Welcome to a lackluster college basketball Saturday! In order to spice things up, we’ve brought in our friend Bill from the (more) frozen tundra of Minneapolis. We’re hoping to have a variety of guest prognosticators as the season progresses to mix it up from our usual equation of Nate making well-educated and often correct picks and me making poorly-educated often wrong guesses.
You know what makes watching (relatively) uneven matchups even more fun? Gambling. Let’s get after it.
Saturday (all times Central)
#21 Virginia Tech (12-2; 1-1) vs. #12 Florida State (14-1; 2-0), 1 p.m., ACC Network
Line: FSU -9
Reason to Watch: So many points. Both of these teams are averaging over 83 ppg, so you would expect this game to be entertaining at the very least. It will be interesting to see how Florida State follows up its stunning road win at Virginia. If they need to see what can happen if you have a letdown after a big game all they’ll have to do is look across the court. Buzz’s Boyz got their tallys whacked by NC State last time out after beating Duke.
Picks: TWO WAY BEER BET!!
Mike: Florida State is the better team, but I’m taking the points and Va Tech +9 here. It’s very hard to avoid a letdown after a big road win like that and even if FSU wins this one, I bet it’ll be close.
Nate: The ACC is freaking nuts. VT beats Duke by 15, then loses to NC State by 28. This one is going to be tight. Hokies +9.
Bill: Two surprise teams in the ACC with only 3 combined losses but I’m taking the 14-1 Seminoles -9 at home. Sophomore Dwayne Bacon sizzled for a career-high 31 points in the upset over Virginia. He keeps cooking in this one. His name is Bacon.
Clemson (11-3; 1-1) @ #23 Notre Dame (13-2; 2-0), 2 p.m., ESPNU
Line: Notre Dame -4.5
Reason to Watch: Speaking of potential letdowns, here’s Notre Dame fresh off of an exhilarating win over Louisville. That’s one of the first ND games I have watched all the way through and I definitely came away impressed. Can’t say I’ve watched any Clemson basketball yet this year. Their 11-3 record is impressive enough but they damn near beat UNC last time out, which is much more impressive. The Irish need to be ready for this one. Will they be?
Mike: Home court is normally a decided schematic advantage for any team, but ND can’t seem to fill 75% of the arena. Ok, that was a tad harsh. Attendance shaming sucks and that’s coming from a White Sox fan so I’m an expert on attendance shaming. I honestly don’t know what’s going to happen in this one, but when has that stopped me before? Fighting Ty Willinghams -4.5.
Nate: As discussed above, the letdown is real in the ACC. Can Beachem figure out what the hell is going on? Is Blossomgame going to put up 30? I’m taking the Irish -4.5, but I’m not overly confident.
Bill: Despite Mike’s attendance shaming I can cite several Dave Matthews Band shows from the mid-2000s at the Joyce Center that were filled to capacity. In this classic rivalry, Catholics vs. Clemsons (copyright pending) I’ll take Catholics -4.5 after their win over a good defensive Louisville team.
Maryland (13-2; 1-1) @ Michigan (11-4; 1-1), 2:15 p.m., ESPN2
Line: Michigan -8
Reason to Watch: There isn’t much else going on? Told you there weren’t a ton of “must-see” games this weekend. Still, this has the makings of a pretty good barometer game for the middle class of the B1G. Despite looking very similar on paper, Michigan (31) far outclasses Maryland (62) according to KenPom. Most of that is strength of schedule as Maryland has played a remarkably weak one – this will actually be their first true road game all year.
Mike: I’m taking the Terps +8 here, but that’s mainly because I think the game will be close. I have no faith in them actually winning the game. Still, that is a lot of points for two teams that have performed pretty evenly so far this year.
Nate: Wow, that’s a ton of points. These are middle of the pack squads in the Big 14, and while this screams 67-65, I’m steering clear of this one.
Bill: Points, I am taking the points (Maryland +8). This feels like a Saturday afternoon game you take a nap during, which means the score will be low enough to make those 8 points feel closer to 20. If not forced to pick, I would simply ignore this game was happening.
Illinois (11-4; 1-1) @ #25 Indiana (10-5; o-2), 4 p.m., ESPNU
Line: Hoosiers -10.5
Reason to Watch: The parade of massive spreads continues. The most interesting thing about this game is quite obviously the Hoosiers who have become one of the more compelling teams in the country recently for all the wrong reasons. Last year Nate and I frequently referred to Northern Iowa as the weirdest team in college hoops. This year that has to be the Hoosiers. There is just no way the same team should have wins over Kansas and UNC while also having a 3-game losing streak (admittedly against three good to excellent teams) and a loss to IPFW. I can’t explain it so I’ll let Bill, our guest Indiana expert, do it.
Picks: BEER BET!
Mike: Illinois is pretty uninteresting. They have generally lost to teams they should lose to and beaten teams they should. Beating VCU and OSU is impressive-ish. I’m not going to take them, though I’m sorely tempted. A team riding a 3-game losing jag shouldn’t be surrendering 10.5 points. Vegas knows something I don’t.
Nate: Vegas knows. It always knows. Hoosiers -10.5.
Bill: Indiana is currently lacking a point guard who can be a leader on the court and hit big shots when needed. Last year, Indiana’s runs would jump from 6-9-12 quickly as Yogi would bury pull-up fastbreak threes to either bring the Hoosiers back into games they had been outplayed for 30 minutes or beat inferior opponents within the first 10 minutes. This team simply doesn’t have that assassin who will take and make the big shot when the team needs it.
