Saturday SEC/Big-12 Challenge

SUPER SATURDAY OF COLLEGE HOOPS HIGHLIGHTED BY SHOWCASE GAMES IN SEC/BIG 12 CHALLENGE

This was a GREAT idea! The SEC and Big 12 have created a smorgasbord of high profile basketball games just at the time when sports fans are ready to start focusing on college hoops. Let the ACC and Big 10 play early in the season when hardly anyone is watching. NOW...the media, TV viewers, and...yes...sports bettors will be all over the best matchups of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge!

There are FIVE games we want to pay particular attention to on the NOTEBOOK because they are all Big Dance caliber games. The 10 teams involved are currently projected to make the brackets by Joe Lunardi's "bracketology." Though, LSU wouldn't be in if the most respected computers were used to determine bids! The Tigers will have a chance to make their case Saturday against the #1 team in the nation.

Let's take the five games in tipoff order. We'll include those respected computer ratings so you can get a fuller sense of each matchup...

#9 West Virginia at Florida, noon ET on ESPN
West Virginia: #6 in Pomeroy, #6 in Sagarin
Florida: #26 in Pomeroy, #26 in Sagarin

As always, we use the computer ratings from Ken Pomeroy of kenpom.com and Jeff Sagarin of USA Today here in the NOTEBOOK. West Virginia is on a very good run of late, outside of a distracted toe-stubbing against Texas that came in the heart of a demanding schedule stretch. They just might have the best defense in the country this season. Florida has the worst offense of the 10 teams we're discussing today. Can the Gators get a boost from home court?

Vanderbilt at Texas, noon ET on ESPN2
Vanderbilt: #32 in Pomeroy, #25 in Sagarin
Texas: #35 in Pomeroy, #34 in Sagarin

Interesting matchup of potential March sleepers. Right now, this would be a Round-of-64-caliber game in the Dance based on those computer rankings. Texas is in better form at the moment. Shaka Smart has a way of making his teams peak at the right. Vandy wants a good result to make everyone forget last Saturday's horrible effort at Kentucky. The Commodores have the second worst offense behind Florida in today's 10-team breakdown. Could be a problem for them in Austin.

#14 Iowa State at #5 Texas A&M, 2 p.m. ET on ESPN
Iowa State: #9 in Pomeroy, #19 in Sagarin
Texas A&M: #8 in Pomeroy, #11 in Sagarin

Wow...a Sweet 16 type matchup according to Pomeroy. Pollsters have Texas A&M knocking on the door of the Final Four. The Aggies will have to prove that to us. Great spot here to do just that. Note that Pomeroy and Sagarin disagree on Iowa State. It's rare to have a team 10 spots apart that high in the rankings. The mainstream media is focusing on Kentucky/Kansas later on. The computers say THIS is the best game of the two-conference challenge. Interesting that Pomeroy's methodology has Iowa State playing the second-worst defense of today's 10 teams (only better than LSU). Can they outscore the Aggies in College Station?

#1 Oklahoma at LSU, 5 p.m. ET on ESPN
Oklahoma: #1 in Pomeroy, #1 in Sagarin
LSU: #62 in Pomeroy, #58 in Sagarin

As we mentioned the other day in our SEC summary, LSU is not seen as a tournament caliber team by the computers. Ben Simmons is getting a lot of hype as a potential #1 draft pick in the NBA. His team just isn't that impressive right now. They did bully Kentucky on this floor. Beating Oklahoma in a huge TV spot might lock them into the Dance no matter what the computers say. The Sooners moved into #1 in the polls and computers when Villanova lost last Sunday.

#20 Kentucky at #4 Kansas, 7 p.m. ET on ESPN
Kentucky: #20 in Pomeroy, #21 in Sagarin
Kansas: #17 in Pomeroy, #9 in Sagarin

Before the season began...everyone had circled this one because it might have been #1 vs. #2. Instead, Kansas is a questionable #4 in the polls despite poor road play in Big 12 action. Kentucky is barely top 20 in the polls and computers. Still a potentially great game. Kansas is good at home, and Kentucky has picked up its pace lately. Is this a battle of pretenders or late season super-surgers? Don't miss it!

JIM HURLEY has been gearing up for this weekend for weeks. He knows that all the "new" college basketball bettors want to get things started off on the right foot. Football is over except for the Super Bowl. Let's go make some money on the hardwood!

You can purchase the final word in game-day basketball right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about extended service through March Madness and beyond, please call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453 Friday during normal business hours or Saturday morning before the early games tip off.

Back with you Sunday for a look at Golden State/New York Knicks in the NBA. The road to the Super Bowl and March Madness will continue on these pages virtually around-the-clock. Get great tips here in the NOTEBOOK, and BIG, JUICY WINNERS from JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!

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