We’re at the point in the season where most of the field is set and if you’re focusing on drama, you’re looking forward to the fights among the teams that are straddling the bubble. Most fan bases, however, are eyeing NCAA positioning or waiting for a conference tournament to start. The games we’re picking this weekend feature teams that are either looking to make a seeding move or trying to keep their tournament hopes alive.
As for your resident bloggers, we’re trying to find some interesting things to talk about besides bracket predictions. That’s easily the most interesting thing going at this point in the season, but what about other story lines? Who else will Grayson Allen trip this season without ever facing discipline? Will Dayton manage to break other records for offensive futility without losing? Will Providence actually make the tournament? Will Joe Lunardi continue to stump for Duke West without any articulable reason?
Stay tuned and enjoy! We have a great Saturday of games.
Mike: 43-54 (19-20 A10)
Saturday (all times Central)
VCU (20-8; 12-3) at George Washington (21-7; 10-5), 11:30 a.m., NBCSN
Reason to Watch: If you like March, where one team’s loss ends its season, you’ll love this game. We have a matinee game between two A10 teams sitting on or near the bubble. The winner continues its season without necessarily having to win the conference tournament to make the big dance. The loser is basically finished for the year. Oh, and it’s a pick. This should be fun.
Mike: I’m convinced VCU ends up making the tournament this year so I’m going to have to take VCU in this game.
Nate: The A10 is wild and apparently home-court advantage is minuscule. GW won at VCU earlier in the year. Revenge, baby. VCU
#3 Oklahoma (22-5; 10-5) at #25 Texas (18-10; 9-6), 1 p.m., CBS
Line: Sooners -1
Reason to Watch: This is one of those seeding games referred to in the opener. Both of these teams are comfortably in the field of 68 but they’re heading in opposite directions. Oklahoma has shed much of its #1 seed panache while Texas has moved from the bubble to a top-6 seed in only a few weeks. A win here for Oklahoma doesn’t do much – nor does a loss, really – but a win for Texas would be a pretty big feather in Shaka’s cap.
Mike: I really want to pick Texas here but I just can’t. Buddy’s too hard to bet against. Pass.
Nate: Texas is the best 10-loss team in the country. I’ve been doing bracket projections for about 10 years now, and I don’t remember the last time a team had 10 losses before March and were ranked. But I digress. Boomer -1. Like I wasn’t going to pick Buddy.
#11 Louisville (22-6; 11-4) at #12 Miami (FL) (22-5; 11-4), 1 p.m., ESPN3
Line: Canes -3
Reason to Watch: The strange game on this slate that doesn’t have competing interests because of the absurd Louisville self-imposed ban. Miami still has some wiggle room, though, and a win over Louisville still counts for quite a lot this season so they might be able to move up or down a line depending on how they do in this game. There are still some lingering doubts about Miami’s legitimacy as a contender and this game could go a long way toward quieting them.
Mike: I’ve been down on Miami all year. Until now. Miami -3.
Nate: I laughed out loud when ARod showed up in the template. It almost makes me want to take Louisville just in protest of (as Mike correctly stated) that really weird dude. I’m going to pass on this one, because I think there is something to Louisville only having the regular-season title to play for.
#9 Arizona (22-6; 10-5) at #22 Utah (22-7; 11-5), 1 p.m., ESPN
Line: Utah -3
Reason to Watch: My pitch for Arizona being horribly overrated would have been a lot more impressive had they not dropped a game to Colorado on Wednesday. One of Oregon, Utah, or Arizona is the best team in this mess of a conference. This game will go a long way toward determining which team it is.
Mike: I’ll take the home team (Utah -3), particularly when I think the home team is underrated and the road team is overrated. Still, there’s the action/reaction thing going on with Arizona’s last loss.
Nate: Beer Bet #1. Utah has been playing much better of late, but I’m not convinced. They picked up two road wins in LA last weekend against two teams in complete freefall, and then just beat ASU by 100. Sean Miller typically doesn’t lose two games in a row. Arizona +3 (and the moneyline).
#16 Kentucky (21-7; 11-4) at Vanderbilt (17-11; 9-6), 3 p.m., CBS
Line: Cats -1.5
Reason to Watch: Vandy is fighting for its tournament life while Kentucky appears to be rounding into form just in time to scare the living hell out of every other team in the country this March. If you were to take a team photo of the most disappointing teams from this season, Vandy would definitely be taking a knee near the center. With a win today, though, the Commodores could get firmly on the happy side of the bubble…for a few days.
