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Okay, bear with me here. I may have started slow, as I enter Saturday 3-6 since I started last week, but Tuesday for me was like an ongoing SportsCenter sequence of “Bad Beats.”
Both Missouri and Arkansas were winners, but Kansas was laying six and a half, and of course, won by six. Maryland was getting three points, and lost by four (They fouled Nebraska, sending them to the free throw line with 0.9 seconds left). As for my Virginia loss, I don’t have an excuse to that but will admit that I will never pick against Tony Bennett and his defense again. I promise.
Let’s pick some Saturday winners!
ALL TIMES ARE EASTERN TIME (ET)
12:00 PM- Virginia Tech (-3.5) at Georgia Tech
My Pick: Virginia Tech -3.5
The Hokies have won six of their last eight, and Wednesday’s loss at Duke was their first road loss in the last four tries. Impressive. Virginia Tech is hot and hungry; Buzz Williams is one of the best coaches in the ACC and his team is looking to secure a second straight tournament berth. Georgia Tech, on the other hand, has too many distractions right now. Between the rumors surrounding coach Josh Pastner with an alleged sexual assault and his assistant coach resigning, the Yellow Jackets have lost eight of their last nine. While some of the earlier losses in the streak were close, Georgia Tech has been outscored by 51 points in its last three games. Give me the Hokies on the road.
12:00 PM- Texas at Oklahoma (-6)
My Pick: Oklahoma -6
What is wrong with the Longhorns? They’ve now lost four of their last five after a home loss to Baylor and now visit their rivals Saturday in Normal. Those rivals, the Sooners, have lost four straight themselves. Rivalries are usually close but when these two teams met a couple weeks back, OU led by nine before collapsing late. Texas held Trae Young to 19 points that game, but the Longhorns have been a different defensive team away from home. Opponents have put up an average of nearly 80 points on Texas in its last four road games, all losses. Oklahoma is in need of a bounce back and will light it up in this one.
2:00 PM- Alabama at Kentucky (-4.5)
My Pick: Alabama +4.5
This is the first time in the Calipari era that the Wildcats have lost four straight and they now find themselves on the tournament bubble. More bad news: Collin Sexton and the Tide come to Lexington on Saturday. The logical choice here is that Kentucky bounces back at home, but besides the firepower that ‘Bama has with John Petty and Sexton on offense, the Tide has also been so good defensively. Alabama ranks first in the SEC in defensive efficiency, and first in the SEC in defending two-pointers, where 58% of Kentucky’s points come from. Even more jaw-dropping, UK’s turnover percentage on offense is a lowly 19.4, meaning Alabama and its second ranking SEC steal percentage could have a big day. I think Kentucky’s talent may win this game, but Alabama should at least keep it close enough to cover.
4:00 PM- Florida (-3.5) at Vanderbilt
My Pick: Florida -3.5
I get that Florida has been struggling lately, but three and a half is still too low for me, especially for a Gators team that does play well on the road. Florida has road wins over Missouri, Texas A&M, Kentucky, and South Carolina in league play. The problem is, they’ve lost to Loyola Chicago, Georgia, Ole Miss, and South Carolina at home. Mike White is still a great coach and the Gators have bounced back well after bad losses, and Tuesday night was a really bad loss at home to UGA. The Gators are far better than a talent-lacking Vanderbilt team (though, help is on the way in 2018), and I expect an inspired road performance from a Florida team that knows it could be in a bad spot with a loss to the Commodores.
4:00 PM- Texas A&M at Arkansas (-3.5)
My Pick: Texas A&M +3.5
The Razorbacks are tough to beat at home. Arkansas only has one loss at home all year and it was all the way back on January 10th against LSU. But the Aggies are playing really good ball. A&M is one of the most talented teams in the country, and we saw that early in the non-conference when the Aggies ranked in the top-10. Texas A&M had won four straight (including a win at Auburn) before running into a red-hot Missouri team early in the week, and the Aggies rank first in the SEC in rebounding, and fourth in the country in defensive efficiency. Texas A&M should be able to slow down Arkansas’ explosive offense on the road and I like them in this one.
4:30 PM- Villanova (-1) at Xavier
My Pick: Villanova -1
This game could be for not only the Big East regular season crown, but also to see who gets a top seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats enter losers of two of their last three, most recently a road loss to Providence on Wednesday night. But after the game, Friars coach Ed Cooley called Villanova, “The best team in the country,” and I might agree with him. Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges are two of the top players in the country, and in a battle of the Big East’s top two offenses, the Wildcats have just a little more firepower and poise. I like a veteran and experienced Villanova team to bounce back and get a huge win at Xavier Saturday.
6:00 PM- West Virginia at Kansas (-4)
My Pick: Kansas -4
Kansas has lost two games at Allen Fieldhouse in Big 12 play, which is very uncharacteristic of the Jayhawks, but Bill Self’s club has faced a lot of adversity throughout the season and has overcome it. Saturday against West Virginia marks an important point in KU’s season, and I can’t see the Jayhawks wasting it. Allen Fieldhouse will be rocking, it’s a College Game Day game, and it will be really tough for a Mountaineers team that is just 3-3 on the road in the Big 12, and has been a different team away from home as of late. Kansas makes 36% of their points from threes, while WVU is ranked seventh in the conference defending the arc, and KU takes care of the ball the best in the league, which will bode well against Bob Huggins’ press. Rock Chalk.
8:15 PM- North Carolina at Louisville (-1)
My Pick: Louisville -1
The magnitude of this game for Louisville is huge. After dropping four straight (before wins over Georgia Tech and Pitt this week), the Cardinals find themselves in an uncomfortable position in the tournament picture and still have work to do. The crowd will be loud, and with the National Champs coming to town, this is David Padgett and his club’s chance to get that Quadrant one win that they so desperately covet. The Tar Heels have won four straight and this will be a close game but Louisville is a really good interior team, where UNC lacks size (we saw that in the first half against Duke). Give me the Cards.
10:15 PM- Oregon at UCLA (-4)
My Pick: Oregon +4
It’s been a down year for Dana Altman and the Ducks after making it to the Final Four in 2017, but Oregon has still been good away from home and is trying to build up a tournament resume. The Ducks lost a heartbreaker, 72-70, against USC on Thursday night but this is a very winnable game at UCLA. The Bruins have won five of six (including beating Arizona and USC), but are a young team and have had their fair share of slip ups. I like Oregon to at least cover and maybe even win this game in Westwood.
Last Time: 2-3