It is arguably the best single day of college hoops we have had all season, so I’ll get right to some breakdowns and to a whole host of picks. As a reminder, many of these top games take place in the afternoon (some as early as noon EST), so be sure to get any picks you are placing in early before tipoff for each game.
I will list each pick, along with its tip-off time in the Eastern time zone.
Good luck today!
Noon EST: UConn Huskies at Pitt Panthers -9.5 (Total: 122)
I have a slight lean to UConn with the points, as they haven’t been non-competitive in any games this season and Pitt has been pretty erratic, however my official play for today is on the OVER 122. UConn has gone OVER in nine of their last twelve Big East games, and eight of ten overall this season. Pitt is OVER in seven of their last eight games overall. The 122 total isn’t particularly high. The total score in this series has been over 122 in every game between these two since February 2008.
Free Pick: UConn/Pitt OVER 122
2PM EST: La Salle Explorers at Xavier Musketeers -1
Those A-10 teams certainly know how to dole out mascots, huh? It might be hard to get psyched for “Explorers v. Muskies” but it is actually a deceptively good game. La Salle is as good as they have been since Lionel Simmons was patrolling the campus (an obscure reference for my fellow hoops-dorks…). In the here and now, both teams are playing good basketball.
Xavier went through a dreadful stretch over the holidays, but is off to a 3-0 start in conference play including a win over Temple. La Salle is also off to a good start at 12-4 (2-1), with nice wins over Dayton and Iona. However, away from home they’ve had some trouble, getting beaten at Charlotte, Miami, and Bucknell, and all by at least eight points.
Xavier is not up to normal Xavier standards, but I do like them to get a good win at home today.
Free Pick: Xavier Musketeers -1
2PM EST: Kansas Jayhawks -8 at Texas Longhorns
It may be a road game and a rivalry, but KU is a TON better than the 8-8 Longhorns. Texas has already lost two conference games by double digits, while Kansas has beaten their conference opponents by an average of 17ppg (and that includes the Iowa State overtime wakeup call). Ben McLemore has emerged as a National POY candidate as a redshirt freshman, and Jeff Withey is anchoring a stoic interior defense. Look for KU to overwhelm the undermanned Longhorns today.
Free Pick: Kansas Jayhawks -8
2:30 EST: Arizona Wildcats -7 at Arizona State Sun Devils
This might be my favorite game of the day. Arizona State is 14-3 with quality wins over Colorado and at Oregon State and their only Pac-12 loss was a 68-65 road loss at Oregon. This is not a terrible basketball team by any stretch and will compete for an NCAA bid in a steadily improved conference. Arizona meanwhile is one of the more overrated teams in the country. Their 15-1 record was built on two late miracles, one terrible call, and a bunch of creampuffs. This team could very easily be 12-4 and unranked. Laying seven on the ROAD against a fierce rival? That seems steep to me. I’m placing my sympathy with the Devils.
Free Pick: Arizona State Sun Devils +7
4PM EST: Creighton Blue Jays at Wichita State Shockers -2.5
It won’t be the game that garners the most national attention, but it might well be the most important game today as two ranked teams and the clear-cut two best teams in the Missouri Valley square off. Wichita State has been better than expected at 16-2, though their two losses to Evansville and Tennessee (both on the road, but still…) leave me a little troubled that this team is not quite on par with Creighton.
The Jays are 17-1, Doug McDermott is the second leading scorer in the nation, and things are simply cruising along in Omaha. Wichita State is a fierce rival, and certainly a tough place to play, but I think Creighton gets the job done. They have played well on the road at Illinois State, Cal and Nebraska – so this won’t be the first legit team they’ve played away from home. Plus you are getting points? I like McDermott, coach and son, to prevail in today’s enormous MVC contest.
Free Pick: Creighton Blue Jays +2.5