I’m Austin Narber, and this is your inaugural 2015 college basketball viewer’s guide.
A shout out to Chris Williams and the gang for having me back to do this for another season of conference hoops. It’s my commitment to you to provide a clear-cut weekend viewing schedule, so that every game worth watching is watched.
It’s my commitment to help you wear out the “Last” button on your remote control as you flip back-and-forth between games. It’s my commitment to equip you with the necessary game notes so you know why you’re watching what you’re watching. Because let’s face it — you could just as happily be outside enjoying this weather.
Finally, it’s my commitment to provide you my game pick. We all like to lay down a little dough on hoops every now and again, right?
Basically, I’m here to help. There are 351 Division-I college basketball teams, and all of them are lacing up each weekend. If it’s on your television, and it’s a good one, I will get you there.
Let’s take a look at the docket for this weekend.
Saturday Morning Block: 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM
A Good One: Purdue vs. (11) Maryland | 1:30 PM, BTN
Since New Year’s Eve, Purdue has knocked off Minnesota and Michigan and gave Wisconsin fits at the Kohl Center before losing by seven. Maryland looked awful at Illinois on Wednesday night. The Boilermakers have two gargantuan seven-footers who account for 57 percent of the team’s shots when they’re on the floor.
Pick: Maryland by 2.
A Better One: Indiana vs. (22) Ohio State | 11:00 AM, ESPN
DeAngelo Russell scored 25 points in the first half Tuesday night at Minnesota, and Ohio State has won two straight since dropping their conference opener to Iowa. This is one of Thad Matta’s less impressive defensive units though, and Indiana likes to run and gun led by junior PG Yogi Ferrell.
Pick: Ohio State by 1.
The Best One: (18) North Carolina vs. (5) Louisville | 1:00 PM, ESPN
If you hate defense, pick a different game. Louisville and North Carolina, respectfully, are second and third in the ACC (11th and fifth nationally) in adjusted defensive efficiency, and it stems particularly from the backcourt. Terry Rozier and Marcus Paige are two of the best on-ball defenders in the game. And Montrezl Harrell is my favorite.
Pick: Louisville by 1.
Saturday Afternoon Block: 2:00 PM – 6:00 PM
A Good One: Mississippi vs. South Carolina | 4:00 PM, FSN
Mississippi is led by junior guard Stefan Moody, who went absolutely bonkers in the Rebels’ overtime loss to Kentucky, pouring in 25 points while 5-of-7 from 3-point range. But as we know all too well, South Carolina can lock down and spread you thin defensively.
Pick: South Carolina by 2.
A Better One: Oklahoma State vs. (10) Texas | 4:00 PM, ESPNU
Texas is looking to rebound after following up a nondescript 70-61 win over Texas Tech by getting throttled in their own building by Oklahoma (with Isaiah Taylor back in the lineup). Le’Bryan Nash vs. Jonathan Holmes is as sexy a frontcourt matchup as you’ll find in the Big 12 this season.
Pick: Oklahoma State by 3.
The Best One: (13) Notre Dame vs. (3) Virginia | 5:00 PM, ESPN2
Notre Dame might have the most unstoppable offense in college basketball these days, but Tony Bennett’s teams will absolutely wear you out. These two teams are a combined 29-1, well coached and phenomenal to watch in the half court. Personally, my favorite matchup of the weekend.Pick: Virginia by 3.
Saturday Evening Block: 6:00 PM – 10:00 PM
A Good One: UC Davis vs. Long Beach State | 10:00 PM, ESPN2
No, I’m serious. This one starts at 10:00 and we aren’t making it all the way through anyway. UC Davis can pour it in from deep, and Corey Hawkins is one of the most underrated guards in country. This is also a paltry Long Beach State team who beat Xavier earlier this season, so that’s weird.
Pick: Long Beach State by 1.
A Better One: LSU vs. Georgia | 8:00 PM, ESPN2
LSU is responsible for handing West Virginia its only loss of the season, and they’re led by a couple of frontcourt matchup nightmares in Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey. Will we get the Georgia team who stomped Seton Hall or the one that Mercer took to three overtimes?
Pick: LSU by 4.
The Best One: (14) West Virginia vs. (17) Iowa State | 7:00 PM, ESPN2
I need both of my hands to count the number of guys better suited to flesh out this game preview, so I’ll leave it to them. But turnovers and transition will key this game. The Mountaineers force opponents to 14.7 seconds per possession, tops in the country. Iowa State needs to find its rhythm.
Pick: West Virginia by 3.
Your Sunday Best
1. Loyola Chicago vs. (15) Wichita State | 4:00 PM, ESPNU
Loyola Chicago probably plays in a high school broom closet, but you better believe their fans will be full-throat for Wichita State. There’s no real reason to cry upset except that the Shockers have looked below average in the majority of their games dating back to the Seton Hall win.
Pick: Wichita State by 4
2. North Carolina State vs. (2) Duke | 12:30 PM, CBS
Take away Jahlil Okafor and I don’t really know who Duke is. This is certainly Coach K’s most potent offense of my lifetime, and it might even be his best team in the last decade or so. North Carolina State has been alternating wins and losses since Dec. 12 though, and, well, they lost their last one. Just saying.
Pick: Duke by 7.
3. Oregon State vs. (7) Arizona | 9:00 PM, FS1
The UNLV loss will stick out like a sore thumb come March. Utah looks to be Arizona’s only real threat this season, but don’t forget Oregon State played a peerless Wildcat team to a five-point game in Corvallis last year. They haven’t won a meaningful contest in ages, but Wayne Tinkle has the Beavers playing decent hoops.
Pick: Arizona by 6.