There are three things I look for in a good weekend of college basketball: the hype surrounding Iowa State’s game, the strength of the Big 12 matchups and games that pit two ranked teams against each other.
Fortunately for us, folks, we’ve hit the trifecta.
Maybe you’ve heard, but College GameDay is in town. I heard something about it being their first ever trip to Ames, and evidently there’s a game against Kansas — I don’t know. And not only is Iowa State-Kansas the national headliner this weekend, it’s just one of a handful of solid Big 12 contests, including Bedlam in Norman.
But the national slate really is as strong as ever for your Saturday and Sunday, so kick back and enjoy.
I split my time each week between here and SB Nation, and during football season we do something over at Wide Right and Natty Light called the “Beer Pick of the Week.” If you’re interested, my recommendation this weekend is Dale’s Pale Ale from Oskar Blues Brewery in Lyons, Colorado. An easy, delicious (and affordable) canned APA that’s going on just its second week on Iowa shelves.
Saturday Morning Block: 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM
A Good One: Georgia vs. Florida | 1:00 PM, CBS
Florida is on a three-game tear after finishing their non-conference slate with two losses. But the SEC competition hasn’t exactly been stiff thus far. Georgia is 1-2 in conference play and could really just as easily be 3-0. Both teams play tremendous defense, and the Bulldogs can beat you at the line.
Pick: Georgia by 3.
A Better One: Iowa vs. Ohio State | 1:00 PM, ESPN
Iowa and Ohio State tipped off conference play against one another in Columbus back on Dec. 30, and neither has done much to impress since. Coincidentally, both teams have beaten Minnesota by two at The Barn. I don’t see any way this turns out pretty, but it’s Iowa and it’s noon, so just watch.
Pick: Ohio State by 2.
The Best One: (6) Louisville vs. (4) Duke | 11:00 AM, ESPN
Given Louisville’s perennial Top 10 ranking and the nature of its ACC schedule, you’ll probably find them in this viewer’s guide all season long. As we’ve all certainly heard by now, Coach K’s run to 1,000 career wins has come to a screeching halt for two straight games now. Montrezl Harrell & Co. will try to make it three.
Pick: Duke by 3.
Saturday Afternoon Block: 2:00 PM – 6:00 PM
A Good One: (14) Maryland vs. Michigan State | 3:00 PM, CBS
The last time Maryland beat someone good, convincingly, it might have been Iowa State (maybe Oklahoma State, if you twist my arm). But 16-2 still looks sexy. Another great defensive bout here. Dez Wells and Travis Trice is an outstanding point guard matchup. Sparty is 3-3 in its last six Big 10 road games.
Pick: Maryland by 4.
A Better One: (20) Texas vs. (16) West Virginia | 5:15 PM, ESPN
Finally, we get a break from West Virginia’s horrible home crowd antics. The Mountaineers hit the bricks to Austin this weekend, as the Longhorns basically careen off the face of the earth. Most important game note here: “Press Virginia” is first nationally is forcing turnovers. Texas is 262nd in giving it away.
Pick: West Virginia by 3.
The Best One: (10) Arizona vs. (8) Utah | 6:00 PM, Pac 12 Network
This is the single best Pac-12 matchup I can recall in years. Don’t look now, but Utah is up to fifth in the latest KenPom rankings, and Delon Wright is well on his way to a First Team All-American selection. Yet again, defensively, this is probably as good as it gets. Arizona hasn’t lost at home since Feb. 10, 2013.
Pick: Arizona by 7.
Saturday Evening Block: 6:00 PM – 10:00 PM
A Good One: St. Mary’s vs. BYU | 10:00 PM, ESPN2
You’re certainly not getting the St. Mary’s and BYU teams of old, but this is still worth a watch. The Cougars still boast once of the most prolific offensive schemes in the country and they’re undefeated in their last seven true road games dating back to last year. That’s big. The Gaels are 6-0 in WCC play.
Pick: BYU by 2.
A Better One: (18) Oklahoma vs. (24) Oklahoma State | 6:00 PM, ESPN2
Bedlam basketball is consistently great. Oklahoma looked to be the odds-on Big 12 favorite for a while this season, but it might actually be their in-state foes who are jelling slightly better these days, despite losses to Iowa State and Kansas. You get the feeling Lon Kruger desperately needs this game.
Pick: Oklahoma by 6.
The Best One: (11) Iowa State vs. (9) Kansas | 8:00 PM, ESPN
As I said last week, there are a plethora of Iowa State game previews available on the Internet, and you won’t find an in-depth one in this article. A stat that I will continue vomit until it becomes irrelevant: the Cyclones are 21-1 in their last 22 home games following a loss. Does Lee Corso put on a mascot head for this or…?
Pick: Iowa State by 4.
Your Sunday Best
1. Illinois vs. Indiana | 12:00 PM, BTN
I don’t typically encourage Big 10 basketball on the Lord’s Day, but truthfully it’s slim pickings. Collectively, Illinois and Indiana have knocked off Baylor, Maryland, SMU, Pittsburgh, Butler and Ohio State this season. The Illini are without Rayvonte Rice, and the Hoosiers are missing Hanner Mosquera-Perea.
Pick: Illinois by 5.
2. Washington vs. Oregon | 7:30 PM, ESPNU
Just as spectacularly as Washington broke into the AP Top 10 this season, they imploded. Neither team here is that good, and the Huskies’ win over Oklahoma is puzzling as all hell. The trend of good point guard matchups this weekend continues, as Nigel Williams-Goss squares off against Oregon’s Joseph Young.
Pick: Washington by 6.
3. New Mexico vs. Boise State | 5:00 PM, CBS Sports
I fell asleep before I got to see Boise State send Rashad Vaughn and UNLV to a fourth loss in five games earlier this week, but staying awake for a 5:00 PM tip from The Pit won’t be difficult. The Broncos can shoot, but this Lobo team will suffocate you behind the arc. Key game note: Boise State has a guy named Montego Alford. Before you ask: probably not.
Pick: New Mexico by 4.