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, January 28th
GAMES TO WATCH
#24TCU (15-4, 3-3 Big 12) @ #15Texas Tech (16-4, 4-3 Big 12) – 9 PM ET, ESPN
We’ll be at the mid-way point of conference play by the end of this week, and the loser of this one will have to come back from a two-game hole if they want any chance of a share of the conference title, so this is a huge game for that race. TCU has largely flown under the radar this year because of a relatively weak non-conference schedule and a 3-3 start to conference play, but they rate out pretty highly among all of the metrics. They travel to Lubbock to take on a Texas Tech team that I think is getting a little too much credit. The Red Raiders have one win by more than seven in this past month and a half, and they’ve lost three of their past four, with the lone win coming at home by three over an Arkansas team that would be lucky to make the NIT. I’m still taking TTU because of the home court edge, but I’m not all that confident in it. The Red Raiders have the most efficient defense in the country, but their offense ranks 140th, so don’t be surprised if we see an upset here against a TCU team that has proven in the past week that they can win low scoring games even if they prefer to run.
Prediction: Texas Tech 67, TCU 62
Baylor (13-6, 4-2 Big 12) @ #21Oklahoma (15-5, 3-4 Big 12) – 9 PM ET, ESPNU
Baylor sits right on the bubble right now, and they picked up a huge win on Saturday over Alabama, their fourth win in a row, and a win that will put them in the field for now, but on Monday night they must travel to Norman to take on a battle-tested Oklahoma team (#23 SOS) that is fresh off of a 31 point win over Vanderbilt on Saturday. Were this game in Waco, it might be a different story, but I’ll side with Oklahoma here thanks to the huge home court edge they receive at the Lloyd Noble Center (15th in D-I) and their ability to be one of the best teams in the nation in the fast break but also one of the first to slow their opponents down when they need to.
Prediction: Oklahoma 72, Baylor 66
#2 Duke over Notre Dame (7 PM ET, ESPN)
Tuesday, January 29th
GAMES TO WATCH
#1Virginia (18-1, 6-1 ACC) @ NC State (16-4, 4-3 ACC) – 7 PM ET, ESPN2
I think I’ve been a little bit lower than the consensus on NC State all year. It is hard to trust a team that has one win over a tournament team: at home by single digits against an Auburn team I’m also lower than the consensus on. They also are Wake Forest’s only conference win. The Demon Deacons are the lowest ranked team in any of the five best conferences this year (Big East instead of Pac-12, obviously). They can certainly win me over with a win over Virginia here, that just seems like a long shot, and with games vs Virginia Tech and @ North Carolina up next, the Wolfpack could quite possibly drop to 4-6 in ACC play, with none of the wins coming against top 50 teams, potentially dropping them closer to the bubble. Virginia doesn’t mind putting up points this year, in fact, their offense is ranked #2 in the country adjusted for tempo and opponent. The Cavaliers’ six ACC wins have come by an average of 22 points, and while I don’t think this will be that much of a blowout, I see Tony Bennett’s team easily winning by double-digits.
Prediction: Virginia 76, NC State 64
#15Kansas (16-4, 5-2 Big 12) @ Texas (11-9, 3-4 Big 12) – 7 PM ET, ESPN
I don’t love this Kansas team, I’ve been lower than most on them all year as well, they just really struggle to put teams away, 11 of their 16 wins have been by single digits. That statistic is absurd to me for a power seven conference favorite. As has been proven many teams in the past, that starts to catch up with you after a while, and it is, especially when the Jayhawks travel away from the friendly confines of Allen Fieldhouse, holding just a 1-4 record in road games this year. I really want to pick against the Jayhawks, but I just can’t do it. Texas has lost five of their past six, including a double-digit loss to a sub-90 Georgia team on Saturday. Texas could really use this because they sit as one of my last eight teams in the field right now, but I’ll take Kansas to win in another close one and drop Texas to 11-10.
