College Basketball Picks for February 20th

Saturday was a tumultuous day for the Top 10 teams in college basketball, with three teams getting knocked off; all three to unranked opponents no less.

Pittsburgh became the fourth ranked casualty of the St. John’s Red Storm on a spinning layup with 1.2 seconds remaining, falling 60-59 to Steve Lavin’s crew. The win all but locks up a spot in the Tourney for St. John’s. Two weeks ago we were talking “bubble” for the Red Storm. Adding in yesterday’s win to their already impressive resume, and St. John’s could be looking at anywhere as high as a #3 or #4 seed. They now own wins over Pitt, Notre Dame, Georgetown and Connecticut.

Also in the Big East, Notre Dame (#7), went to West Virginia and got thoroughly outplayed by the Mountaineers. Much like St. John’s, West Virginia’s status as an NCAA Tournament team likely got solidified Saturday with the win.

The day’s biggest surprise (though close calls by Villanova at DePaul and Baylor’s loss to Texas Tech were interesting) had to be Texas, who was poised to move to #1 in tomorrow’s new rankings, getting beat by Nebraska. The Cornhuskers were all but forgotten, but suddenly leap back into the Tourney picture at 18-8, and 6-6 in the very competitive Big Twelve.

With just two weeks to go in the regular season, there are still about twenty spots in the Dance to be jostled for by 35-40 teams. It’s going to be an amazing month for college hoops fans, so be sure to check back for daily analysis and winners.

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Today’s Free College Basketball Picks:

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets @ Duke Blue Devils -20

To say this season has been a disappointment for Georgia tech fans is probably an understatement. At 11-14, and just 3-8 in ACC play, this year’s squad is about as bad as Georgia Tech has been in a long time. Of course, pulling of the upset of the season in the ACC today in Cameron Indoor could certainly soften the sting of the sting-less Yellow Jacket season.

Um, yeah… probably not going to happen. Duke has just two blemishes on the season, and both have been to likely tournament teams away from the friendly confines of the Cameron Crazies. Aside from last week’s epic duel with Carolina, you’d have to go back to November 22nd’s Marquette game to find a single-digit win for the Blue Devils at home. They have been even more dominant in ACC play at home, winning by an average margin of right around 16 a game.

As good as Duke has been at home, Georgia Tech has been almost as bad. Not only are the losing games, they are getting embarrassed. Some of the road lowlights include; 102-77 loss to Virginia Tech, by 25 at Clemson, by 11 at Boston College, by 20 at Northwestern, and by 17at Kennesaw State. Yes, you are forgiven if you had to google “Kennesaw State” to find out where it is – but suffice it to say the Tech players remember.

The point is a really bad team is travelling to play a really good team with a chance to move to #1 (and no worse than #2) in the polls tomorrow with an impressive showing. Georgia Tech has no answer in the backcourt for Nolan Smith’s ability to create, the four (and sometimes five) shooters Duke can put on the floor at all times, and the size and athleticism of Singler and the Plumlee brothers. This one could get ugly real early and stay that way all night. I like Duke, even laying the 20 points.

PICK: Duke Blue Devils -20 @ Bookmaker.com

UCLA Bruins -1 @ California Golden Bears

This season has been largely a wash for Cal after beginning with reasonably high aspirations. On the bright side, they did establish a new mark for offensive futility when they managed just five points in the first half of a game in the Old Spice Classic.

UCLA has been playing pretty good ball of late, winning six games in a row, including a win over St. John’s that looks better and better every day. Their last loss was to Arizona, in a game that likely clinched the Pac-10 regular season title for the Wildcats. However, it is by no means a bad loss. In fact, UCLA has won 12 of their last 13 overall.

UCLA has played fairly well on the road in Pac-10 play at 4-2 on the season, but they have been tested severely in nearly every game. They escaped Stanford with a four point win. Arizona State was even more narrow, winning by one. Even their pair of games in Oregon with the Ducks and Beavers were settled by single digits. UCLA is better than Cal tonight, but as we’ve seen over and over in conference play this season, winning on the road in league play is tough.

Cal is stuck in the spiral of a disastrous four game losing streak that began with their heartbreaking double-overtime 107-105 loss to conference leader Arizona. They were clearly emotionally spent when they headed to Washington and got absolutely pounded, 109-77. If you are scoring at home, that’s an average of 108 points allowed. Not good.

Their slide continued with their two most recent defeats, by 4 and 3 points respectively, to Washington State and USC.

There is a lot of pride on the line tonight. A win over hated rival UCLA would take some of the stinging edge off of a disappointing season. However ,the opposite momentum is simply too much to bet against. One team is on a tear, getting better every week and playing their best basketball of the season. The other team has lost all hope of postseason play over the last two week four-game losing streak. The Bears are playing for pride. The Bruins are playing for pride AND a trip to the NCAA’s. Advantage Bruins. I like UCLA on the road, minus the point.

PICK: UCLA Bruins -1 (-110) @ SportsInteraction.com

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Chris Scheeren / Author