College Basketball Picks Week 15 – Virginia-UNC, Kentucky-Tennessee, and More!

Note: I’ve decided to use the KenPom Top 25 just because I find it much more accurate than the AP, plus, its updated daily

These picks will be updated every day.

Monday, February 11th

#2Virginia (20-2, 8-2 ACC) @ #8North Carolina (19-4, 9-1 ACC) – 7 PM ET, ESPN

Both of these teams need to rebound after poor performances on Saturday. Virginia played their worst game of the season and didn’t hold a lead for the entirety of the game as they dropped just their third ACC game in the past two years in a 81-71 home loss to Duke. North Carolina’s worst performance of the year probably came in the Louisville game, but against Miami on Saturday the Tar Heels had a solid #2, needing to come back from down two possession with 50 seconds left to eventually pick up a home win in overtime over a Miami team that has won exactly zero games on the road this season and currently sits tied for last place in the conference. Needless to say, both teams need this one. Dean Smith is a tough place to play (3.7 point HCA) and Virginia has only played one top-15 team on the road this season, a 72-70 loss in the first Duke loss. Both teams are dealing with injuries, Carolina will be missing role players in Sterling Manley (knee) and Leaky Black (ankle), while Virginia star PG Ty Jerome tweaked his back a couple weeks back, although he did put up 16 points in the Duke loss. The big question for the ‘Hoos will be the status of Mamadi Diakite, who did not return for the Duke game after bumping heads with DeAndre Hunter early. This will be a clash of styles as UNC plays at the quickest tempo in the ACC (and #5 in the country) while Virginia plays at the slowest pace in the nation. Virginia has beaten the Tar Heels at least once each of the past six years, including a sweep of the series last year, and I think that trend continues and the slower tempo wins out, even on the road, but this should be exciting till the end.

Prediction: Virginia 72, North Carolina 71

#16Kansas (18-6, 7-4 Big 12) @ TCU (17-6, 5-5 Big 12) – 9 PM ET, ESPN

The Big 12 is weird dude. Six of the ten teams in the conference are projected to finish with a record between 10-8 and 12-6. If you forced me to pick one I think I’d take Kansas State to win the league,  but it is anyone’s game at this point. Kansas, which has won at least a share of the Big 12 title for 14 years running, is in perhaps its most precarious position of that time span, and it isn’t looking like it will get much better. The Jayhawks have lost four of their past seven, and already without #3 leading scorer Udoka Azubuike due to injury, Lagerald Vick, the #2 scorer on the team, left the Jayhawks for personal reasons earlier this week. They also will miss one of their top defenders, Marcus Garrett, for this one. There is just too much going on for Kansas right now and TCU is coming fresh off of a nine point win on the road over an Iowa State team that used to be my conference favorite. I’ll ride with the Horned Frogs as Kansas drops to three losses behind their in-state rivals in the conference title race

Prediction: TCU 76, Kansas 73

Quick Hitters

Baylor 72, Oklahoma 66 (9 PM ET, ESPN2)

Tuesday, February 12th

#8Purdue (17-6, 10-2 Big Ten) @ #19Maryland (18-6, 9-4 Big Ten) – 6:30 PM ET, BTN

Purdue has been sitting around the KenPom top ten for three weeks now, and the AP voters are just now catching on that this team is really good. The Boilermakers have justone loss in their past 12 games, that came on the road against one of the conference favorites, Michigan State. Purdue avenged that loss on January 27th when they got the Spartans at Mackey, controlling that one from start to finish en route to a 73-63 win. This game, however, won’t be at Mackey, and Purdue will have to go on the road to face a Maryland team coming in off of a week of rest. The Terps started 2019 6-0, but have since fell off a little, dropping three of their past five, although two of those were excusable (@ Michigan State, @ Wisconsin). Both of these teams are coming off of double-digit wins against a floundering Nebraska team, and I really could go either way with this pick, but I’ll take the more rested team at home in what is sure to be a barnburner.

Prediction: Maryland 72, Purdue 71

#21LSU (19-4, 9-1 SEC) @ #7Kentucky (20-3, 9-1 SEC) – 7 PM ET, ESPN

Kentucky has been one of the hottest teams in the country over the past month or so. The Wildcats are winners of ten straight, including wins vs Kansas and @ Auburn in that span. The ‘Cats are undefeated at Rupp this year and they’ve won every game by eight or more points. They face an LSU team that has lost just one game in nearly two months, a one point loss to Arkansas. The Tigers are coming in hot off of close wins @ @ Mississippi State and vs Auburn, but they don’t have a win over a team at Kentucky’s level, and I think the talent of the ‘Cats wins out, especially at home, building momentum going into their game against Tennessee on Saturday.

