Let’s not pretend the biggest story of the weekend isn’t seeing whether or not Chicago Bears Legend Charles Tillman gets a Super Bowl to add to his impressive resume. It’s too bad he can’t play.
Oh, and there is actually a pretty good Saturday slate of college basketball for your viewing pleasure. Think of these games as a highly entertaining undercard to Sunday’s game.
(Come on Mike, ND/UNC…Gameday…Tailgating!!!)
Here we go!
Mike: 30-36 (12-10 A10)
Saturday (all times Central)
#9 Virginia (18-4; 7-3) at Pittsburgh (17-4; 6-3), 11 a.m., ESPN3
Line: UVA -1.5
Reason to Watch: Because you have an internet connection? This is the second time we’ve focused on a Pitt game that features another quality, watchable team and it has been on ESPN3. Are we alone in finding this weird?
Anyway, Pitt has alternated wins and losses for the last 6 games and won last time out. UVA, on the other hand, has won 5 straight and appears to have rediscovered some of its defensive mojo, holding its last two opponents to 47 points. Honestly, though, you’re going to watch this because you want to watch the best game in the pre-noon block. This is that game.
Mike: Neither of these teams moves my fandom needle at all. I find UVA to be surprisingly limited despite an impressive recent history and a high talent level. Pitt is desperately seeking a high-quality win and has only shown small flashes against other mediocre teams. My hunch here is the Pitt snags the upset but I’m not putting my money where my mouth is.
Nate: I’m with Mike here (which has historically been really bad for both of us). Since he’s not taking Pitt, I’ll take them. Pitt +1.5. Perfect spot for a Pitt upset.
#10 Michigan State (19-4; 6-4) @ Michigan (17-6; 7-3), 1 p.m., CBS
Line: Sparty -3.5
Reason to Watch: We pretty much know what Sparty is offering this year so the reason to flip to this game is to figure out just what Michigan is. LaVert’s injury continues to lower the team’s ceiling, but all of Michigan’s losses are reasonable and they’re one of the few teams to take down Maryland. Adding MSU to that list would add to a resume that is already pretty solid.
Mike: This makes me very nervous but I’m taking the home team and the points here. Michigan +3.5. Sparty’s almost certainly the better team (especially given the injury to LaVert), but Michigan needs this game far more. That and home court should be enough.
Nate: IU just pounded Michigan in Ann Arbor. IU doesn’t have Denzel Valentine. Michigan doesn’t have LeVert. Sparty -3.5. Beer Bet #1.
#3 Villanova (19-3; 9-1) @ #11 Providence (18-5; 6-4), 1:30 p.m., FS1
Line: ‘Nova -4.5
Reason to Watch: Look…I’ll cop to it. I’ve been bearish on Providence all season. Most of the skepticism lobbed at this team has been coming from my (Mike’s) computer. That being said, I think Kris Dunn is a spectacular player and will be a quality pro. He should make any Providence game automatically worth watching. However, he really hasn’t been all that good this season and his team’s loss earlier this week to a horrible DePaul team showed how much a presumptive POY finalist has had to rely on his running mate Ben Bentil. Also, Villanova is excellent. There’s a lot to pay attention to in this game even if the #11 team isn’t really worthy of that ranking.
Mike: The vitriol continues. Nova -4.5. I don’t even care if Bentil plays.
Nate: Beer bet #2. I think Nova wins a tight one at the end, but give me the points. Friars +4.5.
Florida (15-7; 6-3) @ #20 Kentucky (16-6; 6-3), 3 p.m., CBS
Line: UK -7.5
Reason to Watch: Talk about two teams going in opposite directions. There is a ton at stake in this game. For the Gators: more legitimacy for a team that has been surging lately, particularly with the impressive victory over West Virginia. For the Wildcats: salvaging a season that is slipping away. Not trying to be hyperbolic here, but if Kentucky keeps losing SEC games they’re might have to sweat a bit come March. That would be a strange universe.
Mike: America’s Wang +7.5. I’m a pretty big Kentucky skeptic this season and I’ve recently been convinced that Florida isn’t bad thanks to several incorrect picks against them in this space. I’ll not be fooled again (I hope).
