The big Thursday games dominated this Thursday-Sunday stretch of basketball, but there are still some very good games this weekend, especially outside the Power-5 conferences. The Duke West-St. Mary’s and Cincinnati-SMU games are great showcases for teams (other than Duke West) to get some national love. There are a few other quality matchups that we’ll look at this weekend along with the obligatory Notre Dame game (I kid, I kid…that game would have made the cut regardless).
Plus, we’ll welcome in our third guest picker and second guest picker who is also a member of 4-time World Wiffleball Champion Club Ripped: Nick. As we discovered in person when he was the only person in the room, if not the country, who thought VCU deserved to win that game, Nick is a rulebook enthusiast. We’ll see if he can predict some other team winning on a lane violation or something equally stupid.
Picks To Date
Beer Bets: Nate’s up a beer
Mike: 25-21 (54.3%)
Nate: 26-26 (50%)
Nate seems to have found his happy place at 50% while Mike has been either great or terrible most weeks this season. Our guests have alternated spectacular (Bill) and…not (Dunc). Which side of the ledger will this week’s guest picker, Nick, fall on?
Disclaimer: Both of us start the week 0-2 from Thursday, so we have some work to do.
Saturday (all times Central)
#2 Villanova (23-2, 10-2) at #24 Xavier (18-6, 8-3), 1:30 p.m., FOX
Line: ‘Nova -3.5
Reason to Watch: Both of these teams have been riding 4-game winning streaks after dropping road games. Shockingly, if Xavier wins this one they would have the same amount of conference losses as Villanova. This hardly means that Villanova is slumping but they have lost 2 games in the past 2 months which qualifies as a losing skid for them lately. There should be a great guard matchup between Bluiett and Hart. You know, if you’re in to that kind of thing.
Mike: Xavier needs this one a lot more than Villanova does, and that combined with home court (and a handful of points) and you have a good recipe for Xavier +3.5. As always when I pick Xavier, I now need to scrub myself with a lava rock.
Nate: Having a guy named Bluiett on your team has to be fun for everyone but that player. See Pitt football from a few years back. Their kicker…Chris Blewitt. There honestly could not be a worse sport/position for someone with that last name to play than a kicker. Hell, be a punter even.
This one’s close for a while, and then Hart and Brunson take over. Nova -3.5
Nick: Let me start by saying that I’m accepting any and all beer bets. I also appreciate getting to pick on the weekend of the smelliest lines possible. I have not watched Xavier or Villanova a ton but I know a stinky line when I see one and also respect a white guy that wears a full body suit to play basketball (Macura). I’m going with Vegas and the body suit and taking the points with the best basketball school in Ohio (sorry, Mike). Xavier +3.5
#14 Florida State (22-4, 9-3) at Notre Dame (18-7, 7-5), 5 p.m., ESPN
Line: Pick ’em
Reason to Watch: The Irish managed to end their death spiral against Wake Forest on Tuesday night, but here comes a hot Florida State team. Sure, beating Miami, Clemson, and N.C. State isn’t the toughest run available in the ACC, but they won those games by an average of more than 20 per.
ND went small to try to improve their offensive efficiency, and boy, did it work. The Bonz was an absolute stud on Tuesday with 27/16 against Wake. Beach has scored 82 points in the last four games. Stove showed some life. Sure, they are always going to struggle on the boards unless someone (looking at you Beach and Rex) decides to become the main secondary rebounder.
FSU won the first game 83-80, which was close solely due to the Irish shooting 15-21 from deep.
Mike: Well…something seems to have jarred loose with the Irish. Without the soft landing that Wake provided I’m not sure they would have emerged from their losing skid. Even that game was tighter than at least I expected it to be. With FSU…I’m still not sold, but I’m pretty sold that they’ll win this one. Noles.
Nate: WE MUST PROTECT THIS HOUSE. Fly in the jacked dude from those early Under Armour commercials if you have to. Actually, after a few pregame Hopslams at Brothers, I’ll get out at mid-court and yell about house protection. This one’s going to be a battle, and the homer in me thinks the Irish get the job done.
Nick: Notre Dame has lost 2 home games in a row. No way they lose three in a row. In Brey We Trust. Free money. I’m pickin the Irish.
#1 Duke West (25-0, 13-0) at #20 St. Mary’s (22-2, 12-1), 7:15 p.m., ESPN
Line: Duke West -4.5
Reason to Watch: Because this is the best game of the day and it’s the best game of the day by a mile. This is basically the only opportunity for someone to beat Duke West until March, when someone will almost certainly beat them in the first weekend. This isn’t to say that Duke West isn’t a good team – obviously it is. It is to say that they just haven’t proven it yet. St. Mary’s has some quality wins and only one non-Duke West loss…a stunner to UT-Arlington. These two teams are so far superior to the rest of the conference that really, the only reason to watch any of their conference games is to watch the two against each other. Here it is. Watch it.
Mike: Man do I want to pick St. Mary’s in this one. I just can’t. Duke West isn’t going to lose until they pull Michigan State in the second round of the tournament. Duke West.
