Today is an absolutely enormous day in college basketball, packed with huge bubble-impacting games and pivotal conference matchups. So let’s not waste any time and get right to it.
A quick note – several of these games are very early in the day. I generally don’t post early games for fear many of you will not get to the picks in time, but I wanted to include a few bonus picks for the early arrivers. OK, let’s dig in.
Butler Bulldogs at VCU Rams -7.5 ** EARLY GAME (NOON EST)
This game is the glamour matchup in the A-10, as the two most high profile teams (and newest arrivers) go head to head to keep pace with St. Louis for the conference crown. Both have hit their share of bumps in the road lately; both were whooped by St. Louis and Butler lost at home to Charlotte while VCU dropped a game to La Salle. However, both are 6 of 9 and 7 of 10 respectively and have the talent to make a deep run in the tourney.
VCU emplys a frenetic pressure style and is coming off a much-needed week rest. Butler is known to be immune to pressure and frenzy and remarkably efficient. Something has to give this afternoon. I’m going to take the poise of Butler and the huge seven and a half points. I am not sure they win, but it’s hard to see them getting blown out. With the exception of the rough day at St. Louis, they haven’t lost a game by more than four points all season long.
Free Pick: Butler Bulldogs +7.5
Memphis Tigers -7 at UCF Knights ** EARLY GAME (1pm EST)
The Golden Knights have had their share of “biggest games in school history” against Memphis over the last four years, and they’ve all gone nearly identically – massive Tiger blowout wins. I expect the same today. Memphis has ripped through C-USA at 13-0 and has barely been challenged, blowing out Southern miss twice and hammering UCF just a few weeks ago.
Expect Memphis to be angry after blowing a road game at Xavier this week and to take it out on the under-manned Knights. Even on the road, I like Memphis big.
Free Pick: Memphis Tigers -7
Kentucky Wildcats at Arkansas Razorbacks -3.5
This might be the biggest bubble-busting game of the day. I think the loser is done, especially if the loser is the home Razorbacks. With Tennessee emerging, these two are both behind the Vols for NCAA positioning after a loss today. Arkansas is fresh off a disappointing loss to Florida followed by a crippling loss at LSU. They cannot afford a loss today.
However, Kentucky has shown some signs of life the last week. They have rebounded from the Tennessee debacle (their first game without Noel) to win three straight, including a clutch overtime win against Missouri. They pummeled Arkansas 86-63 earlier this season in Lexington, and I know it is on the road against a desperate team today, but I think UK matches up very well with Arkansas.
I’m going to go with the upset and take the surging Cats on the road in Fayetteville.
Free Pick: Kentucky Wildcats +3.5
Arizona Wildcats at UCLA Bruins -1
Tonight’s game could very well settled the Pac-12 champion, and it is going to be a great one. ESPN is making a rare Gameday trip out West for tonight’s 9pm EST showdown at Pauley Pavillion.
I have been high on UCLA all year, and still like them as a sleeper in March, despite the occasional lackluster performance. UCLA has won three straight including a win at resurgent USC and an overtime win at Arizona State. Meanwhile, Arizona is fresh off a double-digit loss to USC and now has to go on the road to stop the bleeding.
I like Shabazz Muhammad to have a big game tonight, and for Larry Drew III to play head-up with Arizona point guard Mark Lyons. That is the biggest matchup key tonight, and I think UCLA will fare better than expected.
The Bruins, despite some bad losses early, are the more talented team. They are playing better than Arizona the last three weeks and they are at home tonight. All that, and you only have to play one point to get them.
Give me the Bruins.
Free Pick: UCLA Bruins -1