Villanova easily topped Seton Hall last night to give us our sixth NCAA cover in seven games. We will try to keep it going today with a few favorites out of a giant slate of options. You have big games in the AAC with conference leader and 11-0 Cincinnati travelling to a tough SMU team, and Memphis taking on Gonzaga in a rare February inter-conference matchup between ranked opponents. There are big games in the ACC with North Carolina visiting Notre Dame and trying to keep their precarious tournament position intact, and Florida State going to Maryland in a near elimination game as the loser will fall well out of the current tourney picture. Of course there are Big game in the Big Ten and Big 12; Michigan goes to Iowa and Indiana visits Minnesota in a huge bubble matchup, Kansas State hosts Texas and Baylor goes to Oklahoma.
There are BIG games all over the place, so let’s dig in to today’s free picks.
Today’s Free Picks:
Nebraska Cornhuskers at Northwestern Wildcats -2
If you asked the casual fan, ‘who’s been the best team in the Big Ten the last three weeks’ it is unlikely they’d guess “Northwestern.” But that is exactly the kind of miraculous team growth Chris Collins is engineering in Chicago. The Wildcats have won four of their last five including road wins over Indiana, Wisconsin and Minnesota. They have pulled to above .500 overall (12-11) and .500 in the toughest conference in America. They’ve beaten three Top 50 teams on the road in the last fourteen days, and now they get to come home and host a team that is 0-7 on the road this year… and they are only laying two points??
Give me the Wildcats gleefully in this one. I took shots at them earlier this season when they were routinely losing games by 25 points. But Chris Collins deserves to be Big Ten Coach of the Year for this turnaround. Could Northwestern actually make the NCAA Tourney for the first time ever??? Let’s not get too carried away just yet, but for now, give me NW iin my favorite play of the day.
UCLA Bruins -8.5 at USC Trojans
This is my favorite game of the day for totally non-basketball reasons. New USC coach Andy Enfield made waves earlier this season with a published interview in which he took shots at UCLA coach Steve Alford, referencing his “one Sweet 16 in 17 years” against Enfield’s “one in two years.”
UCLA responded with silent fury, hanging a “how sweet is THAT” 107-73 win on USC earlier this season. Alford played it straight, but if it were me, I’d have called all my timeouts in the last minute and let things simmer and stew. Perhaps that is why I write instead of coach…. Either way, don’t think for a second this game doesn’t have a little extra juice for the Bruins and their coach.
I like UCLA to hammer them once again. USC has been decent at home (8-3) but is a dismal 1-8 in Pac 12 play with six of their losses coming by more than 12 points and five of them by more than 17. UCLA is probably the second most-talented team in the Pac 12, and they’ll once again be WAY to much for SC to handle.