Last call for the big boys. There are some interesting games left this weekend both for conference title and for bubble implications. Speaking of conference title implications, I am all for reversing the current system for awarding automatic bids for the NCAA and NIT. If you win your conference, you should get an automatic bid. Sure, most of the time that happens anyway – at least for the major conferences – but it seems profoundly unfair when a team outplays all of its competitors for 3 months only to miss out on the main event. If the conference tournaments are somewhat diminished as a result of this, that’s just fine by me. There’s still plenty of motivation there for the bubble teams and as a final tuneup for the conference champions.
Now that we’ve fixed one small part of college basketball, let’s move on to the picks!
Picks To Date
Beer Bets: Nate by 1
Mike: 33-31 (52%)
Nate: 36-37 (49%)
The goal is within reach: both of us finishing above .500. I’m tempted to rest my brain just in order to preserve the thin margin of victory I have right now, but that’s the coward’s way out. Plus I need that beer back. Nate just needs to go two better than break even to crest the hill of mediocrity, too. There’s 9 games to pick which means plenty of opportunity.
Saturday (all times Central)
Reason to Watch: In our latest projection Georgia is sliding off the bubble while Arkansas is sitting in the field, but at a 10. Neither team can afford to take this game off. The Razorbacks have been playing some good ball in their last 4 after a “no shame in that” loss at Florida. Georgia has won 5 out of 6 to keep its slim hopes alive after dropping three in a row to ranked SEC foes. I can’t say I’ve watched a lot of Georgia basketball this year, but I’m interested in this one. Arkansas (despite somehow losing to Mizzou) has been pretty impressive lately.
Mike: Georgia’s “got to win” status is the deal-breaker for me. This one has close Dawgs loss written all over it. Georgia +7.
Nate: This seems like a ton of points to give to a Georgia team that only plays close games. Yante Maten is out again, but J.J. Frazier has been tremendous in his absence. I lean toward taking the points, but I’m starting the slate with a pass.
#12 Florida (24-6; 14-3) @ Vanderbilt (16-14; 9-8), 1 p.m., ESPN
Line: Gators -4
Reason to Watch: There might not be a better opportunity for a bubble team to help itself today than Vanderbilt’s. Despite having the notable handicap of being only two games over .500, Vanderbilt is still hanging around most bubbles. This includes ours. Florida has a lot less to play for, but if the Gators win and Kentucky loses, they can still get a share of the SEC title. Vanderbilt’s definitely going to be the more desperate team in this one, and they’re at home. Florida is a hell of a lot better, though. Is that enough?
Mike: You’ll never go broke betting against Vandy, but I’m not sure that taking a road favorite is a great idea in this one. Florida might phone this one in. Pass.
Nate: Vanderbilt needs this one to stay in bubble consideration. They already have won at Florida, which will probably be a rallying cry for the Gators. To be honest, I have no idea what to think of the SEC, so I’m passing again.
Michigan State (18-12; 10-7) @ Maryland (23-7; 11-6), 1 p.m., Big Ten Network
Line: Turtles -4.5
Reason to Watch: Because you want to scout Dayton’s first-round opponent? I kid, I kid. Both teams have attracted a large number of doubters and not just because they play in a conference that everyone has been shitting on for weeks now. Maryland played an infamously soft schedule and Sparty just doesn’t look like itself this year – “itself” being a team that peaks right at the middle of February and rides that wave into March. This game and their performances in the B1G tournament will be decent predictors of what to do with these guys in your brackets.
Picks: BEER BET!
Mike: My inclination here is to bet against a rapidly fading Maryland team, but Sparty has given no serious indication that they’re any good this year. Damnit…it’s a total gut feeling here, which I realize isn’t my department. Sparty +4.5.
Nate: Maryland is in a serious funk, but Sparty can’t seem to beat anyone on the road (2-6 in the Big Ten). I’ll take the Terps -4.5 at home.
#19 Notre Dame (23-7; 12-5) @ #8 Louisville (23-7; 11-6), 1 p.m., CBS
Line: Cardinals -8
Reason to Watch: We’ve got plenty.
Mike: Something about this spread makes me very nervous because I think the obvious play here is taking the points. These two regularly play close games, including recently. I’m taking ND +8, but I’m doing it with some serious side eye.