Nate: Beer bet #3. I think this is the game that Kentucky gets on track. Cats -7.5.
#25 South Carolina (19-3; 6-3) @ #8 Texas A&M (18-4; 7-2), 3 p.m., ESPNU
Line: ATM -8.5
Reason to Watch: You, like me, want to figure out just what each one of these teams has. Texas A&M has switched from looking helpless to outstanding and back to helpless in its last 3 games. South Carolina still hasn’t beaten anyone, but has taken care of business all the way until that weird loss to Georgia. The SEC probably has a few good teams: are either of these teams among them?
Mike: My gut said Texas A&M until I saw the spread. Then my head took over. That’s too many points no matter how fraudulent you think South Carolina is, and I think they’re quite fraudulent.
Nate: Both teams are coming off losses, so the action/reaction theory goes out the window. I’ll pass, as this seems like an 8-10 point A&M win.
#18 Purdue (19-4; 7-3) @ #4 Maryland (20-3; 9-2), 3 p.m., ESPN
Line: Terps -4.5
Reason to Watch: The Stone-Hammond matchup is, by itself, worth watching. This is – on paper at least – one of the best two games of the day (Baylor-WVU). Purdue is still hunting for a signature win, and this would certainly qualify. A win for Maryland would continue to build its case as the class of the B1G and a potential 1 seed.
Mike: This is one of Purdue’s best chances to prove that it is more than just a bum slayer. I just don’t see Maryland dropping this one, though. Calling a close game, but ultimately a Maryland win.
Nate: Terps -4.5. I don’t like Purdue.
#23 Arizona (18-5; 6-4) @ Washington (15-7; 7-3), 3:30 p.m., FOX
Line: Arizona -3.5
Reason to Watch: Revenge. Arizona beat Washington by 32 last time they played and yet Washington is ahead of the Wildcats in the PAC12 standings. Washington has been playing better since that game but will it be enough? Are either of these teams the class of the PAC12? Is any team in that conference actually good?
Mike: Arizona -3.5. I don’t care that this appears to be a sucker bet, but then I rarely care about such things as you can clearly see from my lousy record against the spread.
Nate: I’m not touching this one. Trier may be back for Zona, which would give them a boost, but Washington is incredibly hard to predict.
#2 North Carolina (19-3; 8-1) @ Notre Dame (15-7; 6-4), 6 p.m., ESPN
Line: Heels -2.5
Reason to Watch: [From Nate] – 5 ways that ND wins: 1) Bonz scores 20; 2) Demetrius Jackson is the best player on the floor; 3) they actually try on defense; 4) Marcus Paige continues to shoot like Ben Wallace; and 5) I don’t leave the game early.
Story time. The last time Gameday was in South Bend, I sat for 39 awful minutes watching a hapless Louisville team beat an even more hapless ND team. I was furious, so I left with Louisville up 9 and going to shoot free throws with 50 seconds left. Then Jerian Grant happened. Then 5 overtimes happened. Not leaving early today…and SO pumped for the game. Tailgate starts at 2! GO IRISH!
Mike: I’ll be doing a recap of this one that you can read here tomorrow as part of our crossover coverage (Nate will be recapping a UD game in the near future). I feel like I shouldn’t pick this game to preserve my journalistic integrity. Luckily, I don’t have any journalistic integrity, so I’ll pound UNC -2.5. They’re a far better team.
Nate: Come on. ND getting points at home and I’m not going to take them? Irish +2.5. Beer Bet #4.
#15 Baylor (17-5; 6-3) @ #14 West Virginia (18-4; 7-2), 7 p.m., ESPN2
Line: WVU -6.5
Reason to Watch: This is probably the best game of the weekend. If you need more reason to watch, we’re talking about two of the better teams in what is pretty clearly the best conference in the country. Need more? Tough. If that doesn’t do it watch the Blackhawks-Stars game (or the Republican debate to see Trump rip on Jeb).
Mike: I want no part of that spread. I expect a quality game but I don’t see either team having a decisive advantage.
Nate: Baylor +6.5. Action/reaction time. WVU struggles a bit in this one coming off the win at ISU.