Prediction: Kansas 71, Texas 68
Lipscomb (16-4, 7-0 ASUN) @ Liberty (18-4, 7-0 ASUN) – 7 PM ET, ESPN+
The Atlantic Sun has never had two teams in the top 95 since the creation of KenPom in the 2001-02 season, but this year they’ve got two in the top 50 (!) with Lipscomb and Liberty. Both these teams made national headlines in the non-conference, Lipscomb for their win @ TCU, and Liberty for their win @ UCLA that ended up getting the Bruins to fire their head coach. The Flames now rank 34 spots ahead of UCLA though, so maybe it wasn’t that big of an upset. These two will be fighting for the A-Sun title come March, KenPom projects both these two to be four games clear of the #3 team in the conference at the end of the year. This will be a super interesting clash of styles as Lipscomb plays at the #9 quickest tempo in the country and Liberty plays at the #3 slowest thanks to head coach Ritchie McKay, a former associate head coach at UVA from 2009-2015. This one is a complete toss-up, but Liberty can shoot the lights out (57.5% eFG%, #6 in the country) and they’ve got the home court edge, so I’ll take them in a tight mid-major game you absolutely should check out.
Prediction: Liberty 70, Lipscomb 67
#12Wisconsin (14-6, 6-3 Big Ten) @ #17Nebraska (13-7, 3-6 Big Ten) – 8 PM ET, BTN
Nebraska still rates out pretty highly across most computer metrics, but after a 2-5 start to 2019, including back to back losses @ Rutgers and vs Ohio State last week, they’re getting dangerously close to the bubble for a top 20 KenPom team. The Cornhuskers are currently fairly safe as a nine seed, but a few more bad losses could send them into desperation mode at the back end of the year. Wisconsin, on the other hand, has had a really up and down year, with losses @ Western Kentucky and vs Minnesota, but also wins @ Iowa and vs Michigan, the latter being by double digits in Michigan’s first loss of the year. I definitely have more confidence in Wisconsin right now, but Nebraska has the home court edge and a lot more to play for here. They are experienced and don’t turn the ball over, so I think I’ll take a flyer on the Cornhuskers, although I’m not that confident in it.
Prediction: Nebraska 66, Wisconsin 64
Mississippi State (15-4, 3-3 SEC) @ Alabama (12-7, 3-3 SEC) – 8:30 PM ET, SEC Network
Alabama dropped to one of my last four teams in the field after a loss to Baylor on Saturday. The Crimson Tide have lost four of their past six, and while three of those losses have come against top 30 teams on the road, you don’t want this to turn into a funk for the Crimson Tide. They get a chance to rebound here at home and add a decent win to their resume against a Mississippi State team that ranks 26th in KenPom right now and has won three of their last four. I’ve been lower on the Bulldogs all year, and wins against teams like Florida and Auburn that I’m also not very high on aren’t going to help. I think this Alabama team is sneaky good and could win a game in March. They rebound well, they get to the line, they don’t turn the ball over, and they’ve faced a tough schedule. You combine that with the home court edge and my skepticism of Mississippi State, and I think the Tide pick up a close win here and stay on the right side of the bubble.
Prediction: Alabama 76, Mississippi State 74
Ohio State (13-6, 3-5 Big Ten) @ #5Michigan (19-1, 8-1 Big Ten) – 9 PM ET, ESPN2
Ohio State avoided what could have been a 0-7 start to the year by finally picking up a win against Nebraska on Saturday. A double-digit win over the Cornhuskers may have put the cover back on the panic button for now, but I don’t think they have what it takes to get a road win here, meaning it will still be just a 1-6 start to the year for OSU. The schedule lightens up some for the next two and a half weeks, but the Buckeyes rate out as my last nine seed right now, meaning another loss to Rutgers or someone like that could very well drop them back into the bubble picture. Michigan, on the other hand, is back on the one line after an absolute dismemberment of Indiana at Assembly Hall on Friday. Expect the Wolverines to dominate from start to finish en route to a double-digit win, but watch to see if Ohio State can pick up some wins in the coming weeks to get back on the right track.
