Well, we’re basically done here. We’ve spent the past 4 months trying to predict and/or explain what was going on in college basketball and we were only intermittently successful. Now we’re finishing up our picks for the year and trying to see who will win a handful of beers and a larger handful of interesting games. It has been extremely fun for us to predict games and then see retrospectively (and accountably) how we did the following week. For me (Mike) it has been a humbling and impoverishing experience (damnit beer bets) and for Nate I assume it has been somewhat gratifying. Regardless, you’re going to get our tournament predictions here as well as some of our bolder predictions for who will do well and/or poorly in the tournament. In the meantime, bear with us as we try this exercise one more time. There are still some conference regular season titles to decide. Let’s do this!
Mike: 48-56 (21-23 A10)
Saturday (all times Central)
Vanderbilt (19-11; 11-6) at #20 Texas A&M (23-7; 12-5), 11 a.m., ESPN2
Line: Texas A&M -4.5
Reason to Watch: Vandy needs this one. They might already be in the Dance but I’m not so sure. They win this game and there’s no question. Texas A&M is trying to convince people that they’re not the easiest pick for a 5-12 loss in NCAA tournament history.
Mike: See what I wrote above? I’m going against it. Texas A&M -4.5. This is the first of many opposite impulse picks.
Nate: Not touching this one. Vandy is hot, but A&M is really unpredictable. I still think Vandy has a better chance of making noise in the tournament than A&M though.
Ohio State (19-11; 11-6) at #2 Michigan St. (25-5; 12-5), 11 a.m., ESPN
Line: Sparty -14.5
Reason to Watch: The Buckeyes have moved themselves slightly north of embarrassing lately but they’re still having a sub par year. The Sparty national championship bandwagon is savagely overstuffed. A win here gets the Buckeyes close to the bubble. A win by Sparty probably thins the crowd on the bandwagon a bit. B1G seeding is on the line for the Fighting Izzos, too.
Mike: The list of things I would rather do than bet on Ohio State basketball is as follows: 1) hammer a nail into my palm; 2) talk politics with a drunk guy at the bar; 3; burn off my eyebrows; and 4) play a whiffleball tournament without Nate Hansen.
Nate: HA! Ohio State sneaks into bubble territory with a win, but they really aren’t very good. Typically, I take the points in this situation, but I am one of those guys on the savagely overstuffed bandwagon.
#10 West Virginia (23-7; 12-5) at #19 Baylor (21-9; 10-7), 1 p.m., ESPN
Line: Baylor -2.5
Reason to Watch: There are a lot of people who will pick either of these teams to be in the elite 8. It’s entirely possible that they’ll both make it to that level but it’s far more likely that you’re going to have to pick. Do you pick the team that plays the swarming defense that snuffs out even the best offenses or do you pick a team that typically has the best player on the court and can impose its will on the game? No matter what happens it’ll be fun.
Mike: Baylor -2.5. I’m bullish on the Bears.
Nate: Beer Bet #1. Give me the Mulleteers. Just don’t like this matchup for Baylor. The Big 12 tourney is going to be bonkers.
LSU (18-12; 11-6) at #22 Kentucky (22-8; 12-5), 1 p.m., CBS
Line: Kentucky -13
Reason to Watch: I’m not sure I’ve ever heard more people talk about a 22-8 team as a national title contender the way I have this year. Not that Kentucky’s record is anything to sneeze at, mind you. It’s just strange that a team that has flown under the radar all year is being touted as a championship caliber team. Against that narrative we have Ben Simmons who is pretty unequivocally the best basketball player not in the NBA. People seem to be forgetting this. Why the hell wouldn’t you watch this one?
Mike: I’m thinking of betting on the worst coach in the country on the road. Wait…no. No I’m not. I want to, though. Pass. This is a terrible idea. That’s a lot of points though.
Nate: I could not have said it better. Actually, in reading it again, I’m taking Kentucky -13. Statement time.
Northern Iowa (20-12; 11-7) at Wichita State (24-7; 16-2), 2:34 p.m., CBSSN
Line: Shockers -9.
Reason to Watch: To figure out what we have here. Intermittently UNI and Wichita St. have looked like damn good teams teams. When they don’t, though, they look not just vulnerable but useless. This game should crown a champion for the MVC as it’s between the best two teams in the conference. Should be fun.
Mike: Well, I was going to take UNI when I thought I guessed the line was 3.5, so I’ll take UNI +9. This is a bet for chaos.
