It’s almost March Madness. From now until the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, great matchups await college hoops handicappers. My picks start on Thursday when Utah travels to Eugene to battle #5 Oregon. Can Utah upset mighty Oregon, one of the best teams in the Pac 12? On Saturday, my early pick has #2 Villanova headed to New Jersey to battle Seton Hall. Do the Pirates have any shot versus Villanova? Or, will the Wildcats dominate? I also love the matchup between #3 Kansas and #6 Baylor. Which Big 12 powerhouse hoops squad gets it done in Saturday’s marquee battle?
(rankings as of Feb 13th 6:00am)
College Hoops Best Bets Feb 13 – Feb 19
Utah at #5 Oregon
When: Thursday, Feb. 16 at 9:00 pm ET
Where: Matthew Knight Arena, Eugene, OR
Analysis: Oregon has solidified its position as the top team in the Pac-12. The Ducks demolished Top 10 ranked Arizona 85 to 58 on Feb. 4. Oregon lost by only 3 to UCLA, 79 to 82, as a 4-point dog on Feb. 9. Then on Feb. 11, Oregon beat USC 81 to 70 as a -3.5-road favorite.
Does Utah have any shot versus the mighty Oregon Ducks on Thursday in Oregon? It’s doubtful. In the first game between these two, on Jan. 26, Oregon beat Utah 73 to 67 even though the Ducks shot less than 28% from three.
Oregon figures to shoot much better from three on their home court against Utah this Thursday. The Ducks could dominate Utah with a big close to 20-point win in this game.
#2 Villanova at Seton Hall
When: Saturday, Feb. 18 at 12:30 pm ET
Where: Prudential Center, Newark, NJ
Analysis: Villanova travels to New Jersey with their sights set on the number one seed in the East. The Wildcats haven’t played like a team that’s suffering a letdown after winning it all in 2016.
In fact, Villanova has gotten better as the season has worn on. The key for the Wildcats, as always, is Josh Hart, my pick for Player of the Year. Hart averages 19 points, close to 7 boards, and over 3 assists per game. What’s important about Hart is that he’s become the Wildcats’ leader. One of the big questions going into this season was which player would take up the leadership role vacated by last year’s starting point-guard Ryan Arcidiacono. Hart’s become that leader.
Every team, including Seton Hall, should be scared that in Villanova’s terrific 73 to 57 road win over Xavier in Nova’s last, Hart only scored 11 points. What it means is that Hart has gotten his teammates involved. The Wildcats could make it two straight NCAA Men’s Basketball Championships.
As far as Saturday’s game versus Seton Hall goes, Villanova should dominate on both ends of the court. It’s hard to see the Wildcats not winning by at least 16 points.
#3 Kansas at #6 Baylor
When: Saturday, Feb. 18 at 1:00 pm ET
Where: Ferrell Center, Waco, TX
Analysis: Kansas and Baylor are tied atop the Big 12. Both teams are at 22 and 3 as of Sunday, Feb. 12. The difference between the two teams is that Baylor is 12-8 against the spread this season while Kansas is an awful 7-15-1 ATS.
That’s the mark that I’m looking at when deciding on who wins this game. Baylor has gone 3 and 1 ATS in their last 4. The last time that Baylor played Kansas, on the road, they lost by 5 points, 68 to 73. But, Baylor beat Rock Chalk against the spread since the Bears were getting 6.5 points in the loss.
Baylor and Kansas are equally matched. Kansas is the much more popular team. It goes to reason that either 1 to 2 points will favor Baylor, or 1 to 2 points will favor Kansas. Either way, I think Baylor wins this game straight up by 4 to 6 points.
The Bears get their revenge versus Rock Chalk Jayhawk on Saturday, Feb. 18th.