Weekend College Basketball Primer
It is time to unleash The Madness!
March is just days away. And that means that March Madness is here! The coronavirus pandemic robbed us of the conclusion of conference tournaments, the NCAA Tournament, and all the weirdo, second-tier tournaments last year. So now I feel the pent of gambling energy of two years built up inside of me. And I am ready to unleash the fury during one of the greatest sports betting months on the calendar.
But we aren’t there yet. There is still more preamble to this year’s postseason college basketball story. And this weekend is jam-packed with consequential games that will help set the stage for the coming insanity.
Below is a list of games that I will be interested in this weekend. They may not be the best or most interesting games nationally. But these are games that from either a betting perspective or an NCAA Tournament perspective that I will be tracking closely.
RICHMOND AT ST. LOUIS (7 P.M., FRIDAY, FEB. 26) – ESPN
This is a monster game in the Atlantic 10. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that these are two NCAA Tournament-caliber teams and two of the best 40 or 50 teams in the country. However, both the Spiders and the Bilikens have been crushed by coronavirus breaks this year. St. Louis was knocked out for over a month – from Dec. 23 to Jan. 26 – and they have played only 16 games on the season. Both squads have great nonconference wins – Richmond beat Kentucky and Loyola-Chicago and St. Louis knocked off LSU – but the winner of this game is going to have a massive advantage in the committee’s eyes.
SYRACUSE AT GEORGIA TECH (NOON, SATURDAY, FEB. 27) – ESPN/ACC NET
Over the next several weeks, there are going to be plenty of win-and-in games, meaning that if a team wins, they punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament. This Syracuse-Tech game is more of an elimination game; the winner won’t vault themselves into the tournament, but I don’t see the loser having any chance of making The Big Dance. Syracuse got embarrassed at Duke on Monday and they have been terrible on the road all season long. Georgia Tech is better than its record and one of the most experienced teams in the nation. They have won three straight and this may be the last stand for Josh Pastner and his senior class.
OKLAHOMA STATE AT OKLAHOMA (3 P.M., SATURDAY, FEB. 27) – ABC
It’s Bedlam! This is one of the biggest rivalries in the Big 12, and that alone is worth the price of admission. These two will square off in Norman on Saturday and again on Monday in Stillwater. This is also another opportunity to watch Cade Cunningham, the potential No. 1 overall pick in this summer’s NBA Draft. But I also want to dig in on Oklahoma a bit. They are coming off a stunning loss to Kansas State on Tuesday and they have just one win over an NCAA Tournament-caliber team this month. Was their stellar surge through late April – beating Kansas, Texas and Alabama – just a mirage? Is Brady Manek going to start asserting himself? There are some questions that I want to see answered by this Sooners team.
LOUISVILLE AT DUKE (6 P.M., SATURDAY, FEB. 27) – ESPN/ACC NETWORK
I hate Duke as much as the next guy. And I really, really want to see an NCAA Tournament without them. But there is no denying that they are on a heater. They scored a major win over Virginia last Saturday and then rocked Syracuse on Sunday for a fourth straight victory. This is their final home game of the season, and it comes against a Louisville team that is playing just its third game since a 19-day COVID break and a Cards group that got crushed 99-54 at North Carolina last weekend.
UCLA AT COLORADO (10 P.M., SATURDAY, FEB. 27)
Colorado is a team that has a chance to punch its ticket into The Big Dance this weekend. They take on USC on Thursday and then get UCLA on Saturday, both in Boulder. If the Buffs lose on Thursday, then this really becomes a must-win game for them. UCLA has been running out of steam. They really only have one good win – a 14-point beating of Arizona last Thursday – over the past month. And now they are without their two top big men, Chris Smith and Jalen Hill. I don’t like the direction this Bruins group is pointed, and I will be watching to see if they are in real trouble or if Mick Cronin has things under control.
BOISE STATE AT SAN DIEGO STATE (4 P.M., SATURDAY, FEB. 27) – CBS SPORTS
This is another great game in the Mountain West. These two teams play Thursday night, so this will be the rematch. I think that both of these teams deserve to be in the NCAA Tournament. And, oddly enough, the best-case scenario for both of them might just be to earn a split. San Diego State has dominated this series, winning seven of their last eight against the Broncos. But while the Aztecs have crept back into the Top 25, I have to say that their schedule over the last month has been a joke. Are these guys really as good as their rankings suggest, and is Boise capable of winning a big game on the road?
ST. MARY’S AT BYU (10 P.M., SATURDAY, FEB. 27) – ESPNU
BYU has a tricky weekend ahead. They are currently in second place in the WCC, and they are in a good position to make the NCAA Tournament as an at-large team. However, they have to take on a tricky San Francisco team Thursday and a dangerous St. Mary’s team on Saturday. BYU does get both games in Provo. And they did already beat St. Mary’s by 10 points on the road. But the Gaels are never a pushover. And this game could foreshadow a third meeting in the semifinals of next week’s WCC Tournament.
IOWA AT OHIO STATE (3 P.M., SUNDAY, FEB. 28) – CBS
Who has a tougher week than Iowa? The Hawkeyes have to travel to Ann Arbor on Thursday to take on Michigan before heading to Columbus to tangle with the Buckeyes. Both teams are securely in the NCAA Tournament, so that’s not a concern. But right now all the top teams in the Big Ten are scrambling for seeding, both in the Big Ten Tournament and for the NCAA Tournament. This may not be the last time we see these two tussle, so it will be interesting to see how they both matchup at full strength.
MICHIGAN STATE AT MARYLAND (2 P.M., SUNDAY, FEB. 28) – CBS
I think that this is another potential elimination game. Maryland has played its way onto the bubble with four straight wins, and they are playing their best basketball of the season. They also get this game in College Park, where they have given the Spartans trouble over the years. Michigan State is making a scramble. But how much are they going to have left in the tank after an upset over Illinois on Tuesday and a killer home game against Ohio State on Thursday? This one reeks of a letdown, and the Terps may be lying in wait.
Robert Ferringo has set some lofty standards worldwide for college basketball handicapping. Get $60 worth of premium members’ picks free. No credit card needed, and you will never deal with a salesman. Get daily college basketball picks on Doc’s Sports NCAA hoops predictions page.
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