Trying to predict how this season is going to turn out has been harder than trying to get Bob Huggins to wear a suit. While March is going to be simply insane, there are some big games on today’s slate that could show who has the ability to win this thing. Or, it could just be another unpredictable Saturday that means absolutely nothing.
As discussed in this week’s bracket projections, the bottom half of the bracket is incredibly fluid and filled with teams that already have 9-10 losses. We’re certainly more interested in the five matchups between ranked teams, but we’ve added some below-the-radar games to watch that could help your bracket. Good day for some hoops…enjoy.
Mike: 42-48 (18-18 A10)
Saturday (all times Central)
#20 Duke (20-6) at #18 Louisville (20-6), 11 a.m., ESPN
Line: Louisville -7
Reason to Watch: To watch Duke get trucked. Well, that’s why I am going to watch. Duke is surging at the right time after beating Louisville, Virginia and UNC in the past 14 days. They are without Matt Jones due to an ankle injury (UPDATE: he is warming up and may play), meaning that Coach K may try to sneak Jon Scheyer out there for a few minutes today.
Mike: Duke looked very good against UNC and they might just have the dumbest “us against the world” mentality going. Still, that’s a powerful motivator. Louisville has struggled since its dumb, self-imposed postseason ban. All signs point to taking Duke and the points which is precisely why I’m running for the hills.
Nate: Vegas is screaming for people to bet on Duke. While this is a ton of points, I’m going with Vegas and my hope that Duke indeed gets trucked. Cards -7.
St. Bonaventure (17-7) at #15 Dayton (21-4), 11 a.m., NBCSN
Line: Flyers -8
Reason to Watch: The Bonnies really need this one after getting into Bubble consideration and then falling flat on their faces at LaSalle. Wait, both these teams lost at LaSalle…which is incredibly odd. Dayton also needs a bounce back after an understandable loss at St. Joe’s
Mike: Dayton’s loss on Wednesday to St. Joe’s was more about St. Joe’s proving itself than it was anything negative about Dayton. My biggest takeaway from that game was that UD got somewhat lazy with their rebounding (some of that was Pollard being out). I fully expect Archie noticed this, too, and will fix it. Whether Pollard plays or not, gimme UD -8. This team knows what’s at stake and they’ll show up. The Bonnies are good but not good enough to win at UD.
Nate: BEER BET #1. I’m taking the Bonnies with the points because they are a pretty solid team, Dayton is not at full strength, and I want to win another beer from Mike. Bonnies +8.
#11 Miami (21-4) at #5 UNC (21-5), Noon, CBS
Line: UNC -6
Reason to Watch: This is the best game of the day, in my opinion, because it has the most questions that need to be answered. 1) Can Marcus Paige figure it out? 2) Can anyone else from UNC step up to help out Brice Johnson? 3) Is Miami a legit contender? This one has ACC regular season implications.
Mike: Until that Duke game I would have taken UNC here in a heartbeat. Now, not so much. I’m not really sure what either of these teams are at this point. I could be talked in to early exit candidates or elite 8 teams.
Nate: While I think Miami is legit, this is a spot that UNC typically dominates. I really have no idea how this one plays out, but I’m hoping for a close one.
#25 Baylor (19-7) at #24 Texas (17-9), 1 p.m., ESPN
Line: Texas -5
Reason to Watch: Both teams picked up big home wins this week against teams ranked higher than them. In Baylor’s case, Uncle Rico didn’t even play (he is questionable today). I’m interested to see if Texas can keep up this string of excellent basketball.
Mike: Love what Shaka has been doing (and sort of called it by the way) and Baylor is a barrel of struggles. Texas -5.
Nate: Texas has been much better this year when an underdog, but I think I agree with Mike here. Texas -5
Pittsburgh (18-7) at Syracuse (18-9), 1 p.m., ESPN2
Line: Cuse -3.5
Reason to Watch: Two teams going in completely opposite directions. Pitt is playing horrible, while the Orange look like a potential sleeper in the tournament. Pitt needs to avoid a loss, which could eject them from next week’s bracket.
Mike: Man, this number is weird. Syracuse has been mainly trending in the right direction while Pitt has been buying drinks for the NIT and seeing if it wants to go home with them. Still, weird number equals pass.
