It’s hard to believe, but today is the final day of college basketball’s regular season. Appropriately, most conferences back-loaded their schedules to give us the gift of an absolutely ridiculous day of college hoops. There are more good games than I can count, so rather than break down one or two games at length, I thought it would be fun to do a quick around-the-horn and give out a bevy of picks around the country.
A word of caution, many of these games are earlier in the day, so I’ll list all games with their tip time in Eastern Standard Time. And of course, we’ll close the column out with the ESPN Gameday featured game, Duke at a suddenly hot Carolina team in Chapel Hill.
It’s going to be a great day, and an incredible start to the four-week frenzy that I March Madness. Enjoy!
Free Picks: Early Games
Noon EST: Florida Gators -5 at Kentucky Wildcats
We’ve been burnt a few times with lingering faith/believe in the Wildcats. After watching them stumble and fumble against Tennessee and Georgia, it is hard to see how even a desperate home crowd can save them against the mighty Gators today. Florida undressed them in their last matchup and had the game WELL in hand long before the Nerlens Noels injury.
The NCAA Tournament is more fun with Kentucky in it, but I think today might seal their fate once and for all.
Free Pick: Florida Gators -5
Noon EST: Syracuse Orange -1 at Georgetown Hoyas
This is how the Big East ends; not with a whimper but with a bang. OK, that might be a jumble of the famous quote, but it applies. A few weeks ago the Hoyas went to the Carrier Dome and had their way with the Orange. I don’t think things will prove as easy today, even at home. I like Syracuse to avenge their early loss with a heroic road effort today. Give me the ‘Cuse with the points, and I’d consider them for the upset special today straight up.
Free Pick: Syracuse Orange -1
1:30 PM EST: La Salle Explorers at St. Louis Billikens -7
La Salle has been a nice story and remains a fringe bubble team. That bubble gets pops in embarrassing fashion today. Look for St. Louis to come out intense after their surprising loss to Xavier. A win today clinches the A-10 title outright. I think they’ll get it convincingly.
Free Pick: St. Louis Billikens -7
2PM EST: UCLA Bruins at Washington Huskies -2
UCLA is talented and playing well. This is a good sleeper Final Four team when they are clicking. I think they’ll handle their business and beat a Washington team they are significantly better than. For all their maligning, UCLA is 22-8 and poised to sneak into a top 4 seed with a strong game today and Pac-12 tourney.
Free Pick: UCLA Bruins +2
2PM EST: Clemson Tigers at Miami Hurricanes -13
Miami has lost three of four and the three wins before that slide (all against non-tourney teams) they only won by an average of 2.7 points per game. It’s been a month since they really imposed their will on a team. That makes 13 points too rich for my blood. Give me the Tigers hanging around.
Free Pick: Clemson Tigers +13
6PM EST: Kansas Jayhawks -4 at Baylor Bears
A disappointing season for Baylor exits with more frustration when KU comes to town tonight. I like the Jayhawks to wrap up yet another Big 12 title and possible a #1 seed with a big road win today.
Free Pick: Kansas Jayhawks -4
Duke Blue Devils at North Carolina Tarheels -2
Much has been made about the triumphant return of Duke’s Brian Kelly and the fact they have not lost a game with him in the lineup this season. However, under the radar, Carolina has won six straight games since going to their smaller lineup with PJ Hairston at the four, and went from “bubble” to “can they get to the Final Four??”
I am not ready to go that far with this team, but I do think they get the emotional win tonight at home and enter the conference tourney as the, gasp, team to beat?? They’d certainly be playing the best basketball in the conference.
Free Pick: North Carolina Tarheels -2