Picks for Final February Saturday

March Madness, you are quickly marching our way.  We’ve seen Elite 8-type matchups thus far this season.  Speaking of which, we get treated to Duke vs. Syracuse Part II today. Here are my picks to improve on Matt’s ATS, standing at 36-32 on the season after last week’s comeback (6-2) performance.

Here are the team’s to take today:

St. John’s +11 at Villanova
Baylor +3 1/2 at West Virginia
Notre Dame +12 at Virginia
LSU +12 at Kentucky.
Syracuse +5 /12 at Duke
Texas + 11 1/2 at Kansas
Stanford +1 vs. UCLA
New Mexico – 3 1/2 vs. San Diego St.

I think West Virginia has finished showing us its best basketball of the season.  Baylor played tough in a must-win game against Oklahoma St.  With so much on the line, I could easily see a one possession game in this one.  As much as I love Virginia, they play games in the 40s and 50s.  That makes this 12 point spread too irresistible.  Good sports schools like Notre Dame surprise shoe-in tourney teams this time of year.  It’s like they want to claim relevance although nowhere near the bubble.  See Auburn’s near-win at Florida this week.  LSU beat Kentucky once already this season.  That was by far the highlight of the season, as they’ve struggled since.  However, if they swept Kentucky, they’d have to be in the bubble team conversation, right?  LSU matches up well with Kentucky with a quick-footed front court and much more experienced backcourt.  As great as the first Syracuse Duke matchup was, I have to bet on the Orange for the first time this season.  Boeheim will obviously have his players attention after the loss to Boston College, and the zone gave the Blue Devils a lot of issues with its mid-range game last time at the Dome.  I just can’t see Duke running away with this one.  The 5 1/2 points feel safe.

Right to Business

Matt’s ATS dips below .500 for the first time this season.  I am 30-31 against the spread.  Let’s clean this up right quick with picks for Saturday, February 15th.

Give me Memphis +3 1/2.  The Memphis guards saved the day against Gonzaga and Ryan Boatright hasn’t looked right for UCONN.

Oklahoma +3 1/2 at Oklahoma State.  Marcus Smart is not the only player the Cowboys are missing.

VCU +4 at St. Louis.  I picked St. Louis as a favorite recently in LaSalle and that killed me.  They won, but didn’t cover.  I sense a likely scenario here as VCU plays for its tournament life.  I actually hope St. Louis loses so that it’s a greater sleeper in the NCAA Tournament.

Green Bay +3 1/2 at Cleveland State.  Green Bay is one of my super sleepers this year.

Tennessee missed a golden opportunity to get into the tournament with a home game against Florida.  I’m not counting them out just yet and taking them +2 at Missouri.

I love Duke as a potential Elite 8 team.  However, 13 points is too large a spread hosting Maryland.  I’d take Dez Wells to cover that himself.

I’m going to stick to my guns as I feel invested with Ohio State.  I will take the Buckeyes -3 1/2 in Illinois.  If they can’t win there, there really are serious issues in Columbus.

The nightcap, in my mind, is a no-brainer.  Florida is the new vogue choice to win the national championship, much like Louisville last year.  I will confidently take them +3 in Kentucky.

1992 NBA All-Star Roster 2014 NCAA Basketball Player Comparison

1992 All Star Game 2014 NCAA Comparison

1992 All Star Player 2014 NCAA Comparison School Reason
WEST Tim Hardaway Shabazz Napier UCONN Killer cross-over, stepback jumpshot
Magic Johnson Kyle Anderson UCLA Point-forward type.  Sees over the defense at guard.
Chris Mullin Billy Barron Canisiuis Fundamentals.  Flat-out scorer. Ellusive dribble
Karl Malone Jeronne Maymon Tennessee Strong.  Finisher.  Rebounder
David Robinson Kaleb Tarczewski Arizona Militant.  Shot-blocker  Dunks with two hands at the rim.
Hakeem Olajuwon Joel Embiid Kansas Great foot and shoulder motion.  Savvy post moves
Jeff Hornaceck Brady Haslip Baylor Deep range shooter
Dikembe Mutombo Talib Zanna Pittsburgh Better defender than anything else.  Blocks shots
Otis Thorpe Montrezl Harrell Louisville Strong big who can run the floor.  Scores off rebounds
Dan Majerle Nik Stauskas Michigan Underrated dribbler, passer, penetrator. Jump shooter
James Worthy Jabari Parker Duke Back to the basket then attacks by curling into lane
John Stockton John Stockton Jr. Gonzaga Runs the offense.  Unselfish.
Clyde Drexler T.J. Warren NC State Prolific scoreer.  Runs the floor.  Mismatch size
EAST Isiah Thomas Russ Smith Louisville Lightnight quick, score first by nature distributor by choice
Michael Jordan Markel Brown Oklahoma St. Explosive.  Great defender at guard. Underrated young player
Larry Bird Doug McDermott Creighton Cerebral.  Amazing shooter.  Can score in post.
Charles Barkley Julius Randle Kentucky Country strong.  Rebounds at will.  Runs the floor.
Patrick Ewing Adrien Payne Michigan St. Soft touch jump shot for a big man.  Blocks at the rim.
Bench Dominique Wilkens Andrew Wiggins Kansas Freakishly athletic.  Flourishes in the open court.
Joe Dumars  Sean Kilpatrick  Cincinnati Combo guard.  Shooter.  Strong protective dribbler
Scottie Pippen Spencer Dinwiddie Colorado America’s best defender.  Rangy.  Commands offense.
Reggie Lewis Nick Johnson Arizona Slasher, shooter, solid rebounder for a guard
Brad Daugherty Dwayne Evans St. Louis Methotical big.  YMCA game.  Ambidextrous at rim
Kevin Willis Patric Young Florida Muscular, shorter wingspand, superior rebounder
Mark Price Kevin Pangos Gonzaga Elite shooter.  Undersized.  Not known to create own shot
Michael Adams Yogi Farrel Indiana Fast court general.  Will hit a 3 if you leave him open.
Dennis Rodman Malcolm Moore Milwaukee Nasty. Rebounder.  Savvy post defender.  Teammate

