Welcome to Selection Sunday, one of the best and most exciting days of the year for true college hoops fans. Although the massive influx of “Bracketologist” and mock brackets have taken away some of the suspense, there is still not many non-sporting event sporting events quite as exciting as the unveiling of the Field of 68.
The Big Twelve, ACC, Big East and Pac 12 all crowned their champions last night and the dominating wins by Villanova and Arizona make for compelling final resume entries. Villanova is a near-lock for a #1 seed, while Arizona could sneak into the #1 out West, especially if Wisconsin is upset by Michigan State today. Meanwhile, don’t be surprised if Notre Dame and even Iowa State sneak onto the #2 line after their conference titles. Iowa State is an easy replacement for Kansas in a #2/#3 seed line swap, while it feels possible that Notre Dame’s trio of quality wins this weekend including a second win over Duke could leap them past Gonzaga into the final #2.
Four more major conferences crown their champs today before the Bracket is unveiled, so let’s dive in to today’s free picks.
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Today’s Free Picks:
Michigan State Spartans vs. Wisconsin Badgers -7
Maryland collapsed in the second half yesterday to allow MSU to come back to win (though if you had MD at the final -4.5, you stole a garbage cover). I don’t think Wisconsin will show any similar vulnerabilities. The Badgers look like the second best team in the country right now. They are big, precise, disciplined, tough defensively – just an all around fantastic team. They’ve lost two games all year with Kaminski in the lineup (that Rutgers loss without Frank the Tank was a fluke).
Wisconsin has won nine of ten with the only loss at Maryland, but they are just 5-5 ATS over that stretch. Meanwhile, Michigan State has closed with typical Izzo-coached team vengeance, winning eight of ten of covering seven of those wins. They played Wisconsin tough on the road, losing 68-61, so it is reasonable to think they’ll give a good effort today on a neutral floor.
I like Wisconsin to win, but there is something dangerous about counting a MSU team out. I’ll take the points, as seven is a pretty big cushion. Again, Michigan State is 7-3 ATS in their last ten Big Ten games and a stunning 8-0 ATS in their last eight games against Wisconsin. I am always reluctant to look too much at past seasons with college teams, as each year is a different roster, but a streak that long tells me Izzo has a good plan to execute against Bo Ryan and the different style Wisconsin employs. Look for a good game today in Chicago.
BONUS PICK: Arkansas Razorbacks vs. Kentucky Wildcats -13
The Cats are rolling and their ain’t no stopping them now. A few weeks ago I heard the “Arkansas can challenge them” storyline. Kentucky sent them packing with a 17-point loss that wasn’t even that close. Yes, that game was in Rupp, but I think these teams could play anywhere and the result would be similar. Arkansas just isn’t good enough to beat Kentucky if they are focused. An SEC Championship and a perfect regular season should do the trick to sharpen the Wildcats’ senses.
Look for a blowout where the only question is if Arkansas can backdoor cover. I’m banking that Kentucky’s depth prevents that from happening. Gimme the Cats laying the baker’s dozen.