Mike: Vegas really wants me to bet on Kentucky. I’ll bite. UK -1.5.
Nate: I think it is Vandy who is rounding into form, and are on the right side of the bubble after winning at Florida (who is horribly overrated). This still is a must win for Vandy, and I’m not sure they get it. No play.
#23 Notre Dame (19-8; 10-5) at Florida State (16-12; 6-10), 3 p.m., ESPN2
Line: Notre Dame -2
Reason to Watch: This is a big one to see if ND can handle athleticism, albeit on a pretty bad basketball team. Big one for the Irish, as they finish with two home games and a legit chance for the double bye.
Mike: For some reason the drunks scheduling ACC games enjoy forcing teams like FSU to play 2 games in 3 days. This is unheard of in most of the conferences in the country. I’ll happily bet against the team playing that frequently. ND -2.
Nate: Beer Bet #2. I’m sticking with my pick in the ND preview earlier this week. Go read it. Not confident in this one at all. FSU +2.
#10 Maryland (23-5; 11-4) at #20 Purdue (21-7; 9-6), 3 p.m., ESPN
Line: Purdue -3.5
Reason to Watch: Here’s a classic seeding matchup with some implications for a regular season title for Maryland. Purdue has baffled us all year, as they seem impervious to the normal skepticism that would attend a team that has not performed well in its own conference. I think people are more enamored with Purdue’s size than is warranted given the results. Maryland looked damn near unstoppable until that strange loss to Wisconsin. Both teams have a lot of proving to do before March – probably to themselves as well as to hacks like us. This should be one of the two best games of the day.
Mike: Should be a fun game featuring more quality size than damn near any other possible matchup this time of year. I’m just going to watch and enjoy because this number is begging for Maryland action and I’m not falling for that twice.
Nate: Melo Trimble has 18 turnovers and is shooting just over 20% the last three games. That’s…awful. He turns it around today and Maryland picks up a big road win. Terps +3.5.
#7 North Carolina (23-5; 12-3) at #3 Virginia (21-6; 10-5), 5:30 p.m., ESPN
Line: UVA -3.5
Reason to Watch: There are a ton of people out there talking about the serious resume advantage Virginia has over UNC. This conversation becomes a lot less academic tonight. My hunch is that if you polled 100 people right now, you’d have around 95 that would pick at least one of these two teams in their Final Four.
Mike: I’m very much on the UVA bandwagon. Money meet mouth: UVA -3.5.
Nate: When does UNC flip the switch? That has been the question all year. Sitting here on February 27, maybe the question is, can UNC flip the switch? UVa is not the greatest matchup because Anthony Gill can handle Brice Johnson, and UNC has no answer for Brogdon. I’m with Mike. UVa -3.5.
Duke West (22-7; 14-3) at BYU (22-8; 13-4), 7 p.m., ESPN2
Line: BYU -2.5
Reason to Watch: I’m going to take the high road here. The reason to watch is the human triple-double here for BYU, Kyle Collinsworth…great player.
Who am I kidding? Just saw that Lunardi now has Duke West out…make up your damn mind, Joe. If you want consistency in the bracket, we have it here. Duke West stinks, and a loss ends any hope for an at-large bid. A win puts them back in the discussion, but not in.
Mike: Really want to pick BYU -2.5 here but I have a hunch Duke West goes on a run to end the season. Pass.
Nate: BYU -2.5. Always bet against Duke West….and BYU is the better team.
Florida (17-11; 8-7) at LSU (16-12; 9-6), 7:30 p.m., ESPN
Line: LSU -2
Reason to Watch: Florida has turned into the most interesting case in the bracket. They are not a good team, they don’t have any good road wins, and they seem to have not won since January. Yet, most still have them safely in. I don’t think that’s the case and with LSU and Kentucky coming up…they definitely need to get one…if not both.
Regarding LSU, is Ben Simmons even a 1st team All-American anymore? It’s a legitimate question.
Mike: I haven’t been able to pick Florida worth a damn all season but I’ll give it another shot tonight by taking LSU -2. Let’s go you fighting Simmonses!
Nate: I will never, ever advise someone to pick a Johnny Jones coached team. Yet, Florida stinks. This is a pass and just watch the trainwreck that is this game.