Nate: Very weird number. Syracuse is another team with no depth, but a pretty solid five players. I’m with Mike again (why?). Lean Pitt, but no play.
Butler (18-8) at #1 Villanova, 1:30 p.m., FOX
Line: Nova -10.5
Reason to Watch: Villanova seems to just be cruising along to a #1 seed without any difficulty…Butler has underperformed all year but wouldn’t surprise me if they snuck into the tournament in did damage. Potential upset?
Mike: Nova is a machine. Nova -10.5 all day.
Nate: BEER BET #2. I like Butler not only to cover, but to win this game. Yes, I also may be crazy. Butler +10.5.
#3 Oklahoma (20-5) at #10 WVU (20-6), 3 p.m., ESPN
Line: WVU -3
Reason to Watch: Can Buddy and Oklahoma find their game? That’s what everyone wants to know after a rough couple of weeks for the Sooners. The couch-burning wonders haven’t really lit the world (or couches) on fire lately either.
Mike: It seems like a strange thing to say but OU needs this game. The last two weeks haven’t been kind. WVU has had some rough results in there, too. My gut says take OU here but since I’m the head of this operation I’m going to pass. Should be a great game.
Nate: Boomer +3. Maybe if they stop shooting so many damn threes, they could get back to playing like the Top 5 team that they have been all year. I’m going with Buddy to have a huge game (35 points) to lead them to a big road victory.
#14 Kentucky (20-6) at Texas A&M (19-7), 5:30 p.m., ESPN
Reason to Watch: Ranked blue-blood team goes on the road to play an unranked team that desperately needs a win, with College Gameday in attendance. Sounds like two weeks ago (UNC/ND), doesn’t it?
Mike: I seriously thought this was a misprint. Kentucky. A&M isn’t as good as them. Maybe they pull a home win off but I just don’t think so.
Nate: BEER BET #3. I’m going with A&M, simply because they really are not as bad as they have played this month. I’ll bet a beer that they find something tonight on a national stage.
#19 Notre Dame (18-7) at Georgia Tech (14-12), 7 p.m., ESPN2
Line: ND -2
Reason to Watch: Can the Irish avoid a letdown after three huge wins in a row against potential tournament teams? Hopefully, GT’s win at FSU this week got the attention of Brey and the boys. If ND gets this one, watch out, as an ACC regular season title is in reach.
Mike: Poor Brian Gregory. Actually, wait, no. Screw that guy. ND -2.
Nate: I thought this was going to be a loss until GT won at FSU. I am hoping that got their attention. Irish -2.
#17 Purdue (21-6) at #22 Indiana (21-6), 7:30 p.m., ESPN
Line: IU -4
Reason to Watch: It’s Purdue/Indiana at Assembly. Both teams are ranked. Enough said. Kudos to ESPN, also, by making this the prime time game.
Mike: I can’t objectively pick this one and I’m fascinated to see how the contrasting styles counter each other. In all honesty, IU probably covers this number but I’m not picking it.
Nate: Really think this one is going to be tight all game and come down to the wire. If I had to, I’d pick the Hoosiers, but looking up the screen, I’ve already picked a ton of games. No pick, but go Hoosiers.
St. Mary’s (21-4) at Duke West (21-6), 9:00 p.m., ESPN2
Line: Duke West -6.5
Reason to Watch: Since I’m biased, I’m watching to hopefully have final confirmation of how fraudulent Gonzaga is. For everyone else, this is one of the six WCC games worth watching all year, and probably the game that determines the regular season champion (which means nothing because both are squarely on the bubble and need to win the tournament).
Mike: There isn’t anything I can say here better than what Nate said. Still, give me St. Mary’s and the points. St. Mary’s +6.5
Nate: #ABADW. You know what it means by now. Gaels +6.5.
Hawaii (21-3) at UC Irvine (20-7), 10:30 p.m., ESPNU
Line: Anteaters -3
Reason to Watch: 1) You like to gamble. 2) You really like college basketball and want to see the two best teams in the Big West. 3) You really like to gamble.
Mike: I don’t know a damn thing about either of these teams but since I’m so bad at picking games when I think I know something let’s go with UC Irvine -3. Mix it up.
Nate: BEER BET #4. So Mike goes with the SNL Burt Reynolds “oh hell, let’s go nuts” theory. Sounds like a fun late night beer bet to me. Hawaii +3.