Tom Crean is also struggling with a team built around quality big men. He wants to push pace and run his pro-style offense when all he should be doing is dumping it down low and letting the bigs eat.
Quick story time: Indiana vs Illinois in 2002 to this day is the loudest I have ever heard Assembly Hall and the day I realized that team had an opportunity to be special. The unranked Hoosiers beat the #8 ranked Illini by 30 and shot something absurd like 18-24 from behind the arc. There is a highlight video on Youtube, it includes a Jeffrey Newton dunk. Watch it.
As for my pick, I’m so confident I got it tattooed on my arm.
Texas Tech (12-2; 1-1) @ #3 Kansas (13-1; 2-0), 6:15 p.m., ESPN2
Line: Rock Chalk -10.5
Reason to Watch: To see whether the Red Raiders are for real. Kansas has taken their foot off the gas lately, especially on defense, and nearly got beaten by Kansas State. Lucky for them the Big 12 decided to temporarily suspend the traveling rule on the last shot. The photo is of this dude’s second step after he picked up his dribble. How do you miss this?!
Anyway, Texas Tech is up to 28 in the KenPom rankings and has been showing signs of life over the past couple of years. Obviously Kansas is still the prohibitive favorite to win the conference (again), but maybe Texas Tech is ready to move into the top of the conference. Playing a competitive game at the Phog would be a great start.
Mike: After all that buildup, I bet you think I’ll be taking Texas Tech. Noooooope. I think that squeaker last time out got Kansas’s attention so I think Texas Tech is in a world of hurt. Kansas -10.5.
Nate: TT just beat a top 10 team. KU needed a gift to beat KSU. Action/reaction both ways means Jayhawks by 24. KU -10.5.
Bill: Both Robert Montgomery Knight and his son, Patrick coached the Red Raiders to moderate success. I hope neither ever comes back to Bloomington. Rock Chalk -10.5
NC State (12-3; 1-1) @ #14 UNC (13-3; 1-1), 7 p.m., ESPN
Line: Tar Heels -13
Reason to Watch: Fantastic guard play. Dennis Smith Jr. for NC State is coming off of a 25/11/11 game in the aforementioned stomping of Virginia Tech. Oh, and he’s a freshman. Joel Berry for UNC, you all know. That should be a great individual matchup all game. UNC is a known commodity but NC State is tough to read both because they haven’t played all that many good teams this year and because they managed to lose to Illinois. It’ll be interesting to see whether they build off of that Va Tech game or whether they just hit a one-game high note.
Picks: BEER BET!
Mike: Man do I want to take that 13 points. Can’t do it. I think UNC is probably the best team in the country, but I’m equally unsure about whether they’ll be able to cover this one. Punt.
Nate: I’m going to bite on this one because I think the Wolfpack are incredibly dangerous. Dennis Smith + Abdul-Malik Abu = Scary. NC State +13.
Bill: The Tar Heels lost to the Hoosiers who lost to IPFW. Assuming the transitive property holds, UNC is clearly behind at least the IPFW Mastodons. Still like Heels -13 at home.
#22 Cincinnati (12-2; 2-0) @ Houston (12-3; 3-0), 8 p.m., ESPNU
Line: Houston +3
Reason to Watch: The class of the American Athletic Conference squaring off. Seriously, though, this should be a very good game. The only two stumbles for the Bearcats have been respectable (Rhode Island and Butler). Houston beat Rhode Island, but has less understandable losses (Harvard, Arkansas, LSU) for a team with a pretty gaudy record. It’s not like the AAC isn’t winnable for Houston, but they’re going to have to get this one to do it. Should be fun.
Mike: I’m actually curious to see whether Houston can get this one. I don’t think they can, which is why I’m picking Cincinnati -3, but the top of the AAC actually looks entertaining this year.
Nate: The smart money is probably on the Cougars at home because Cincy doesn’t seem to win many games by more than 3 points. But I’m not betting against them. Pass.
Bill: Remember when Houston’s Kelvin Sampson 3-way calling (memory inside of a memory: remember 3-way calling?) recruits was the biggest scandal the B1G Ten had dealt with in decades? Indiana basketball was a dumpster fire for multiple years after and Tom Crean now has coach in perpetuity status because he took multiple lottery picks to multiple sweet sixteens. Good effort in the Rose Bowl though Penn State. I will never support Kelvin Sampson in anything he does. Cincinnati -3.
#13 Wisconsin (13-2; 2-0) @ #20 Purdue (13-3; 2-1), 3:30 p.m., CBS
Line: Not posted, but we’re guessing Purdue -3.5
Reason to Watch: One of only two matchups between ranked teams this weekend and probably the best game of the weekend. Wisconsin has been doing what Wisconsin does – winning games and making them borderline unwatchable at the same time. A Wisconsin-Virginia game makes me want to cry. Purdue has actually been quite good offensively this season, so this is a strength against strength situation. Purdue is also trying to come back from an ugly loss at Minnesota.
Mike: No chance I’m touching this one. Wisconsin riding a 9-game winning streak makes them tough to bet against, but so is Purdue at home. I’m leaning toward saying Wisconsin takes this one, but I’m not leaning hard enough to actually bet on it.
Nate: Why do I want to take Purdue? I’ve never wanted to take Purdue…
Bill: Wisconsin was my preseason choice to win the B1G Ten and Ethan Happ is severely underrated. Purdue has looked better than expected with Biggie Swanigan making the sophomore leap. Purdue’s middling guard play and Isaac Haas playing about a foot shorter than he is around the basket will continue to limit this Purdue team. I’ll take the Badgers, but I won’t like it. Bucky +3.5