Saturday Morning Block: 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM
A Good One: George Washington vs. (20) VCU | 1:00 PM, ESPN2
It’s been about a year since VCU experienced the kind of slide they’re in now, losers of three of four. But this season, the recent struggles have come without the services of Treveon Graham and Briante Weber. George Washington has also dropped three of four, including the first matchup with VCU in Richmond. These are a couple of unimpressive shooting teams, and the Rams’ unparalleled “havoc” defense (while always entertaining) should make this a “first to 50 wins” kind of tussle.
Pick: VCU by 2.
A Better One: Michigan State vs. (23) Ohio State | 11:00 AM, ESPN
There isn’t a lot riding on this game, which is certainly not something we’re used to with Michigan State and Ohio State in mid-February. The Spartans and Buckeyes are first and second in the Big Ten, respectfully, in defensive efficiency in conference play, so it will be about who can get the most stops. The individual matchups are tremendous here. Travis Trice-Shannon Scott, Denzel Valentine-Sam Thompson and Branden Dawson-Jae’Sean Tate are all head-to-head battles you can expect to see. DeAngelo Russell isn’t exactly boring to watch either.
Pick: Michigan State by 1.
The Best One: (8) Kansas vs. (16) Baylor | 12:00 PM, CBS
As they sometimes do, Baylor Baylor’d in its first matchup with Kansas early in the season. Kenny Chery had 25 points in a 56-55 loss that the Bears led nearly the entire way. As their best on-ball defender, Chery will likely be tasked with guarding a smoldering Wayne Selden in the rematch. Freshman forwards Kelly Oubre and Cliff Alexander have seen increasingly meaningful minutes since Waco, and how they hold their own against the likes of Rico Gathers, Taurean Price and others is going to be critical. Interesting note: Oklahoma State is the only one to hand either of these teams a loss in nearly a month.
Pick: Kansas by 8.
Saturday Afternoon Block: 2:00 PM – 6:00 PM
A Good One: TCU vs. (21) Oklahoma State | 5:00 PM, ESPNU
Never in a million years did I think I’d put TCU and a ranked opponent in a viewer’s guide, but here we are. The Horned Frogs’ true colors have shown in conference play after playing (literally) the nation’s easiest non-conference schedule. But the Frogs typically come to play at home. This could be a trap game for Oklahoma State, who’s been on auto-pilot these days (not necessarily a bad thing) and could get caught peeking ahead to Iowa State on Wednesday. The Cowboys are 10-1 all-time against TCU, scoring 75 points per game.
Pick: Oklahoma State by 1.
A Better One: (18) Butler vs. (6) Villanova | 5:00 PM, CBS Sports
The Big East is quietly the second-best conference in America, and the tournament crown will likely go through Butler or Villanova. The situations are similar: each team is on a five-game tear coming off a road loss to Georgetown. JayVaughn Pinkston, one of my favorite players anywhere, has been quiet in conference games this season, averaging just north of nine points per. Butler is among the nation’s worst in bench production, so look for the Wildcats to wear out the paint and force the undersized Bulldogs into foul trouble.
Pick: Villanova by 3.
The Best One: (14) Iowa State vs. (21) West Virginia | 3:00 PM, ESPN2
I’m growing a little tired of having to use this statistic on such a regular basis, but Iowa State is now 22-1 in its last 23 home games following a loss. This is another such scenario, and they’re getting West Virginia at the right time. “Press Virginia” hasn’t done much to stifle opponents lately, as the Mountaineers are 1-2 (nearly 0-3) in their last three games, allowing 78 points per. The Cyclone offense and WVU defense are second and first nationally in possession length. Lace up your kicks.
Pick: Iowa State by 7.
Saturday Evening Block: 6:00 PM – 10:00 PM
A Good One: Alabama vs. Vanderbilt | 7:00 PM, ESPNU
SEC basketball is sort of a mess these days, unless you’re wearing Kentucky blue. But this is a middle-of-the-pack matchup that might actually have something to offer. Vanderbilt doesn’t get enough credit for its offensive ability, ranking near the top nationally in efficiency, field goal percentage and assists per FGM (you know, the Hoiberg-y stats). And they’re big. Alabama has allowed 49, 52, 55, 70 (Kentucky), 44, 61, 50, 59, 49 and 53 points in its last 10 home games. That’s an abysmal outlook for any upcoming visitor.
Pick: Alabama by 6.
A Better One: Penn State vs. (19) Maryland | 7:30 PM, BTN
Maryland is alternating wins and losses since Jan. 17. Penn State is, well, mostly losing. But even at 15-10, the Nittany Lions have only been knocked off twice at home (once in regulation) this season. They don’t do anything particularly “great,” but if Penn State is going to hold its own yet again at home, they’ll have a decent shot at knocking off a Maryland team that has been spacy offensively. Dez Wells squaring off against D.J. Newbill, the Big Ten’s leading scorer at 20.7 points per game, is reason enough to watch.
Maryland by 4.
The Best One: Mississippi vs. (24) Arkansas | 8:00 PM, SEC Network
Mississippi and Arkansas could be the only teams with a legitimate shot to unseat Kentucky in the SEC tournament, and they face off Saturday night in Oxford. Ole Miss has rattled off six straight, and guard Stafon Moody has been phenomenal. Guards typically carry this Rebel team, but Andy Kennedy is going to have to find a way to match up in the paint with Bobby Portis and Michael Qualls, who combined for 41 points at Auburn on Tuesday. A stat that gives Cyclone fans nightmares: Mississippi is tops nationally in free throw percentage. Arkansas’ opponents are shooting 72% — good for 300th. Could be the difference.
Pick: Mississippi by 1.
Your Sunday Best
1. Indiana vs. Minnesota | 6:30 PM, BTN
2. Colorado vs. Stanford | 3:00 PM, FS1
3. Boston College vs. Miami | 5:30 PM, ESPNU