of the season. They won’t win it and ND’s last game showed flashes of what certain people (cough, cough…Nate) expected them to look like. ND -4.5 actually seems pretty low. Gimme.
Nate: Irish -4.5. I think Demetrius is pissed off, and a pissed off Demetrius is not good for Pitt.
Wichita State (9-5) @ Southern Illinois (14-2), 3 p.m., CBSSN
Line: Shockers -7
Reason to Watch: Most of us remember the exceptional Saluki teams of the late 1990s and early 2000s, well maybe a couple of us do. Then they went into a deep, deep freefall. Well, their record certainly says they may be back, but this is one to watch to see if the MVC could be back to a multiple bid league.
Mike: I’ll be monitoring the Salukis since they’re off to a smoking start. That being said, I just don’t know enough about either team to pick this one.
Nate: I thought this spread may be about 3.5, and I was going to take the Shockers. Seven is a ton of points though, so no play from me.
Florida State (10-4) @ #12 Miami (12-1), 4 p.m., ESPN2
Line: Miami -8.5
Reason to Watch: This game should feature a ton of points. FSU averages 82.1 points per game while Miami checks in at a slightly more robust 83.6. This is a great opportunity for FSU to capitalize on a very talented roster and convert it into a quality win – something they haven’t managed to do so far.
Mike: I’m taking FSU +8.5 here. I’m not at all sold on Miami, which seems to get overrated nearly every season for reasons I’m never entirely sure about. In any event, it’ll be an interesting game because these are two serious offenses.
Nate: Absolutely agree with the large headed one here, except for the fact that Larranaga is the main for their success. Miami is a very good basketball team, but I highly doubt they beat the Noles by double digits. FSU +8.5.
#7 Arizona (13-2) @ USC (13-3), 9 p.m., ESPN2
Line: Arizona -2.5
Reason to Watch: Here’s another offense-first matchup. Arizona is only #7 because they haven’t had a chance to get ejected from the top 10 after their somewhat inexplicable loss to UCLA (how do they keep racking up these quality wins?). If Archie Miller’s older brother’s quotes are to believed after the game he has been preaching defense since the moment that game ended. This could be a problem for a USC team that, while sitting at a surprising 13-3, hasn’t beaten a quality team yet. They have a great chance here.
Mike: Arizona -2.5. Honestly, I’d take Arizona -12. This game won’t be close.
Nate: I hate piling on, but Arizona isn’t going to get swept on their LA trip. Cats -2.5.
#6 North Carolina (14-2) @ Syracuse (10-6), 7 p.m., ESPN
Line: UNC -7
Reason to Watch: Jim Boeheim coming back seems to be the running narrative here, but I’m very confused about why this is being billed as the return of a conquering hero. Seriously, check out the ESPN.com game preview. It doesn’t even mention the reason why he was suspended. In case you were curious, it was for violations dating from 2001 including, among other things, extra benefits, failure to follow the NCAA’s drug-testing policy, and Boeheim’s personal failure to control the program. Say what you will about NCAA rules/violations (they’re mostly dumb) but those seem rather serious.
Oh, right. You should watch this game because UNC is a delight to watch on most nights and people would still be talking about the show Brice Johnson put on against FSU (39 points, 23 boards) but for Buddy Hield one-upping him in the very next game.
Mike: This whole Boeheim returning thing is probably going to give the Orange a boost and UNC isn’t immune to letdown games. I’m assuming UNC gets this one, but that doesn’t mean I want to bet on it.
Nate: Syracuse isn’t very good, and I really don’t think UNC is going to lose for a while. With that said, Syracuse may pull one out of their ass on “Boeheim night.”
#1 Kansas (13-1) @ Texas Tech (11-2), 7 p.m., ESPNU
Line: KU -7.5
Reason to Watch: Will Kansas suffer a letdown after that incredible win on Monday?
Mike: I want no part of this one.
Nate: To answer Mike’s question, yes they will. Tubby has done a great job in Lubbock, and this is the perfect spot for him to pick up a marquee win. Not only TT +7.5, but TT wins outright.
#11 Villanova (13-2) @ #18 Butler (12-3), 6:30 p.m., FS1
Line: Nova -4
Reason to Watch: Shockingly, this is the only game between ranked teams all weekend. In addition, you’re looking at two of the teams that will be at or near the top of the Big East at the end of the season fighting for early conference positioning. Once you’re finished suffering through the garbage NFL playoffs this weekend, tune in to this before ending your Sunday night.
Mike: Villanova -4 I don’t really have a logical reason other than I just don’t think Butler is as good as everyone else seems to.
Nate: While we will update the spread on Sunday, we have a beer bet here regardless. Butler isn’t losing three in a row. UPDATED: Roosevelt Jones is questionable with a wrist injury and comments from Holtmann make it seem like he will sit this one out. Because I don’t back out of beer bets…Butler +4…but yikes.