Nate: This spread is huge, especially with Wichita coming off a scare against Loyola and UNI being strangely difficult to predict. Does this game really start at 2:34 p.m., or was this an insertion fueled by booze? (Mike: That was a typo – it actually starts at 2:30, but I’m leaving it so the joke stays). Gut says to take Wichita, but head says to stay far, far away from this game.
#9 Oregon (24-6; 13-4) at USC (20-10; 9-8), 3 p.m., Pac12 Network
Line: Ducks -1
Reason to Watch: In this space the Ducks have been belittled repeatedly. That’s probably a mistake on our part. I’m not sure either of us has a team we believe in less than Oregon given their actually impressive resume. There’s a lot to like there. There’s not a lot to like in USC’s resume especially given the giant dump they have taken in Conference of Champions play.
Mike: Everything in this spread wants you to bet on Oregon. Pass. Vegas knows something here.
Nate: I’m going one step further and going with Vegas. USC +1. They have been pretty atrocious lately, and Oregon has been on a tear. This sets up perfectly for an Oregon loss going into the Conference of Champions Tournament.
#21 Iowa State (21-9; 10-7) at #1 Kansas (26-4; 14-3), 3 p.m., ESPN
Line: Jayhawks -9.5
Reason to Watch: I’ll drop the facade here. I’m only watching this game to see if Iowa State can make me look better for calling them a fringe Final Four team about a month ago. They’re a very talented, very top-heavy team. Kansas is definitely making the final four – or so it would seem. The Big 12 tournament is going to be fun.
Mike: I spent an awful lot of time researching this game and came to the conclusion that Kansas is covering this game comfortably. KANSAS -9.5, he said overconfidently and probably mistakenly.
Nate: Beer Bet #2. Iowa State keeps this close, and has a chance to win late. But, they also could lose by 25, because Kansas is the most underwhelming excellent team in years. Cyclones +9.5.
#8 North Carolina (24-6; 13-4) at #17 Duke (22-8; 11-6), 5:30 p.m., ESPN
Line: Heels -1
Reason to Watch: ESPN told you to. Honestly, the UVA game or the UD-VCU game is more important than this paean to the old guard. You’re going to watch because ESPN has brainwashed you into thinking this is the game of the week. It isn’t. That being said it’s still a damn good game.
Mike: I’m all over UNC as an early exit and Duke as a late push so…Duke +1 is my play here. Now I’m going to shower to get rid of this feeling.
Nate: Beer Bet #3. I will gladly take UNC against Puke here. I’d like to see a stat about how many times these teams have split in the last 25 years…and they seem to both win on the road a lot. If UNC loses, I’m with you on an early exit. If they win, watch out.
#11 Louisville (23-7; 12-5) at Virginia (23-6; 12-5), 7:30 p.m., ESPN
Line: Virginia -5.5
Reason to Watch: Because this is the actual best game of the day. Kind of funny that ESPN’s pet conference (the ACC) has the best game of the day and they still worship at the altar of North Carolina basketball. UVA is playing for a 1 seed and Louisville is playing for whatever pride there is left. This should be good.
Mike: UVA is going to win this game but I’m not betting they win by 6.
Nate: This has the makings of a 57-55 slugfest. Typically, I take the points in this situation, but Virginia is really good.
VCU (22-8; 14-3) at Dayton (23-6; 13-4), 7 p.m., CBSSN
Line: Dayton -2
Reason to Watch: This might be the biggest game of the day in terms of repercussions for the winner and loser. If UD wins this game they get a share of the A10 title and a top 2 seed in the conference tournament. If UD loses they get a top 4 finish in the A10 and still get a double bye. What I think is this: you’re looking at a pivot point with UD here. If they play well and win they’re a threat to make the second weekend. If they don’t then we have a long offseason to figure out what the hell went wrong. If VCU outplays UD then we’re looking at 3-4 very good A10 teams in the tournament. There’s a lot going on here.
Mike: I’m taking UD-2 because I basically have to. They’re the most talented team in the A10 and I firmly believe talent wins out eventually. Plus they have to win Boom’s first game!
Nate: That picture makes Mo Alie-Cox look like he is Shaq. Is Kyle Davis 5’2? I’m taking the Flyers -2 also, because they really can’t be as bad as they have played in the last three weeks, right? I’m hoping for this blog’s sake that the Flyers and the Irish get their heads out of their asses today.