Welcome to all! This is the first edition of a new series: My college basketball picks against the spread! After a fun season of picking college football games, I’m excited to transition to the basketball world. Each week, I will be picking five games against the spread from Thursday to Sunday, with four being important games in college basketball and the last one as a UConn game. This week holds an excellent slate, including two top 15 matchups. Let’s get to it!
No. 7 Texas at No. 23 Seton Hall (-1.0) (Thursday at 6:30 p.m. on FS1):
We’re going to start with an intriguing contest as a part of the Big East-Big 12 Battle. Texas is a bit of a mystery here, playing only one team ranked better than 180th in KenPom. That team is KenPom No. 1 Gonzaga in a game that wasn’t particularly competitive. This should be a good contest for the Longhorns that will let them show their abilities against a quality team not named Gonzaga. Seton Hall has a signature win against then-No. 4 Michigan, who has since skidded out of the top 25. Jarren Rhoden has been excellent for the Pirates this season with 17.6 PPG, but Texas’ frontcourt duo of Timmy Allen and Tre Mitchell will be too much to handle.
The pick: Texas
No. 22 Wisconsin at No. 21 Ohio State (-5.0) (Saturday at noon on BTN):
Buckeyes wing EJ Liddell has simply been phenomenal this year. The veteran has averaged over 20 points and seven rebounds and is listed by KenPom as No. 1 in his POTY rankings. His 14 points and 11 rebounds were key in Ohio State’s huge victory against then-AP No. 1 Duke at home. Wisconsin’s Johnny Davis, on the other hand, has had quite the campaign himself, also scoring over 20 per game and leading the team with 2.4 assists. Although both of these teams are very capable of winning big games, I like Ohio State better here just because of the mismatch that Liddell poses.
The pick: Ohio State
No. 14 Houston at No. 9 Alabama (-1.0) (Saturday at 10 p.m. on ESPN2):
This game features former UConn guard Josh Carlton, who has been a good addition for Houston, averaging 8.0 and 3.8 rebounds per game on 60% shooting. More prominent in the Cougars’ attack is Marcus Sasser, who has scored 17.7 points per game and collected 2.6 steals. The Cougars don’t have many signature wins but also don’t have any bad losses. Alabama is facing the opposite situation. Three games after laying an egg against below-KenPom 100 Iona, the Crimson Tide went to Washington and beat Gonzaga. Taking away their bad, flukey Iona game, I think Alabama is the better team here.
The pick: Alabama
No. 6 Villanova at No. 2 Baylor (-4.0) (Saturday at 3 p.m. on ABC):
After a bizarre win against Syracuse for which the Wildcats shot 50 threes and only hit 13, Villanova will need to be ready to take on a top two team in Baylor. The Bears have looked great all season, not dropping a game, while taking home the Battle 4 Atlantis trophy. Their only significant win is against current No. 19 Michigan State, who UConn fell to. Their nine man rotation is deadly, as led by journeyman point guard James Akinjo. Because of Villanova’s lack of depth, I’m going to have to take the Bears here, although if the threes start falling, it could spell trouble.
The pick: Baylor
St. Bonaventure vs. No. 15 UConn (-3.0) (Saturday at 3:30 p.m. on ESPN2)
Two teams that are battered up and bruised meet in Newark, New Jersey, with the Bonnies missing top player Kyle Lofton and the Huskies missing key starters Adama Sanogo and Tyrese Martin. In their first game without Lofton, it took everything to beat a decent Buffalo team. The Huskies looked more upon freshmen in their first game without their missing pair, with three newcomers scoring a combined 23 points, Jordan Hawkins shouldering most of that number. This will be a great opportunity for the Huskies to get their young guys real playing experience against a talented team. Hawkins has a big game here to take UConn to victory.
The pick: UConn