Prediction: Michigan 67, Ohio State 56
#6 Tennessee over South Carolina (6:30 PM ET, SEC Network)
#22 Maryland over Northwestern (7 PM ET, FS1)
Arkansas over Georgia (7 PM ET, ESPNU)
#8 North Carolina over Georgia Tech (7 PM ET, ESPN3)
#21 Buffalo over Ball State (7 PM ET, ESPN3)
Dayton over Saint Joseph’s (8 PM ET, CBSSN)
#10 Kentucky over Vanderbilt (9 PM ET, ESPN)
Clemson over Pittsburgh (9 PM ET, ESPNU)
#18 Nevada over UNLV (11 PM ET, ESPN2)
Tuesday, January 29th
GAMES TO WATCH
Marquette (18-3, 7-1 Big East) @ Butler (12-9, 3-5 Big East) – 6:30 PM ET, FS1
Marquette right now rates out as a top ten team in the AP poll, but not even in the top 25 in most computer metrics. The Golden Eagles have just one win in regulation over a top 50 team all year, a home win over Buffalo back in December. You have to give credit where credit is due, they don’t have any bad losses, but top ten teams don’t need last-minute heroics to beat Georgetown and Xavier. Let’s just say there’s a reason Vegas sets lines based on computer metrics and not the AP. Needless to say, I’m predisposed to want to pick against Marquette here, especially on the road here, and Vegas agrees, as Marquette winning this one would actually be an upset. I’m just going to pick that upset. I have little confidence in Butler right now. The Bulldogs have zero top-45 wins since November, and this is team that really struggles to get to the free throw line and conversley lets their opponents get a lot of free shots from the charity stripe. I’ll take Marquette in a close one.
Prediction: Marquette 73, Butler 72
Ole Miss (14-5, 4-2 SEC) @ Florida (11-8, 3-3 SEC) – 6:30 PM ET, SEC Network
Florida is on the wrong side of the bubble right now thanks to their 11-8 record but they get a chance for a resume boost here as they host an Ole Miss team that has dropped three of their past four, all by 14 or more points. Florida has far from impressed me so far this year, but they have had to deal with a brutal schedule and few absences from key pieces. This is still one of the best defensive teams in the country and I think they control this from start to finish and Kermit Davis’ team continues to slide.
Prediction: Florida 68, Ole Miss 61
St. John’s (15-5, 3-5 Big East) @ Creighton (12-8, 3-4 Big East) – 8:30 PM ET, FS1
Creighton ranks as my first team out of the field right now, but St. John’s isn’t too far off. The Red Storm come into this one as the sixth-last team in the field, so both of these two could really use a win here. No matter who comes out on top though, it will be high-scoring. Both of these teams love to put up points and shoot the ball really well. I’ll side with Creighton in this one because of the home court advantage and their ability to shoot, but this is abig game as both teams jockey for bubble position, so I wouldn’t be shocked if it went either way.
Prediction: Creighton 86, St. John’s 81
Providence over Seton Hall (7 PM ET, FSN)
#11 Virginia Tech over Miami (7 PM ET, ESPN2)
Rutgers over Indiana (7 PM ET, BTN)
#12 Iowa State over West Virginia (7 PM ET, ESPNU)
Saint Louis over Richmond (7 PM ET, ESPN+)
#21 Villanova over DePaul (8 PM ET, CBSSN)
Memphis over Tulsa (8 PM ET, ESPNews)
Boston College over Syracuse (8 PM ET, ESPN3)
#13 Louisville over Wake Forest (8 PM ET, ESPN3)
#17 Auburn over Missouri (8:30 PM ET, SEC Network)
Minnesota over Illinois (9 PM ET, BTN)
#23 LSU over Texas A&M (9 PM ET, ESPN2)
Fresno State over Wyoming (9 PM ET, Stadium)
Utah State over San Jose State (9 PM ET, Stadium)
UCLA over Washington State (10 PM ET, Pac-12 Network)
Washington over USC (11 PM ET, FS1)
Thursday, January 31st
GAMES TO WATCH
Temple (15-5, 5-2 American) @ #19Houston (20-1, 7-1 American) – 7 PM ET, ESPN2
Houston has largely flown under the radar because of the conference they play in, but the Cougars are on track for a top four seed come March. They play the rest of the top five teams in the conference over the coming two weeks, so if they escape that with just one loss you can color me a believer in the Cougars. The start of that stretch comes against the only team to have beaten Houston this year, Temple. The Owls ended UH’s undefeated start at 15-0 with a 73-69 win. Houston gets a chance to avenge that loss here and I think they make a statement and dominate this one from start to finish. Houston has won each their 15 home games this year, and they’ve done it by an average of 18 points. I expect something similar in this one as Kelvin Sampson’s team tightens their grip on the AAC crown
Prediction: Houston 75, Temple 62
Murray State (16-3, 7-1 OVC) @ Jacksonville State (15-6, 7-1 OVC) – 8:15 PM ET, ESPN+
Do you remember when Murray State went 30-1 and got a six seed in the NCAA tournament? Yeah, good times. The Ohio Valley is actually a top notch mid-major league this year though, with Murray State, Jacksonville State, and Belmont all competing for the autobid. In fact, Murray State has been so good this year that if they go something like 16-2 in conference play and then drop the OVC Title game, they could have an outside shot for an at-large bid. Picking up a road win against Jacksonville State would be a big boost to that potential resume, as the Gamecocks would give Murray State their first Q1/2 win of the year so far. Ja Morant is the best point guard in the country at any level, and his athleticism is just unfair for this level conference. His talent carries the Racers to a tough road win.