Prediction: Kentucky 77, LSU 70

#4Michigan State (19-5, 10-3 Big Ten) @ #11Wisconsin (17-7, 9-4 Big Ten) – 7 PM ET, ESPN2

This is pretty clearly the biggest game of the day, as the loser is likely eliminated from the race for the Big Ten title as both Purdue and Michigan currently sit atop the conference. After dropping three straight games over the past couple weeks, Michigan State rebounded on Saturday with a 79-55 win over Minnesota, maybe their best performance since the loss of Joshua Langford. Wisconsin, on the other hand, has made a late push for a top four seed in the NCAA Tournament (currently the top five seed). They’ve won six of their past seven, the only loss coming by single digits on the road against a Michigan team that is probably the conference favorite at this point. The Badgers have been great at the Kohl Center this year (9-2), and it is hard to pick against a good defense at home, especially when they also have the best player on the floor in Ethan Happ. This is another coin flip game like the other Big Ten game Tuesday Night, but I’ll take Wisconsin in a tight one that will be low scoring.

Prediction: Wisconsin 66, Michigan State 65

#1Duke (21-2, 9-1 ACC) @ #13Louisville (17-7, 8-3 ACC) – 9 PM ET, ESPN

Duke is coming fresh off of one of the most impressive performances from any team this season, a ten-point win on the road against a Virginia team that was ranked #1 in most advanced metrics coming in. They must travel on the road again here to take on Louisville team already rated as a four-seed in my bracketology and that could climb up to three line with a win. The Cards are currently projected to finish fourth in the conference, but Virginia Tech, Florida State, and Syracuse are hot on their tails for the double-bye that comes with a top four finish. I’d really like for Louisville to win this one, Chris Mack has to be a contender for Coach of the Year and UL is one of the biggest overachievers in the country this year, but Duke is just too talented and I see the Blue Devils winning the tempo battle, forcing Louisville to play at their speed, and ultimately picking up a win.

Prediction: Duke 82, Louisville 75

Kansas State (18-5, 8-2 Big 12) @ #23Texas (14-10, 6-5 Big 12) – 9 PM ET, ESPN2

Oh Big 12, you are just so weird. Currently KenPom projects a three way tie at the top of the conference between Kansas State, Kansas, and Texas Tech, but I think KP’s projection has changed practically daily over the past month, because the Big 12 never goes where you expect it. Texas has flown under the radar, and that 14-10 record may jump out at you, but the Longhorns have played the 12th toughest schedule in the nation. They are 4-5 vs Q1 and 4-4 vs Q2, with just one Q3 loss, the makings of an at-large team that could sleep easy the night before Selection Sunday. You can never use too many wins though, and K-State would be a good one. After starting 0-2 in the conference, the Wildcats haven’t lost a Big 12 game since, picking up wins against Iowa State, Texas Tech, and Kansas. Today is the day I see that streak ending, though. These two teams played in early January, and Texas beat the brains out of the Wildcats, winning by 20. Kansas State has certainly improved over that time frame, but on the road I especially don’t see them pulling off a 20 point swing. This will be low scoring and tight, but I’ll take Shaka Smart and Texas

Prediction: Texas 62, Kansas State 58

Quick Hitters

Butler 73, St. John’s 72 (8:30 PM ET, CBSSN)
Mississippi State 77, Alabama 73 (9 PM ET, SEC Network)

Wednesday, February 13th

Syracuse (17-7, 8-3 ACC) @ NC State (17-7, 5-6 ACC) – 8 PM ET, ESPN3

Were we still in 2018, this NC State team would have about a 0% chance of making the tournament thanks to their 114th rank in the RPI, but the NET (the selection committee’s new top tool) ranks them 35th, meaning the Pack still have a shot of making the tourney. They’ve won just one game against KenPom top 70 teams in the past 56 days though, and after a 13-1 start to the year, they are 4-6 in their last ten. Syracuse, on the other hand, has been improving as the season moves on. They dropped three games against sub-50 teams in the non-conference, including a home loss to Old Dominion, but since, they’ve been great, winners of six of their past eight, including the famous win @ Duke. However, the Orange have won zero games vs top-70 teams since that Duke game, and the two they faced (Virginia Tech, Florida State) were decided by a combined score of 158-118 in their opponents’ favor. Both of these teams are overrated by the general public right now, but I’ll side with the home team in NC State as Syracuse slides back to where they should be after facing the easiest in-conference schedule in the ACC so far.

Prediction: NC State 73, Syracuse 72

Quick Hitters

#21 Villanova 71, Providence 64 (6:30 PM ET, FS1)
Lipscomb 76, Liberty 62 (7:30 PM ET, ESPN+)
#14 Auburn 83, Ole Miss 71 (8:30 PM ET, SEC Network)
Seton Hall 79, Georgetown 75 (8:30 PM ET, FS1)
Nebraska 73, Minnesota 69 (9 PM ET, BTN)

Thursday, February 14th

Quick Hitters

UNC Greensboro 69, Furman 66 (7:30 PM ET, ESPN+)

