It is an absolutely enormous day of college basketball, and I’m pumped to be back on the beat. The Big Twelve/SEC Challenge has injected an already solid Saturday of action with a half-dozen must-see games highlighted by Kentucky @ Kansas and Iowa State @ Texas A&M. But don’t sleep on the matchup of the top two players in college basketball matching up when Buddy Hield (affectionately known as “Buddy Love”) and the #1 Oklahoma Sooners entertain LSU and freshman wunderkind Ben Simmons.
And, though it will go largely unnoticed, the most IMPORTANT games of the challenge may very well be West Virginia at Florida and Texas and Vanderbilt in what feels like a de facto tournament elimination game for two bubble-clinging hopefuls.
Add in the dynamite Virginia @ Louisville tilt, Memphis at SMU, Seton Hall @ Creighton and Providence Georgetown in a pair of pivotal BEast games, Washington @ USC and the whole host of Pac-12 action, and you have makings of twelve straight hours of solid college hoops.
Let’s make a great day even better by starting a fresh new winning streak and stacking up some winners.
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Today’s Free Pick:
Kentucky Wildcats at Kansas Jayhawks -5
Don’t look now, but the Jayhawks are really reeling. Despite a solid ranking and good overall record, the Jayhawks are just 4-3 in conference play and have failed to cover three straight games and five of their last six.
Meanwhile, the Wildcats, who seem to have been left for dead with their floundering supposed Lottery Pick, Skal Labassiere, have actually started to put it together since the LSU loss three weeks ago. They have covered five of their last six games and have won their last three games by an average of 19.7 points including a nice road win at Arkansas and a home destruction of Vanderbilt. Kentucky seems to be coming together, and with the awesome collection of talent they have led by super-smooth shooting guard Jamal Murray and the brilliant floor orchestration of Tyler Ulis, and that could mean trouble for a lot of teams in March.
Kansas is just 2-3 straight up in their last five games, and has gotten straight-up blasted in a few of them, including a 19 point loss at Oklahoma State and at 13 point loss at Iowa State. Now, their last three losses have come on the road and they enter today with an impressive 37-game home winning streak in tow, so a reversal of fortune is possible.
But overall, I just like the way Kentucky has been playing much more than Kansas. Even Kansas’s recent home wins; by 9 over Texas, 6 over Texas Tech, triple OT over Oklahoma, have all been tentative. In fact, since the blowout of Baylor, this has been a tentative basketball team, unsure where o go on offense and occasionally lost in defensive switches and rotations. I like Kentucky to exploit that with their interior athleticism and uncanny play making ability of their two lead guards.
Kansas may very well win the game, but the last three weeks makes it harder to envision a blowout. I’ll take Big Blue with the points in a simply fantastic mid-season non-conference matchup.