Now That’s a Saturday Slate – Picks

About damn time.  This Saturday slate is the best in a while, with some attractive matchups in every conference.  We’ll preview a few more games than usual, with the hope of getting Mike back to respectability.

Last Week:  Took the week off
Season:  Mike 5-16-1 / Nate 15-15-1
Beer Bets:  Nate +5

Butler (17-8) @ #1 Villanova (22-2), 11 a.m., FOX

Line: Nova -10

Reason to Watch:  How Nova bounces back from a loss intrigues me.  Do they come out and bludgeon Butler, or do they sleepwalk through it and barely come through at the end.  That loss to St. John’s, at home, was incredibly surprising.


Mike: Nova’s M.O. indicates that they’re going to pummel Butler, but I’m not so sure about that today. I could see some wound licking. My guess is that they’ll cover, but barely. For that reason, I don’t feel like jinxing them by picking them.

Nate:  Butler typically doesn’t get blown out, but I think Nova is going to come out pissed off.  No play here, as I think Nova wins by 8-12.

#21 UNC (18-7) at NC State (16-8), 1 p.m., ACC Network

Line: UNC -3.5

Reason to Watch:  Can the Heels avoid the hangover on a quick turnaround after beating Dook?  The Wolfpack have been a tough out at home and are looking to pick up the season sweep against the Heels.


Mike: I’ll go beer hunting here. UNC – 3.5. The Wolfpack isn’t sweeping the season series against the Heels.

Nate:  Though this one is right down the road, UNC has been incredibly inconsistent, especially away from home.  I don’t necessarily love this pick because NC State just won at UNC, but I’ll go with the action/reaction and take the Wolfpack +3.5.

#5 Xavier (22-3) at Creighton (18-6), 1:30 p.m., FOX

Line:  Fighting McDermotts -1.5

Reason to Watch:  To see whether Macura wears the wet suit.


Photo: Julio Cortez/AP


Mike: Give me an opportunity to pick a home favorite against Xavier and I’ll do it every time. I hate these people. Jays -1.5.

Nate:  Creighton is really good at home.  Undefeated good.  Xavier is really good everywhere, having won seven in a row.  This might be dumb, but I’ll go with the McDermotts -1.5

#3 Purdue (23-3) at #4 Michigan State (23-3), 3 p.m., ESPN


Look at this guy… (Photo: John Terhune / Journal & Courier)

Line:  MSU -3

Reason to Watch:  We’ve chronicled in the past how much of a joke College Gameday is for hoops.  This is clearly the best game of the day, it is on ESPN, and Gameday is there, right?

Wrong.  Gameday is in Charlottesville for VT/Virginia.  I don’t know what to say…


Mike: VT is clearly the superior game. Look, the B1G is way down this year. I look at this conference and see 3/4 of one great team and two maybe decent teams. I don’t like OSU much, although they’ve obviously had a great run. The Boilers +3 aren’t dropping consecutive games. Particularly not to a suspect Sparty team that has really been a letdown since looking like a Final 4 team early in the season.

Nate:  As this has been a tough basketball season for me, seeing Purdue and Duke lose in consecutive nights was about as good as it has been in 2018.  Over/under times that Joakim Haarms gets punched in his four years at Purdue is 2.5 for those of you who enjoy futures bets.

I’m on record that MSU has the best starting five in the country.  Sparty makes a statement.  Sparty -3

Florida State (17-7) at Notre Dame (14-10), 3 p.m., ESPN2


Not sure what’s going on here…  Photo:  Robert Franklin

Line:  ND -1

Reason to Watch:  After picking up their first win in a month, can the Irish pick up a big resume win and get back on the fringe of the bubble?  No matter the disaster that happened in January with the injuries and the inability to put the orange ball through the “basketball ring,” this one is make or break for the Irish.


Mike: I can’t believe the Irish are favored in this one. Money line for days. FSU.

Nate:  I don’t like doing this, and don’t do it often, but there is no way that ND is able to handle FSU’s size and athleticism.  FSU +1.

#15 Tennessee (18-5) at Alabama (15-9), 5 p.m., SECN

Line:  Vols -2.5

Reason to Watch:  So Rick Barnes hasn’t screwed this up…yet.  Rocky Top has won six in a row and is up to a 2 seed in some brackets.  That seems a bit high.


Mike: Bama +2.5. They have the best player in this game and they’re at home. Easy.

Nate:  Bama has been the ultimate action/reaction team this year, as they have picked up wins after 8 of their 9 losses.  After losing Tuesday at StarkVegas, Avery Johnson high-pitch screams his way to a home W.  Bama +2.5

Dayton (11-12) at VCU (14-10), 5 p.m., CBSSN

Line:  VCU -4

Reason to Watch:


Mike: VCU -4. Dayton is going to get smoked. I take no joy in predicting this, but I would be pleasantly surprised if they lose by fewer than 18.

Nate:  Dayton blitzed VCU at home a few weeks ago, but predicting how both these teams are going to play is simply impossible.  Pass.

#24 Kentucky (17-7) at Texas A&M (16-8), 7:15 p.m., ESPN

Line:  A&M -4.5

Reason to Watch:  Texas A&M is back at full strength, and could be a dangerous team in March.  Remember how they blitzed WVU in the opening game of the season when everyone was healthy?


Mike: I want no part of the SEC this year. I just can’t get a read on it. A&M looks like a potentially dangerous team, but I’m not sold on their resume. Kentucky is more erratic than St. John’s. Pass.

Nate:  While I think A&M is scary, I’m going double action/reaction here.  A&M picked up the big win at Auburn, while UK fell at home to Tennessee.  I’ll take the Cats +4.5 for a second straight time on the road.

#12 Duke West (22-4) at #11 St. Mary’s (24-2), 9 p.m., ESPN2


Photo: Young Kwak/AP

Line:  SMC -2

Reason to Watch:  Jock Landale is the goods.  Plus, who doesn’t love to root against Duke West?


Mike: Nate’s right. St. Mary’s is the better team this year. Gaels -2. It doesn’t need to be complicated.

Nate:  Like I’m going to take Duke West… Gaels -2.  No analysis necessary, but St. Mary’s is the better team this year.

USC (17-8) at #13 Arizona (19-6), 9:15 p.m., ESPN

Line:  Arizona -5.5

Reason to Watch:  You aren’t going to stop watching hoops now, are you?  Plus, this one is for 1st place in the Pac12, and Walton is on the call to put the cherry on top of this excellent slate.


Mike: Too much agreement here. Cats -5.5. USC is fraudulent.

Nate:  UCLA just went into Tucson and picked up a W.  Arizona isn’t getting swept at home.  Give me Sweaty Sean and the Cats -5.5.



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