Prediction: Murray State 72, Jacksonville State 66
Arizona (14-7, 5-3 Pac-12) @ Arizona State (14-6, 5-3 Pac-12) – 9 PM ET, ESPN2
These two are probably the Pac-12’s only hope at getting at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament, and things aren’t looking too good. Arizona sits in my next four out and Arizona State sits in my last four in. A loss here might kick them out. Both of these teams desperately need every quality win they can get their hands on given their position on the bubble, but I’ll side with Arizona State for three reasons. First, and most obviously, the home court advantage in Tempe, where opponents have to shoot into the so called “Curtain of Distraction.” Second, ASU’s height. It isn’t often that Arizona isn’t the (or one of the) tallest team(s) in the Pac-12, but this year the Wildcats are pretty average, and it shows. This is not a good rebounding team for Sean Miller, especially after last year when the Cats grabbed 1/3 of all offensive boards. Lastly, Arizona is on the opposite of a hot streak right now. Having won six in a row (albeit facing just one top-100 team, #99 Colorado), I had earned some confidence in the Cats, but they have lost three of their past four, losing to the LA schools last week by a combined scored of 170-126. I like the Sun Devils to get the win and stay in the field.
Prediction: Arizona State 73, Arizona 67
UC Irvine (17-5, 5-1 Big West) @ UC Santa Barbara (15-4, 4-1 Big West) – 11 PM ET, ESPNU
A big game in the Big West ends a big Thursday in college basketball. Obviously when conference tournament season comes around, anything can happen, but as of right now, these are the two favorites for the Big West autobid. Both have won six of their past seven but I’ll lean with the Gauchos here. UCSB’s home arena is called the Thunderdome, and I’m not sure how you can pick against a team playing at home in the Thunderdome. The Gauchos don’t turn the ball over, they rebound well, and they get to the line, they’re everything you want from a mid-major underdog, and I’ll pick them to upset the conference favorites here.
Prediction: UC Santa Barbara 66, UC Irvine 63
#9 Purdue over Penn State (7 PM ET, FS1)
Old Dominion over North Texas (7 PM ET, Stadium)
Robert Morris over St. Francis PA (7 PM ET, NEC Front Row)
Xavier over Georgetown (8 PM ET, CBSSN)
UCF over UConn (9 PM ET, ESPNU)
Oregon over Utah (9 PM ET, FS1)
Oregon State over Colorado (9 PM ET, Pac-12 Network)
#4 Gonzaga over BYU (11 PM ET, ESPN2)
Friday, February 1st
#5Michigan (20-1, 9-1 Big Ten) @ Iowa (16-5, 5-5 Big Ten) – 7 PM ET, FS1
Fran McCaffery and Iowa have quietly put together a nice little season. The Hawkeyes have the #10 ranked offense in the country right now, and four of their five losses have come against KenPom top 10 teams. Iowa also holds wins over Iowa State, Oregon, Nebraska, and Ohio State, but a win over Michigan here would be the crown jewel to their resume. Carver Hawkeye Arena has the #7 home court advantage in college basketball (4.1 points) and things always seem to get weird in these Friday night Big Ten games, but I’ll wimp out and pick Michigan here. The Wolverines are a clear top five team in the country, and last Friday they went to another tough road environment against another Big Ten foe that ranked in the 30s, and they jumped out to a 17-0 lead against Indiana. I really like this Michigan team, and I think they pull out a tough road win here.
Prediction: Michigan 74, Iowa 68
#20Maryland (17-5, 8-3 Big Ten) @ #10Wisconsin (15-6, 7-3 Big Ten) – 9 PM ET, FS1
As usual KenPom was right and I was wrong. There was a stretch from mid-December to mid-January where Wisconsin had gone 1-5 in their games against top-300 teams, and I’d lost confidence in UW, but the Badgers came out their next game and handed Michigan their first loss of the season, and then proceeded to win their next three games all by double-digits. I think that streak will end in this game, I really like this Maryland team, but the combination of the home court advantage, the hot streak, and Ethan Happ’s All-America level year lead me to go with the consensus and pick the Badgers at home in what will be a low scoring game to cap off the week in college basketball.