I’m starting to really dislike myself for my picks right now….
Nate: #ABADW (Always Bet Against Duke West). You want some insight, do you? Mark Few is going to stand on the sideline looking like he really has to take a leak for 40 minutes. Other than that, Jock Landale owns Chewbacca (Karnowski) and the rec-league wonder (see below) hits some big triples down the stretch. Gaels +4.5
Nick: I don’t love the pick here but I’ll be the bad guy. You don’t pick against greatness, and Delly isn’t walking back through those doors anytime soon. Gonzaga blows the doors off of Big Slow White Guy University again. 26-0. Duke West -4.5
Cal (18-6, 9-3) at Arizona (22-3, 11-1), 9 p.m., ESPN2
Line: Cats -8
Reason to Watch: Arizona bounced back nicely after that abomination against Oregon last Saturday but now they get another test against a frisky Cal team riding. Arizona has already beaten Cal at Cal this year, so this is a tall order for the Golden Bears. It’s an even taller order when you look at Cal’s resume and see they’re a little bum-slayer-ish. This would be a great notch in their belt and perhaps let them dangle a toe in the water with the Pac12 elite. For Arizona, it’s another chance to establish their bona fides as one of the best teams in the country.
Mike: Arizona seems likely to throttle Cal in this game. I’m a little nervous about the points, but I’ll lay them anyway. I still think this is one of the best teams in the country. Go Cats -8.
Nate: Oregon played the role of Negan last week.
This weekend, it’s ‘Zona’s turn. I’m not a believer in Cal. Arizona -8
Nick: I don’t know much about Cal, but I was told by a source that Arizona is the best team ever. That’s good enough for me. I’ll take Arizona to be on the other end of the embarrassment this weekend. Arizona -8
#5 Oregon (21-4, 10-2) at USC (21-4, 8-4), 9:30 p.m., Pac12 Network
Line: Ducks -3
Reason to Watch: Let’s be honest: you’re watching this one for Oregon. USC is fine. That’s about as far as I’m willing to go. This is a bit of rough scheduling for Oregon, though, with only one day off after puking up a 19-point first-half lead and eventually the game to UCLA on Thursday. At least they got to spend their off-day in LA? USC is coming in hot to this one, too, riding a 5-game winning streak that includes a win over that very same UCLA team. Could be a tough test for the Ducks.
Mike:Despite Oregon’s nosedive in the second half on Thursday, they’ve separated a bit from the pack of mediocre teams plaguing the country right now. That being said…this is a tough ask for them. USC doesn’t completely stink and this quick turnaround is no joke. I’m not confident that USC can pull this off, but that’s enough to get me to pass.
Nate: Inexplicably, Oregon stopped running an offense in the second half of Thursday’s loss to UCLA. Don’t give me that “UCLA played great defense” nonsense. Were they fine defensively? Sure. Oregon takes this one easily. Quack Quack Quack Mr. Ducksworth -3
Oh, and check out this dunk if you missed it.
Nick: Should be an entertaining game mixed with terrible PAC 12 officiating. I already took the Gonzaga trap so I’ll take #WestCoastDunkCity + the points at home. USC +3
#11 Cincinnati (22-2, 11-0) at #25 SMU (21-4, 11-1), 3 p.m., ESPN
Line: SMU -4 (we guessed SMU -1.5)
Reason to Watch: This is the back half of the second-tier team two-step. Outside of Duke West, no team in the country is hotter than the Bearcats, who are riding a 15-game winning streak. Their biggest obstacle in the American is SMU, which would be riding an 18-game winning streak but for a 2-point loss to…Cincinnati. Still, 17/18 ain’t bad. This should be a terrific game since both of these teams don’t have a lot of opportunities left for notching quality wins before Selection Sunday.
Mike: (Updated) This is updated with the correct spread with my original below for posterity. I’m switching to Cincinnati +4 here. I don’t think this one is going to be more than a one-possession game, but if it is it’ll be in Cincinnati’s favor. I also think they’re probably going to have that extra “nobody believes in us” motivation after being one of the more glaring omissions from the Committee’s top 16 yesterday. I’m not sure they win outright, but I’d certainly make that play if I were in Vegas.
(Original) This is going to be a great game. I say that because the teams have earned this national spotlight, SMU really needs this one to legitimize its resume, and Cincinnati plays an awful lot of close games. I’m not a big fan of betting on spreads I made up but I’m thinking this will be a game SMU wins by more than 2 regardless. This will be subject to amendment once the spread comes out.
Nate: Really looking forward to this one. I’m passing on this because I truly don’t have the slightest feeling on who is going to win this game. Put me on the spot, and I probably take the home team.
Nick: Yuck. Yawn. Blah. Might turn it on to nap to. No pick.
Nick’s Bonus Pick:
Providence +4 at home against Duke Midwest. Reasoning…
Butler stinks. They’ve always stunk. Brad Stevens is gone forever. GO FRIARS!