Friday, February 15th

#24Buffalo (21-3, 9-2 MAC) @ Toledo (20-4, 8-3 MAC) – 7 PM ET, ESPNU

Tonight we get some Friday night MACtion in college basketball as the two top teams in the conference square off. A win for Buffalo here would essentially guarantee them the conference title, while a win for Toledo would greatly improve their case for an at-large bid. The Rockets currently rate as my sixth-team out of the field, and with this as their final Q1 win opportunity of the regular season, a loss here would essentially eliminate them from at-large contention. Needless to say, this is a big one. These two played in early January, a 110-80 beatdown in favor of Buffalo, but now the Bulls must travel to Ohio to take on a Rockets team that has greatly improved over the past few weeks, winners of five straight. Toledo has lost just one home game the entire season (Ball State) and holds wins over Penn, Miami-OH, and Akron at Savage Arena, while Buffalo has struggled on the road recently, all three of their losses came in road games, including two losses over the past few weeks against Northern Illinois and Bowling Green. The Bulls also struggled mightily with Akron on the road on Tuesday as well, and Toledo hasn’t played a game since Saturday. I’ll take the home team here in what should be a fast-paced, high scoring game. The Rockets are better rested, they hit their free throws, they have more to play for, and they shoot well from deep, a perfect combo for an upset that keeps UT’s at-large hopes alive.

Prediction: Toledo 78, Buffalo 77

Quick Hitters

Northern Kentucky 71, Wright State 68 (9 PM ET, ESPNU)

Saturday, February 16th

#15Maryland (19-6, 10-4 Big Ten) @ #6Michigan (22-3, 11-3 Big Ten) – 12 PM ET, FOX

After being the second to last undefeated team in the country, Michigan is just 5-3 in their last eight games, with losses on the road against Wisconsin, Iowa, and Penn State. They will get the home court advantage in this one but will run into a Maryland team fresh off of a 14 point win over Purdue on Tuesday. The Terps are 10-4, just one game out of first in the Big Ten, and currently sits in a pretty solid position to get one of the coveted top four spots in the Big Ten Tournament that gives the holders a double bye. With the home court advantage on their side, I’m going to side with Michigan here, the Wolverines haven’t lost a home game all year, but look out for the return game on March 3rd as the Terps will get Michigan in College Park with a shot at revenge.

Prediction: Michigan 65, Maryland 61

#14Iowa State (18-6, 7-4 Big 12) @ #25Kansas State (19-5, 9-2 Big 12) – 4 PM ET, ESPN2

Kansas State currently sits with just two losses in Big 12 play, the next closest teams sit with four, and it isn’t like the Wildcats have just been playing Oklahoma State and West Virginia, K-State has played the 2nd toughest in-conference schedule in the league so far, and yet still hasn’t lost a conference game since January 5th. The Cats started conference play 0-2 and they haven’t lost since, I don’t see that changing here. Iowa State is coming off of a double-digit loss at home against TCU, and they lost 58-57 to Kansas State when these two teams played earlier this season at Hilton. Now dealing with one of the toughest road environments in the country and a fully healthy Dean Wade (when these two teams first played it was his first game back from injury and Wade scored just two points), I’ll take the Wildcats.

Prediction: Kansas State 66, Iowa State 62

#5Tennessee (23-1, 11-0 SEC) @ #7Kentucky (20-4, 9-2 SEC) – 8 PM ET, ESPN

The game of the day will tip off at eight instead of six this week, so adjust your schedules accordingly. I’ve been low on Tennessee and high on Kentucky for a while now, but Kentucky really tried to push me towards Tennessee on Tuesday, losing a home game right before this big tilt. It should be mentioned  that the loss came at the hands of a very good LSU team thanks to a tip in at the buzzer, but it was the first loss at Rupp all season for the Wildcats. It should be mentioned though, Kentucky hasn’t lost a game by more than two points since the first day of the college basketball season, over three months ago, and if you always at the very least put yourself within a bucket of your opponent, you always have a chance to win. I came very close to switching this pick at the last minute, Tennessee hasn’t lost a game period since November, but they also have played zero top-35 teams in the past two months and now must travel to one of the toughest enviornments in the country to face at top-ten team. Kentucky is battle tested, they’ve played seven top-35 teams in the same span that Tennessee has played zero, and I think they eke this one out and make the SEC race a whole lot more interesting.

Prediction: Kentucky 74, Tennessee 73

Quick Hitters

#13 Louisville 71, Clemson 61 (12 PM ET, ESPN)
TCU 75, Oklahoma 69 (12 PM ET, ESPN2)
#10 Texas Tech 66, Baylor 58 (2 PM ET, ESPN)
Minnesota 70, Indiana 67 (2 PM ET, ESPN2)
Alabama 68, Florida 63 (2 PM ET, ESPNU)
VCU 65, Dayton 64 (4 PM ET, NBCSN)
#1 Duke 90, NC State 72 (6 PM ET, ESPN)
Wofford 76, UNC Greensboro 64 (7 PM ET, ESPN+)

Sunday, February 17th

Quick Hitters

#4 Michigan State 76, Ohio State 60 (1 PM ET, CBS)
Creighton 76, Seton Hall 74 (3 PM ET, FS1)
Loyola Chicago 64, Missouri State 61 (4 PM ET, ESPNU)
#22 Villanova 76, St. John’s 71 (5 PM ET, FS1)

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