Prediction: Wisconsin 67, Maryland 62
Saturday, February 2nd
GAMES TO WATCH
#11Virginia Tech (17-3, 6-2 ACC) @ NC State (16-5, 4-4 ACC) – 12 PM ET, ESPN3
NC State came within seconds of beating Virginia on Tuesday, taking the #1 team in the country to their limit before ultimately falling by one in overtime. The Wolfpack are less safe NCAA Tournament wise than you might expect, they hold just one quad one win (Auburn), so a win here would go a long way. Obviously, Virginia did not play their best game Tuesday, but you have to give some of the credit to NC State as well. The Wolfpack are one of the best teams in the country at forcing turnovers, and it seemed their quick pace was able to fluster the Cavaliers. Virginia Tech is nowhere near the level of their in-state rivals when it comes to taking care of the basketball, so I’m picking the Wolfpack’s chaotic style to force enough turnovers that they pull the upset over the #1 shooting team in the nation.
Prediction: NC State 78, Virginia Tech 77
#7North Carolina (16-4, 6-1 ACC) @ #13Louisville (16-5, 7-1 ACC) – 2 PM ET, ESPN
Louisville pulled perhaps the most impressive performance of the season earlier this year, upsetting North Carolina on the road by 21 points. Now, the Tar Heels get their shot at revenge at the KFC Yum! Center, but I think Chris Mack and company deny them of the sweet satisfaction. The Cardinals are one of the best in the country at both getting to the line, and making shots when they get there, and North Carolina doesn’t have a lot of experience this year playing away from home against top flight teams (0-2 in only two vs top 25). I thihnk Louisville gets the season sweep of UNC and moves into a decent position to be the #3 team in the conference.
Prediction: Louisville 81, North Carolina 77
Mississippi State (15-5, 3-4 SEC) @ Ole Miss (14-6, 4-3 SEC) – 3:30 PM ET, SEC Network
Ole Miss pulled an upset of Mississippi State earlier this season, on the road. I’m probably more skeptical of the Rebels than I was before that game, though. Since then, Ole Miss has lost four of five, the lone win coming at home over Arkansas, and three of the four losses were by 14+ points. On the other hand, Mississippi State has struggled in road games this year. The Bulldogs are just 1-3 gainst top 130 teams on the road this year. I am by no means confident in either team, and after Tennessee and Kentucky, that’s probably my opinion on the conference as a whole right now, but I’ll lean Mississippi State because of their offense.
Prediction: Mississippi State 77, Ole Miss 75
#9Kentucky (17-3, 6-1 SEC) @ Florida (12-8, 4-3 SEC) – 4 PM ET, ESPN
Florida needs this win badly. They got a big one on Wednesday in overtime against Ole Miss, their first top 50 win of the year, now they have to keep up the momentum because with games @ Auburn and Tennessee up next, a loss here means a 4-6 start to conference play. Unfortunately for the Gators, that is exactly what I think will happen. Kentucky would probably be my #8 team in the country right now. The Wildcats have won seven straight, six of which by eight points or more. That streak is highlighted by wins @ Auburn and vs Kansas the last two Saturdays, and I see the Cats keeping their Saturday streak going as they dominate Florida from tip to buzzer.
Prediction: Kentucky 68, Florida 59
#14Texas Tech (17-4, 5-3 Big 12) @ #16Kansas (16-5, 5-3 Big 12) – 4 PM ET, CBS
If Texas Tech wins this game, they’ll be the undoubted favorites in the Big 12. All they have to do? Beat Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse, which is no easy task. Although, Allen Fieldhouse isn’t what it used to be. #126 Stanford took the Jayhawks to overtime there earlier this season, in fact, every conference game at the Phog this year has been decided by single digits. I think this is the year that Kansas’ streak ends, and a Red Raider win here would put us on the path there. Kansas has lost three of their past four while Texas is coming fresh off of a 19 point win over a top-30 TCU team. I’m not crazy about either of these two (I actually think Iowa State is the best team in the conference) but I think Jarrett Culver is right up there with Dedric Lawson as the best player in the conference, and he leads TTU to the upset.
Prediction: Texas Tech 65, Kansas 64