Here we are, the sixth installment of these wildly informative predictions and prognostications of the games to come in college basketball. It’s a big weekend in sports, despite Tiger Woods’ best efforts to steal the spotlight from the KSR picks. I will say this about the Tiger situation…I don’t know when or if he’s coming back to play golf, but if the PGA doesn’t arrange for him to play the season out as a masked man under an assumed name (ala the Blue Blazer), they’re really missing out on an opportunity.
Last week was fairly successful for the crew, as no one was below .500 and I tied for the best record, which must have been some kind of mistake. BTI holds a slim one-game lead over Intern, Barker and Beisner, with the rest of the pack back somewhat but still within striking distance, especially since I plan to start cheating soon.
I can see it in your eyes. There’s nothing left to say. You want the picks, and here they are:
Illinois at #4 Purdue, 4 p.m., ESPN
Illinois has established itself as one of the not crappy teams in the Big Ten, but still lacks a true big-time win. (Wisconsin doesn’t count.) Beating Purdue on the road would make them an absolute tournament lock if they weren’t already, but beating Purdue on the road is easier said than done. The Boilers have recovered from a midseason swoon to win eight in a row and again look like the Final Four contender they appeared to be when they started the year 14-0. Illinois isn’t a pushover, but Purdue’s current win streak will be nine by the end of business Saturday.
Siena at #13 Butler, 11 a.m., ESPN
We officially take the picks bracket-bustin with what were once thought to be two of the best mid-majors in the country. Now, Butler has moved to NCAA-lock status and Siena is grasping at slim hopes of garnering an at-large bid. A win for the Saints could go a long way to helping those hopes (in addition to making Butler’s 12-year-old coach Brad Stevens take his ball and leave the playground). Of course, they’re not going to get the win, but it would help.
#18 Tennessee at South Carolina, 1:30 p.m.
The Gamecocks have been almost unbeatable at home, but the last time these two got together Tennessee laid the wood in a 79-53 beatdown. Wayne Chism scored 30, Devan Downey only had 26 and South Carolina had no chance. It’s tough to pick against that techno music and even tougher to pick the Vols, but I think I must. Yes, I must.
Florida at Ole Miss, 12 p.m., CBS
Continuing a theme from last week, this is the part where I tell you that Florida isn’t very good. They have two road wins in conference play, over Arkansas and Alabama, and have looked weak recently in losses to Xavier and South Carolina and a narrow win over Auburn. Ole Miss, on the other hand, is in a freefall of its own. Losers of four out of five and losing sight of the NCAA bubble, the Rebels almost got a season-saving win against Vanderbilt Thursday night. They couldn’t pull off that upset, but are more than capable of beating Florida, which they will.
Georgia Tech at Maryland, 2 p.m.
The Terps have continued to play well despite the drubbing they took at the hands of Duke last weekend. Wins over Virginia and NC State have them solidly in the top-half of the ACC and, barring a collapse, solidly in the tournament. Georgia Tech has been trending in a somewhat different direction, as they lost three out of four before their ceremonial pantsing of North Carolina, not that a win over UNC can be considered a step in the right direction. Tech’s problem is generally a lack of production from the perimeter, and since Derrick Favors has been roughly half the player we all heard about, they don’t have enough inside to carry them against a good team. Maryland fits that description and should get the win on its home floor.
#3 Villanova at #21 Pittsburgh, 12 p.m., CBS
A rematch of an epic regional final from last year which sent Villanova to the Final Four. Nova seems to be one of the teams that could make a run at Indianapolis this year, although the home loss to UConn wasn’t a good one. Pittsburgh is a sure tourney team, but have struggled after a hot start to the year that included a win over Syracuse. I don’t think Pitt has enough in the post to exploit Villanova’s size disadvantage, and Nova is too good on the perimeter to lose this one, even on the road. And even if none of that stuff was true, Jamie Dixon is an inexplicable KSR hater and Pitt deserves to be crushed for his transgressions.
Virginia Tech at #6 Duke, 7:45 p.m., Fox Sports
Virginia Tech is the latest second-rate ACC team to ravel to Cameron and, despite a solid record and a ton of athletes, they’ll be the latest to go home with their tails between their legs. Duke isn’t all that good, but no one in the ACC can touch them because they’re all even worse. Yes, it appears things are really lining up for Duke’s annual run to the second-round as a top seed. Look out.
#12 Ohio State at #11 Michigan State, 12 p.m.
Count me among the few that don’t completely trust this year’s Michigan State team. They lack a true big man and, outside of Kalin Lucas, lack real scoring punch outside. Still, they’re impeccably coached and come to play every game. Too bad that may not help them against Evan Turner. He’s on a mission and this is probably the biggest game of the year for Ohio State, who have already knocked off Purdue and Illinois on the road this year. I think Turner goes off and Ohio State scores the mild upset to make the Big Ten race an even bigger mess.
Marquette at Cincinnati, 2 p.m.
Wins over Vandy and Maryland early in the year are pretty much the only victories of note for Cincinnati this year, and those are hardly adequate for hat hanging. Marquette is the hard luck team of the Big East, as they haven’t lost a conference game by more than seven points and could easily be a mortal lock for the NCAAs if three or four bounces had gone their way. Cincinnati desperately needs a win to have any shot, but they won’t get it here. Hopefully Lance Stephenson was Born Ready for the NIT.
#8 West Virginia at UConn, 7 p.m., ESPN
Bob Huggins’ crew is as good as any in the nation but have struggled of late in losing two of their last three. Conversely, I’d like to think the magic is coming back for UConn, who would at least make the committee think about including them if they win out. Winning out isn’t likely by any measure, but the Mountaineers are by far the toughest test of the stretch and beating them makes it more of a possibility. Neither team is terribly deep and both are athletic, making this one a bit of a toss-up. As I always say, when all else fails make a pick based on an arbitrary reason. West Virginia fans are equally as dumb as Mississippi State fans, and thus I hate them just the same. I’ll take UConn.
Per the norm, writer picks and standings after the jump. I even sorted them this week, so stop yelling at me.
|Drew||Purdue||Butler||Tenn||Miss||Ga. Tech||Nova||Duke||Mich. St.||Marquette||WVU|
|Johns||Purdue||Butler||Tenn||Miss||Ga. Tech||Nova||Duke||Mich. St.||Cincy||UConn|