Nate: The Irish are 5-0 ATS as a dog this year. Gimme all those points. Irish +8
#25 Miami (20-9; 10-7) @ #15 Florida State (23-7; 11-6), 3 p.m., ACC Network
Line: Seminoles -7
Reason to Watch: Two potential second weekend teams, with two stud freshmen (Bruce Brown for Miami and Jonathan Isaac for FSU). ND fans, if the Irish go down, we need to root hard for Miami, as an FSU loss locks up a double bye.
Mike: Miami stinks. I’m not sure which ranked team I trust less in March between Wisconsin and Miami. Probably Wisconsin, but it’s close. Pretty obvious who I’m taking. I’m not overly enamored of FSU, but I think they’re the superior team in this one.
Nate: A month ago, FSU beat Miami on the road by 18. FSU is 8-0 at home in the ACC. What is the way to beat a team of athletes? Have better athletes. FSU -7.
#1 Kansas (27-3; 15-2) @ Oklahoma State (20-10; 9-8), 5 p.m., ESPN
Line: Cowboys -1
Reason to Watch: Oklahoma State is favored so it’s clearly the better team…HA! Still, it might not matter in this one. Like a couple of other teams playing today there isn’t a whole lot of reason for Kansas to care. I know college teams aren’t supposed to take games off and all, but even Vegas knows that Kansas isn’t going pedal to the metal on this one. Funny enough, if Oklahoma State wins this one it will still count as a signature win despite all of this. Context is important, Committee. Hope they’re paying attention.
Mike: As I am putting in my picks I am noticing that Nate and I agree on waaaay too many of these. This is almost always a recipe for disaster. I’m taking the Cowboys -1, too, but man does this make me nervous.
Nate: Cowboys -1. This one is too easy.
Dayton (24-5; 15-2) @ George Washington (17-13; 9-8), 7 p.m., CBSSNLine: Flyers -4.5
Reason to Watch: To see the “give a damn” level of the Flyers. GW has been a tough place for A10 teams (and others, see Virginia last year), and GW is riding a winning streak into this game. Dayton played the biggest game of its season on Wednesday and has basically no incentive to win this game beyond making sure it doesn’t give the committee any reason to lower its seed. GW can end a tumultuous season on a high note and look to win a couple of games in Pittsburgh. This is likely to be a close one, so that should be entertaining.
Mike: I’ve been betting Dayton wrong all year. Why stop now? I just don’t think they’re going to be mentally engaged enough to win this one. GW +4.5. In truth, I would have given up 4.5. Money line is a good play here for those of you who put your money where your mouth is.
Nate: This would be impressive if Dayton could come off Wednesday’s high and follow up with a win on the road. I tend to agree with Mike that this one will be close. No play.
Colorado State (21-9; 13-4) @ Nevada (24-6; 13-4), 7 p.m., ESPN3
Line: Wolfpack -6.5
Reason to Watch: Sure, the Mountain West is down, but this conference has a soft spot in our hearts after attending the MWC tournament in Vegas four years ago (how was that four years ago?) This one is also for the conference championship. Ignore creepy Larry Eustachy, and watch two solid teams that are rolling (Nevada – 5 in a row, CSU – 7 in a row). One of these teams could be a handful to a 4 or 5 seed.
Mike: I was originally going to write the “Reason to Watch” this one but I punted to Nate because I honestly couldn’t think of one. I would really enjoy it if the Mountain West got its act together, though. That was a fun conference not all that long ago. Pass.
Nate: I’ll take Eustachy and the points here and hope for a hell of a game. Colorado State +6.5
#17 Duke (23-7; 11-6) @ #5 North Carolina (25-6; 13-4), 7:15 p.m., ESPN
Line: Tar Heels -6.5
Reason to Watch: Because ESPN told you to. I’m sick of these teams – it’s the Red Sox-Yankees of college basketball (constantly hyped regardless of merit). Yeah, it’s merited this year. Both of these teams are serious Final 4 threats, but both are flawed. I guess you’re watching because it’s the “game of the week” but really, it should be a fun game this year. Try not to notice the jerseys and mute Dickie V and just focus on the basketball. We’ll get through this together.
Mike: I’ve been poinding UNC as the best team in the country all year. I no longer feel even remotely confident about that. Still, I think they take down a Duke team that is just utterly unlikable this year. That’s saying something for Duke teams. I’ve never really been a Duke hater but this year might have turned me. Heels -6.5.
Nate: How on Earth does this UNC team score 43 points in an entire game? They get that, at least, in the first half…and look like the best team in America tonight. UNC -6.5