College Basketball Picks and Predictions for February 14th

Two bubble teams get a golden opportunity to solidify their status tonight if they can pull off big upset victories.  For West Virginia, tonight is by no means a do or die game.  With their quality of schedule and several Top 25 wins, they are in favorable shape if the Selection Committee were slotting the field today.  However, a big win at the Carrier Dome tonight over Syracuse would all but sure up their tourney inclusion.

It’s a different story tonight for the Kansas State Wildcats when they host likely #1, and fierce in-state rival Kansas tonight in Manhattan.  It’s not an enormous surprise that one of these teams would be ranked number one in the nation when they met up; but many would have expected it would be K-State in the driver’s seat rather than the Jayhawks.

Alas, it is do-or-die time for the disappointing Wildcats.  After this weekend’s 2-point loss to bubble-mate Colorado, they fell to 16-9, and just 5-5 in conference.  Their strong schedule  affords them a little latitude; it’s safe to assume they have used nearly all of it.  However, an upset win over the #1 Jayhawks (a la two years ago with Michael Beasley and Co.) would, at least for the moment, save the season and make the nightmare of the NIT seem a little less eminent.
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Today’s Free College Basketball Picks:

Kansas Jayhawks -4.5 @ Kansas State Wildcats

Yes, I realize we waxed poetic about Kansas State’s season being on the line, and the fierceness and importance of the rivalry, and the backs-to-the wall aspect, etc, etc… However, if you dig into the numbers, it is hard to not really like Kansas’s chances to come in and silence the feverish home crowd.

Kansas has suffered only one defeat on the season, that being the 69-game home winning streak stopping performance by what MAY be the best team in the country, Texas.  Aside from that, no one in conference, or the entire country for that matter, has been able to trip them up.  Kansas has had a few highly publicized close calls; USC in Josh Selby’s first game, and against an UCLA team that turned out to be far better than we thought at the time; but those few incidents belie a larger story.  Kansas has been dominant, posting a +/- point differential of nearly 20 points per game.

Let’s also not forget the absolute pasting the Jayhawks laid on ‘em nearly a month ago, winning 90-66 in Lawrence.  Does Frank Martin’s Wildcat team have the true resolve to suck it up and grab a season-saving gut-check win?  It’s their only hope of competing in this game, and I don’t quite think they have it.

Give me the Jayhawks on the road laying the 4.5.

PICK:  Kansas Jayhawks -4.5 @ Visit SportsPicksKing.com to get access to the world’s best sports betting system (ncaab included!)

West Virginia Mountaineers @ Syracuse Orangemen -5

Things were looking fantastic for Jimmy Boeheim and the Orange about four weeks ago.  They were unbeaten, ranked #2 in the country, and looking much more like last year’s #1-seed ballclub than the bubble straddling teams of three and four years ago.

Then, the bottom fell out.  The ‘Cuse dropped four straight conference games, including losses to Marquette and Seton Hall.  Two weeks ago, they went into the then #6 ranked UConn Huskies home gym and abruptly snapped their losing ways with what appeared to be a potentially season-defining win.  They followed that up with the requisite win over South Florida – and then got right back to their losing ways, dropping back to back games to Georgetown and Louisville.

The funny thing about the Big East is that it is easy to have a big fistful of justifiable losses.  However, at some point you have to beat someone if you want to be considered “someone.”  Thus far, the Orange’s lofty billing has been a little unsubstantiated.   Of Syracuse’s seven Big East wins, three are against dreadful teams, and another two are St. John’s and Cincinnati – two bubble teams at best.

West Virginia’s resume doesn’t read to much differently.  Two wins over DePaul, win over Seton Hall, Cincinnati and USF, and Voila! a 7-5 conference record.   Neither team comes in playing particularly well, which at first makes this game a little tricky to handicap.

The thing worth noting here in this matchup is the complete dominance Syracuse has enjoyed.  They have won 9 of 10, dating back to the 2003 season.  I generally don’t give much precendence to wins more than two or three years old, due to the constant flux of college rosters; however in this regard it is important to note because of the uniqueness of the Syracuse system, in particular their trademark matchup zone.  It makes sense it would perplex a Bobby Huggins-coached team.  His teams are generally athletic, aggressive and solid defensively, but poor shooting the basketball and generally struggle in a halfcourt set.  That would make certain teams very troublesome matchups. Teams like… you guessed it, Syracuse, which explains the 9 of 10 head-to-head advantage.

Neither team is quite as dominant as their rankings might suggest, and are pretty evenly matched.  I think Syracuse has better playmakers, much better ballhandlers, and some great history on their side.  Take the ‘Cuse laying the five to get a typically gritty Big East win on their home turf.

PICK:  Syracuse Orangemen -5 @ Visit SportsPicksKing.com to get access to the world’s best sports betting system (ncaab included!)

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Chris Scheeren / Author