It’s a monster day of college hoops – Championship Saturday, and thanks to some unreal performances yesterday, the major conferences are delivering in big time fashion. All of them still feature their top-seeded team, as well as a very worthy opponent. I think many of us would have preferred Kansas .v Oklahoma III, but West Virginia IS the #1 seed, setting up a 1 vs. 2 matchup in the Big Twelve. Likewise for the ACC, which gives us a third North Carolina vs. Virginia tilt. Both matchups this season were won by the home team by a two possession margin, so look for another thriller tonight on a neutral floor.
The Pac-12 has a Utah vs. Oregon game on tap for a 10pm nightcap, and the Big East championship features top-ranked Villanova and dangerous Seton Hall, fresh off their mild upset of Xavier. Even the Big Ten and SEC have some awesome semifinal action, despite some noticeable upsets along the path. Indiana got dropped in buzzer-beating fashion by a desparate Michigan team, so we lost the top seed in the Big Ten, but there is nothing wrong with a Michigan/Purdue and Michigan State/Maryland afternoon. Likewise in the SEC where Kentucky/Georgia might not be compelling, but Texas A&M who is ROLLING facing off against a desperate LSU team who might be back on the good side of the bubble with a win today.
It’s gonna be another great day. Let’s make it even better with another winner.
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Today’s Free Pick:
There are a lot of pick ‘em and even matchups on the board today. Finding a “value play” is a lot more difficult – you are going to have to get down and simple – who is gonna win. I have my favorite “winner” pick listed first, followed by TWO BONUS PICKS.
West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Kansas Jayhawks -3
I am floored this isn’t 5.5 or 6. Kansas is just better than West Virginia, and frankly, the talent level isn’t even close. Kansas lost earlier this year at Morgantown after their bus was stranded in a snowstorm. That was the loss that knocked Kansas off the top spot in the national polls. That was the start of an awkarrd five game stretch where they lost three of five, including a tough loss at Hilton Colisuem and the bad loss at Oklahoma State.
Since then, the ‘Hawks have ripped off 13 straight wins, including wins over Kentucky, Iowa State, Baylor, and road wins at Texas, Baylor and Oklahoma. They also avenged the loss to West Virginia with an easy ten point home win.
I think they light them up today. This could be a close game, but I’d frankly be really surprised if KU lost. It is a neutral floor, but it will be a pro-Kansas crowd. And just going position by position, there are very few places West Virginia measures up. Kansas has ben taking very good care of the basketball and had no trouble with the Mountaineer pressure last go ‘round. If Mason and company can similarly value the ball today, KU cuts down the nets once again.
Kansas has won their last ten games by an average of 13 points, despite some very good omcpetition and really tough road games. They are 7-3 ATS over that span as well.
I’ll take the Jayhawks with a relatively generous laydown of just three points.
If you want some nice underdog values, here are my two favorites.
Michigan Wolverines vs. Purdue Boilermakers -7
Michigan is getting a pretty healthy pile of points against Purdue today. The Boilermakers looked dominant yesterday, but keep in mind how lousy Illinois was this season. Expect Michigan to compete much more thoroughly. Plus, their season may still very well be on the line and a loss could still confine them to the NIT.
Michigan got smoked in West Lafayette earlier this season and won with some room to spare in Ann Arbor. Look for this one to settle somewhere in the middle – a nice, hard-fought close game.
UConn Huskies -3 vs. Temple Owls
The Owls, who won the regular season AAC crown, and who DIDN’T log sixty minutes of court time in yesterday’s completely bonkers four-overtime thriller epic classic against Cincinnati (which needed a sixty foot banker at the buzzer in triple overtime to extend the game) are three point UNDERDOGS??
That is a TON to rebound from and get up to play just a day later. It’s a tough ask, especially against a pretty good Temple squad. The Owls have won eight of ten and swept the season series in a pair of close games with the Huskies. I get the old adage that it is hard to beat a team three times, but I don’t believe in sheer randomness in picking winners. I like evidence. And there are two big piles in Temple’s favor; fatigue and head-to-head history. Both favor Temple today. I like them to win, but definitely like getting a few points as well.