A Super Saturday of Hoops Plus Unranked College Basketball Teams Showing Some Fire
An Absolute SUPER Saturday of College Hoops!
The Saturday before Valentine's is ideal for basketball LOVERS because it's wall-to-wall action featuring many of the best teams in the country. You know the major conferences and TV networks wanted something special for the first Saturday after the Super Bowl. That's set up a harmonic convergence of a lucky 11 matchups that will loom very large in the polls...in conference standings...and even in Bracketology because "quality wins" are at stake.
Let's run through what the most respected publicly published computer ratings are showing for all the teams involved. The numbers are through Thursday's action according to Ken Pomeroy of kenpom.com and Jeff Sagarin of USA Today. Games are presented in tip off order so you can make notes in your schedules.
#22 Kentucky at South Carolina (noon ET on ESPN)
Kentucky: #13 in Pomeroy, #16 in Sagarin
South Carolina: #43 in Pomeroy, #43 in Sagarin
Conference Records: Both teams 8-3, tied with LSU for first place
Notes: The computers sure don't believe in South Carolina, even after their win over LSU. Kentucky is playing great basketball of late. Can they win on the road at this tough site? Great way to start the day!
Georgetown at #20 Providence (noon ET on FOX)
Georgetown: #59 in Pomeroy, #53 in Sagarin
Providence: #54 in Pomeroy, #50 in Sagarin
Conference Records: Georgetown 7-5, Providence 6-6, well back of Villanova
Notes: The computers hate these teams in terms of Dance potential. And, the difference between the computers and the poll is strike in the case of Providence. How can you be 6-6 in the Big East but a top 20 team?! The Friars could really fall off the media map if they lose this one.
#15 Texas A&M at LSU (1 p.m. ET on CBS)
Texas A&M: #19 in Pomeroy, #20 in Sagarin
LSU: #58 in Pomeroy, #55 in Sagarin
Conference Records: LSU is 8-3 in a first place tie, A&M is just behind at 7-4.
Notes: Great to see the four best teams in the SEC squaring off against each other so early in the day. The Aggies are heading in the wrong direction lately though. LSU will have revenge on its mind, while also being in a bounce back off the loss at South Carolina a few days ago. The computers say LSU still isn't a Dance-caliber team (usually top 45 or so in the computers are safe).
#14 Purdue at Michigan (2 p.m. ET on ESPN2)
Purdue: #16 in Pomeroy, #12 in Sagarin
Michigan: #48 in Pomeroy, #33 in Sagarin
Conference Records: both 8-4, tied for fourth place beneath 3-way tie for first
Notes: Purdue's been getting more respect from the media all season. Yet, these two are tied in the Big 10 standings. A chance for Michigan to improve its position in the Dance discussion, while Purdue tries to get its legs back after a war with Michigan State.
#6 Kansas at #3 Oklahoma (2:30 p.m. ET on ESPN)
Kansas: #7 in Pomeroy, #4 in Sagarin
Oklahoma: #5 in Pomeroy, #3 in Sagarin
Conference Records: both 8-3, in 3-way tie with West Virginia at the top
Notes: The game of the day is a rematch of what was easily the game of the year in the first meeting. OU has revenge off that multiple-overtime heartbreaker. The computers have this as an Elite Eight, and possibly Final Four caliber matchup.
#5 Xavier at Butler (2:30 p.m. ET on FOX)
Xavier: #21 in Pomeroy, #17 in Sagarin
Butler: #34 in Pomeroy, #24 in Sagarin
Conference Records: Xavier 9-3 (second), Butler 6-6 (tied for sixth with Providence)
Notes: Butler's only at 6-6 in the Big East, despite having a much better computer rating than Providence. One of the top matchups this season in this league...and arguably the best one that could possibly happen that doesn't involve Villanova.
#13 Louisville at Notre Dame (4 p.m. ET on ESPN2)
Louisville: #8 in Pomeroy, #7 in Sagarin
Notre Dame: #28 in Pomeroy, #28 in Sagarin
Conference Records: Louisville 8-3, Notre Dame 8-4 (trailing first place North Carolina)
Notes: Man...the middle of the day is loaded! Louisville is coming off a loss at Duke, still aware that they won't be playing in the postseason next month because of self-suspension. They probably can't win the ACC if they can't win this game!
#7 Virginia at Duke (4:30 p.m. ET on ESPN)
Virginia: #2 in Pomeroy, #5 in Sagarin
Duke: #12 in Pomeroy, #11 in Sagarin
Conference Records: Virginia 9-3, Duke 7-4 (in tight ACC race)
Notes: Second best matchup of the day according to the computers, though the pollsters don't even have Duke in the Top 25 in the moment. Coach K will surely be back there with a win here. Knocking off Louisville and Virginia in succession would be quite an impressive feat. Is Virginia really a top five team like the computers say? We'll learn a lot about that here.
Wisconsin at #2 Maryland (6:30 p.m. ET on ESPN)
Wisconsin: #47 in Pomeroy, #45 in Sagarin
Maryland: #6 in Pomeroy, #10 in Sagarin
Conference Records: Maryland 10-2 (tied for first), Wisconsin 7-4 (alone in sixth)
Notes: Wisconsin was off the radar much of the season...but has been surging back into the Dance discussion with some Big 10 victories. Tough to buy Maryland as the #2 team in the country if you've been watching a lot of games. But, this should be a manageable home test.
