Mid-Season Madness: Picks & SEC-Big12 Challenge Preview

For some reason the SEC and Big12 decided to do their conference challenge in the middle of the conference season.  While that doesn’t make a ton of sense, it does give us a couple of intriguing matchups today with two of the best players in the country playing head-to-head and a true blue blood showdown between Kentucky and Kansas.  Unfortunately one of those great players (Buddy Hield) plays on a far better team than the other one (Ben Simmons) and those Blue Bloods haven’t really been all that good lately.  Plus, the Big12 looks much better than the SEC.  Clubber Lang, do you have a prediction for the SEC’s day today?

Clubber Lang Pain

Here we go!

Standings:

Mike: 28-33 (12-10 A10)

Beers:  Beer x6

Nate: 23-21-1

Beers: Beer x7

Saturday (all times Central)

#9 West Virginia (17-3) at Florida (13-7), 11 a.m., ESPN

Line: Florida -1.5

Reason to Watch:  Do you like offense?  If so you might want to start with the next game as the primary game on your TV and flip to this one.  Although those two teams don’t exactly light up the scoreboard either.  Anyway, neither team in this game is going to want a track meet, although Florida’s offense has shown signs of life in SEC play.  West Virginia is the best defensive team in the country.  Bet the under.

Picks:

Mike: I know WVU is without Jonathan Holton for this game but I have no earthly idea how this spread exists.  Honestly, regardless of home court advantage, WVU has looked like a far superior team to Florida all season.  I’m taking WVU +1.5 here but the spread makes me think Vegas knows something I don’t.

Nate:  This is a huge sucker’s bet with Vegas screaming for bets to come in on WVU. While that theory says to take Florida at home, I’m going to pass on this one.  Gut says WVU wins a tight one.

Vanderbilt (12-8) @ Texas (13-7), 11 a.m., ESPN2

Line: Texas -1.5

Reason to Watch:  Texas has shown some signs of being a dangerous team and Vandy is starting to perk up again after a disastrous slide from mid-December through…well about last week. You could make an argument that it’s still happening.  This is a big surprise from a team many thought could contend for second in the SEC in the preseason.  Texas is a strange team.  They have some great wins (UNC, ISU, WVU) and some very odd losses and near losses (who loses to TCU and almost loses to K State?).  They do seem to be adjusting to Shaka’s system, though.  This is an intriguing matchup between two complicated teams.

Picks:

Mike:  Texas -1.5 seems like a pretty solid bet here.  This is partially based on relative conference strength, but more it’s a bet that Vandy isn’t going to right the ship. At least not today.

Nate: Beer Bet #1.  I’m going with Vandy +1.5 here.  Prince Ibeh has been very solid inside for the Longhorns, but this Vandy team has to get on track sometime, right?  I’ll bet that it’s today as they win a big one on the road.

#11 Virginia (16-4) @ #16 Louisville (17-3), Noon, CBS 

rickpitino_tat01

This will never not be funny.

Line: Louisville -6

Reason to Watch:  Lots of action this morning.  UVA seems to be made of teflon as they keep dropping games yet never seem to lose their spot in the top 15.  Louisville, on the other hand, has been racking up wins but still hasn’t beaten a team of real consequence (Pitt is probably their best win).  Both of these teams really need this game.  UVA needs to show itself that it can stop its downward trajectory and Louisville because it needs a high-caliber win.  Should be fun.

Picks:

Mike:  Count me among the people (I assume there are more) who don’t think either of these teams are all that good.  I’ll be interested to see how Louisville handles a cracking Virginia defense, but not interested enough to bet.

Nate:  Anytime Virginia gets more than 5 points, I take them. Cavs +6.  I’m interested to see if Louisville can actually make a statement though, because this would be their best win by a huge margin.

#14 Iowa State (16-4) @ #5 Texas A&M (17-3), 1 p.m., ESPN

Georges Niang

Don’t let us down, Georges.

Line: Texas A&M -4.5

Reason to Watch:  Raise your hand if you circled this as the best matchup among all of the Big12-SEC games a couple of months ago.  Liars.  Still, it is.  Texas A&M still has some work to do to prove that it deserves its lofty ranking, especially after dropping a game earlier this week at Arkansas.  Iowa State is looking for its third top-5 pelt in just under 2 weeks.  This should be a fascinating game.

Picks:

Mike: Yes, I’ll take the better team and the points, please.  Iowa State +4.5.

Nate:  Head and gut point the same direction here. Cyclones +4.5.

Washington (14-6) @ USC (16-5), 2 p.m., Pac12 Network

Line: USC -7.5

Reason to Watch:  Last time these two played the Huskies squeaked out a win in an entertaining 87-85 game.  It’s revenge time for USC.  Both of these teams are well-positioned in a jumbled Pac12.  It’s hard to tell whether the conference has a lot of good teams beating up on each other or a variety of pretty mediocre teams.  Every data point helps.

Picks:

Mike:  My inclination is to call for a USC blowout today, but I’ve been wrong every single time I’ve tried to predict a Pac12 game.  Not going to make that mistake again today.  Also, I’m on the side that this conference stinks.

Nate:  Washington probably has the best two players in this game in Andrews and Murray, and I’m getting 7.5?  Sign me up. Washington +7.5.

#1 Oklahoma (17-2) @ LSU (13-7), 4 p.m., ESPN

Buddy-Hield-Ben-Simmons-Stats-Matchup

Thanks to cbssports.com for making this a lot easier on me.  

Line: Oklahoma -4.5

Reason to Watch:  I mean…this one really isn’t worth a lot of words.  Buddy Hield vs. Ben Simmons.  If you need more convincing I really don’t know what to tell you.

Picks:

Mike:  LSU is going to get bludgeoned in this game.  Sooners -4.5 all day.

Nate:  Buddy -4.5.  Duh.

#20 Kentucky (16-4) @ #4 Kansas (16-4), 6 p.m., ESPN

Line: Kansas -5

Reason to Watch:  From an historical standpoint, this is obviously the game of the season.  From the perspective of this season, however, it definitely isn’t.  That’s not to say you shouldn’t watch, but it is to say that sometimes these wonderful matchups between historically great teams are great nostalgia but not all that great as games.  Kentucky has been one of the bigger disappointments this season and Kansas hasn’t looked the same since that epic 3 OT win over Oklahoma.  Still, these are both Sweet 16 caliber teams when everything’s going right.

Picks:

Mike:  Kansas -5.  I’m very interested to see how Kentucky handles a very good Kansas team.

Nate:  I’ll go the opposite here.  Not by picking Kentucky, but by taking the position that I am not very interested in this game at all.  Derek Willis has been excellent for Kentucky the last couple games, but how will he match up against the 56-year-old Perry Ellis?  Again, not sure I care about two teams that are prime picks to be upset during the first weekend of the tournament.

#10 Providence (17-4) @ Georgetown (13-8), 7 p.m., FS1 

Line: Georgetown -2.5

Reason to Watch:  To figure out whether Providence is any good.  Consistent with being a team that’s hard to explain, Providence hasn’t managed to lose any road games while dropping 4 home contests and some of those to pretty awful teams (hi, Marquette and Seton Hall).  Georgetown on the other hand…doesn’t look very good.  I feel terrible for anyone else who, like me, watched the brickfest that was the Georgetown-UConn game last weekend.  Woof.

Picks:

Mike:  Vegas knows something here.  I don’t see Georgetown being PC’s first road loss, but I’m not betting on that line.  Too weird.

Nate:  Couldn’t have said it better.  If I were in Vegas, I’d take the Hoyas because I’d have about 47 tickets in front of me at once.

 

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