Post-Super Bowl Picks Saturday

Now that the NFL season has ended, welcome back to the religion of NCAA hoops.
Matt’s ATS stands at 28-25 on the season.  I was on the fence about one of my eight picks today.  Therefore, new respecttheline.com correspondent C4 helps out!

Florida -14 vs. Alabama
Texas +4 @ K-State
UNC even @ Notre Dame
Michigan +6 @ Iowa
St. Louis -3 @ LaSalle
Gonzaga + 4/12 @ Memphis
Cincinnati +3 1/2 @ SMU
*Oklahoma -5 1/2 vs. Baylor

*C4’s Ducky Pick of the Week

February Fabness

Who’s your Fab Five?  We are officially now just one month away from March.  Before the Madness, you should pick your top 5 teams.  I still like Ohio State.  Despite them losing three straight in a difficult Big 10, they still have the talent to get to a Final Four.  We all know Aaron Craft is a defensive difference maker.  They are still reeling after losing Deshaun Thomas to the pros (French League).  However, I believe the scoring can be made up for by committee.  I had never heard of LaQuinton Ross before his big shot led the Buckeyes over Arizona and into the Elite Eight last year.  The freshman darling Starling Loving from Toledo is getting more minutes throughout the season.  I believe they have enough shooters with he, Lenzelle Smith Jr. and Shannon Scott to score by committee.  Ohio State rounds out my top 5 of teams I can envision actually WINNING a national championship.  Kansas is the “snub,” if you can call it that, because there is enough film in existence showing Joel Embiid struggling with a double team.

1.  Michigan State
2.  Arizona
3.  Florida
4.  St. Louis
5.  Ohio State

Where Joel at?  A challenge to one-on-one

Where Joel at? A challenge to one-on-one

Now that is on the record, it leads right into my Saturday picks.  I like Ohio State + 4 1/2 against Wisconsin.  Both the Badgers and Buckeyes are desperate.  I think this game will come down to a final possession.  Two scoring possessions could take six minutes of game time against Wisconsin, so I like that extra half-point to handicap Ohio State 4 1/2.

I hated watching John Calapari bark at his young Wildcats, as Kentucky got embarrassed this week at LSU.  Johnny O’Brien III had his way will Willie Cauley-Stein.  However, Missouri doesn’t have that big man advantage today.  The Tigers have been like my Knicks.  Totally schizophrenic.  They just got a big win in Arkansas, which means they are due for a winning streak before disappointing their fans again.  If Calapari was as pissed against LSU, jumping onto the court to push Andrew Harrison into the right motion offense.  This isn’t a good luck for Kentucky.  They just too much of a mess to like getting 2 1/2 points.  Take Missouri.  This quality win for the Tigers could be the difference between them being that 3rd or 4th team from the SEC into the big dance.  National analysts are saying there will be four teams total from this conference.  Arkansas, Tennessee, Ole Miss and LSU would have to battle it out for that fourth spot.  I actually like five teams from this conference.

Utah is a team to beware of.  They lost to eventual champion Oregon in the Pac 12 Championship last year after putting forth a serious run at the Big Dance.  Days ago they had Arizona on the ropes before losing the game.  With Spence Dinwittie out for Colorado, I like the Utes getting 2 1/2 points.  Perhaps they can close out a game today.

Keeping with the West, I like Stanford to cover 4 1/2 against Arizona State.  Stanford is another team thirsty for revenge after playing Arizona tough.

Hey!  Did you see Duke has its 3rd and final Plumlee brother?  The Blue Devils are playing fantastic ball right now.  They’ve found their rim protector in Mashall Plumlee. I also love the fact that Andre Dawkins is providing senior leadership.  He played just 4 minutes in a loss against Arizona and 10 minutes in a win against Michigan.  Since then, he has averaged 16 1/2 minutes per game.  He, Plumlee and Rasheed Suulaimon are making quality contributions, which is something Duke was lacking from the bench early this season.  I am taking Duke +4 1/2 points visiting Syracuse.  Again, I think the Orange are overdue for that loss.

I don’t understand how Oklahoma is getting 9 points in Iowa State after how well they’ve played.  I am taking Lon Krueger’s Sooners and watching this team real closely as a sleeper 6, 7, 8 or 9 seed in the Big Dance.

I told myself after last week’s poor performance (2-5, 24-22 on the season) that I need to also pick favorites, not just underdogs.  I’ll take Arizona to cover 4 1/2 points in California.  I don’t believe in the Golden Bear’s bigs, and Kaleb Tarczewski is one of my favorite players in the land.  This means I am officially laying off the Michigan State Georgetown game.  Spartans are spotting the Hoyas eight points, but are reeling from injuries.  A win for either team would be very significant in the big picture.