#24 Texas at #14 Iowa State (8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN)
Texas: #25 in Pomeroy, #25 in Sagarin
Iowa State: #17 in Pomeroy, #18 in Sagarin
Conference Records: Texas 7-4, Iowa State 6-5 (with range of the top, though)
Notes: Texas has been playing better than #25 lately. Iowa State had dreams of the top 10 before running into some issues in Big 12 play. Back in late December, who would have imagined Texas would be ahead of Iowa State this deep in the race? Nice prime time sleeper if you have to miss the afternoon games.
Gonzaga at #16 SMU (10 p.m. ET on ESPN2)
Gonzaga: #30 in Pomeroy, #21 in Sagarin
SMU: #23 in Pomeroy, #18 in Sagarin
Conference Records: non-conference game featuring mid-major powers
Notes: Kind of a bracket buster, though both teams are probably safely in the Dance. Is either of these teams capable of being a sleeper next month? Good test for both in the nightcap of showcase matchups.
Buckle up and settle in for what might be the best Saturday of the whole college basketball season!
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Wayne Root: Unranked College Basketball Teams Showing Some Fire!
In mid-February, it's natural for WAYNE ALLYN ROOT to start thinking about possible Cinderella's in the Big Dance. The NCAA's are just a month away. And, we're in a part of the schedule where some very nice teams start to play with fire and build confidence.
The subset of teams I want to talk about today are those just outside of the Top 25 in the Associated Press poll. A lot of handicappers and bettors tend to tune out the rankings because we're focused on our own Power Ratings, Computer Ratings, or the various trends and angles we use to pick winners. But, the kids themselves watch the polls. The very best want to make a run at #1. The next tier wants to make a run at the Top 10. Then, there's a group that feels disrespected because they're not ranked.
You saw the Indiana Hoosiers dismantle the Iowa Hawkeyes for a statement win Thursday night. Indiana is very much in the race to WIN the respected Big 10 even though they'd be at #27 in the poll based on current voting if the rankings went that far. You just KNEW the Hoosiers were mad about that "poll disrespect"...and wanted to do something about it on ESPN.
If you watched, you know that Indiana basically won TWO blowouts! Peak enthusiasm helped them jump out to a big early lead. Strong Iowa did manage to come back and make it a game. Indiana regrouped to pull away for the win and cover.
This after "#26" South Carolina won and covered in a big TV game over LSU earlier this week. The Gamecocks are very much in the SEC race even though the media is paying more attention to Kentucky, Texas A&M, and even LSU because of Ben Simmons.
And, this after "#28" Notre Dame stunned North Carolina at home last Saturday night. The Irish were even further off the rankings radar when that game was played. It took the upset to launch them up to #28 in the voting. In all of these cases a rabid home crowd helped inspire a team that was already intent on making a TV statement. Great combination to have!
Oh, we can't forget Duke at "#29." They scored a Big Monday home win over Louisville even though the Cardinals only have a regular season title to play for after putting themselves on probation. Obviously the crowd was up for that one...because Duke students stay in line for hours just to get in and be a part of the experience.
So...that's Iowa, South Carolina, Notre Dame, and Duke who all have big home TV wins this week from outside the Top 25. I'll be very interested to see if they can keep that focus and intensity going through the weekend. Amazingly, ALL FOUR of those teams are once again playing big TV games against ranked opponents.
Duke hosts #7 Virginia Saturday
Notre Dame hosts #13 Louisville Saturday
South Carolina hosts #22 (but red hot) Kentucky Saturday
Indiana visits #8 Michigan State Sunday
If Duke beats Louisville and Virginia in a five-day span, you HAVE to take the defending National Champs seriously in the Dance no matter how sluggish they were looking several days ago. If defending Final Four team Notre Dame beats North Carolina and Louisville on back-to-back Saturdays, that's going to be a tremendous confidence boost for their new contributors. If South Carolina can take down LSU and Kentucky within a week...particularly as hot as Kentucky's been...the Gamecocks have to be on your radar as a danger team next month. And...if Indiana can go on the ROAD to add Sparty's scalp...there's going to be a lot to like about the Hoosiers come Dance time.
This year in particular, many of the teams in the 25-40 range in poll and computer rankings will have a real shot to run the table. The elite just isn't very elite right now in terms of distance from the pack. It could be another instance where none of the four #1 seeds reach the Final Four. And, we may have another Wichita State/VCU type situation where a mid-major does go that far.
As you're betting day-by-day in Las Vegas right now, remember that every game is a handicapping tool for picking winners down the stretch and in the postseason. Don't watch the games to root for your bets. Watch the games so you can pick more winners!
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Have a great weekend. The TV schedule is LOADED because football is over and the networks want your eyeballs! Watch, learn, and win so you can make this your best MARCH MADNESS ever. Use your winnings from our Denver and Under Super Bowl sweep to keep piling up your profits. I'm the only man in the sports betting industry with a star on the "Walk of Fame" here in Las Vegas because I win in ALL sports! It's time for you to go to W.A.R. alongside WAYNE ALLYN ROOT!