I don’t think my plays need any introduction, do they? Here are my picks for Saturday’s slate:
Gonzaga at Saint Mary’s
9:00 pm central, ESPN
Line: Gonzaga -6.0
The Pick: Gonzaga -6.0
While Gonzaga’s elite interior scoring lines up well with Saint Mary’s weak interior defense, the question of Killian Tillie looms large. He was available in Gonzaga’s last game but did not play, so it seems like he will be available against Saint Mary’s but potentially not 100%. Either way I am still feeling good about this Gonzaga play. The Gaels are not a big team and Gonzaga’s Petrusev and Timme can shoulder the load if Tillie is indeed out or limited in this game. Saint Mary’s opponents this year have tallied 57.3% of their points from inside the arc this year which ranks 18th highest in the nation, and that’s where Gonzaga does most of its scoring. Even if Saint Mary’s decides to shrink the floor, the Bulldogs still boast the tenth best three-point shooting percentage in the nation. This may be Gonzaga’s toughest test for the rest of the season but I still expect them to cover here in a fantastic game.
Michigan State at Michigan
11:00 am central, FOX
Line: Michigan State +3.0
The Pick: Michigan State +3.0
This is quite a tough call. I can’t picture Michigan State losing three straight games but it’s also tough to see Michigan losing four straight home games. In the nine games where Michigan shot below 55% from inside-the-arc, they have lost eight of them and MSU has limited opponents to 43.2% from two this season. I understand that it’s a small sample size but that is a trend I trust and I trust that Michigan State is due for a bounce back game. The Wolverines have allowed a lot of points from down low this season and I trust Michigan State’s interior scoring and Xavier Tillman has got to be due for some positive regression…right? I hope Sparty can show up on the road here, and take it down, sending Michigan into a further tail spin.
Seton Hall at Villanova
1:30 pm central, FOX
Line: Villanova -3.5
The Pick: Seton Hall +3.5
The Big East has been more like the Wild Wild East but I feel pretty good about this Seton Hall matchup. Not only have the Pirates won 11 of their last 12 games, but their perimeter defense is elite and they usually allow a majority of points scored on them from inside. Luckily, Villanova is crazy dependent on the three-ball and they appear to be struggling of late, dropping each of their last two games. The Pirates have proven that they can play on the road and that they are the team to beat in the Big East. I see them winning in this one and covering along the way.
Purdue at Indiana
1:00 pm central, ESPN
Line: Indiana -1.0
The Pick: Indiana -1.0 (POD)
Indiana: the fifth best team at home. Purdue: the worst team on the road. Need I say more? Not really but I will anyway. Each road game following a home game this year for Purdue they have lost, and that’s including at Nebraska. Indiana has had the entire week off while Purdue had to play Wednesday and (ideally) used up all their offensive efficiency in their 104 point effort against the Hawkeyes. The Hoosiers have beaten Michigan State, Ohio State and Florida State all at home this season. I expect them to do the same against Purdue.
LSU at Auburn
11:00 pm central, ESPN
Line: Auburn -5.5
The Pick: LSU +5.5
Sooooo how exactly did LSU lose it’s first SEC game to Vanderbilt? Honestly, I have zero idea. But after a team has a terrible loss, you should always run it back with them, right? Auburn showed its toughness in taking down Kentucky but they also shot a whopping 44 free throws! Against LSU, they won’t have as much luck. The purple and gold Tigers allow just a 24.0 FTR which ranks 25th in the nation. Most of LSU’s points allowed have come from beyond the arc, explaining why they allowed 99 points against Vanderbilt, but Auburn has scored primarily from inside the arc this season. I fully see everyone on board the Auburn hype train for this game but I am fading that and taking LSU to cover.
Texas Tech at Texas
3:00 pm central, ESPN2
Line: Texas -3.0
The Pick: Texas Tech +3.0
Texas shoots a lot of three’s and doesn’t really dribble drive or draw a lot of fouls which benefits Texas Tech who usually allows a lot of their points from inside. The Longhorns stock has been trending pretty aggressively down, failing to beat any top-75 team in conference yet. Meanwhile, the Red Raiders seem to be on the rise after beating West Virginia and losing to Kansas by just three in Phog Allen. I think Texas Tech takes it here and Shaka Smart’s hot seat gets hotter.
Kentucky at Tennessee
12:00 pm central, CBS
Line: Kentucky -2.5
The Pick: Kentucky -2.5
Kentucky is clearly the play here but I am having a surprisingly hard time quantifying it. Tennessee has been an underratedly bad team this year, with their best win being against VCU way back in November. Since then their only top-50 win is against Alabama by one. Their interior defense is pretty solid but Kentucky draws a lot of fouls and the Volunteers are susceptible to hacking away down low. I guess you can argue that the Wildcats are underratedly bad as well but anytime Tennessee has faced a top-40 team this year they have crumpled. And seem to play worse on their home court. I’ll take Kentucky for this one please.
Virginia at Louisville
3:00 pm central, ESPN
Line: Louisville -7.0
The Pick: Louisville -7.0
Man, Louisville is a weird team, it’s like the worse the team they play, the worse they play and then they realize in the second half they need to show up. With that being said, the Red Birds are on a nine game win-streak and Virginia on the road this season has been pretty dreadful. The Cavaliers defense is stout, obviously, but opponents have scored 38.8% of their points from beyond-the-arc this season and Louisville has some sharpshooters while shooting a 40.3% clip from three this year. Louisville’s defense is pretty underrated this season and lining up against the terrible Virginia offense, I expect the Cardinals to cruise here.
- Duke (-8.5) at North Carolina: North Carolina +8.5
- Stanford at Colorado (-9.5): Stanford +9.5
- Oklahoma State at Baylor (-13.5): Oklahoma State +13.5
- West Virginia (-3.0) at Oklahoma: Oklahoma +3.0
- Oregon (-3.5) at Oregon State: Oregon State +3.5
- UCLA at Arizona (-12.0): Arizona -12.0
- Minnesota at Penn State (-6.0): Penn State -6.0
Last Time: 5-5
Season Total: 160-123-4*
*While I do not publish all my plays, you can follow each of my picks by following me on the Action Sports Network app @RcCola3