No Badger game again this weekend, but there are some interesting games. I noticed that the hoops writers at cbssports.com made picks against the spread for 10 of the more interesting games this weekend, so I thought I'd make my picks for those games as well. To be clear: I would never gamble on basketball, because the point spread is so fickle. But this is a way to maybe make my life a little more interesting and fun, so screw you. Chorlton, I dare you to beat me. You too, Osterholm (who is in danger of having his new posting rights revoked on the basis of inactivity.)
Notre Dame at Ohio State -8
This is what I'm talking about with point spreads in college basketball. I know Ohio State will win, but by how much? It's likely to come down to: (1) does Notre Dame make a couple of late three-pointers? and (2) does Ohio State make its low-leverage free throws?
Notre Dame is coming off a neutral court win over mediocre Indiana, but they've got a couple of bad losses. Ohio State has won every game by double digits, though Delaware hung close with them the other night.
Notre Dame can score, and this should be a low-pace affair. So I like Notre Dame to cover but lose. (This follows my first rule of thumb: if all three CBS guys picked the favorite to cover, I'm going the other way.)
UPDATE: This game is actually in Nee York, which makes it semi-home for Notre Dame if anything, and I therefore withdraw my statement that "I know OSU will win."
Michigan State at Texas +3
Michigan State still has injury problems, and Texas is coming off a shocking victory at North Carolina. If Texas wins this game, they will have cobbled together a tourney-worthy non-conference resume. But that seems unlikely, as they just squeaked by Mercer, UT-San Antonio, Vandy, and Temple (all sub-100 teams in the Kenpom ratings).
One thing that makes me want to pick Texas is that they had a preseason T-Rank of 43, and a preseason Kenpom rating of 80. So they are moving in the right direction, and I want it to be the case that my algorithm saw something Kenpom's didn't. I root for the T-Rank.
But it's just hard to imagine that Michigan State loses this game, and three points doesn't seem like enough. So I'm taking MSU to win and cover.
Oklahoma St. at Colorado +7
This is a battle between two teams the T-Rank underrated. It had Oklahoma State at 19 and Colorado at 66, compared to Kenpom preseason ratings of 4 and 39. I'd rather have it been wrong about Colorado, since that was a bigger outlier, so I'll take Oklahoma State to win and cover.
BYU at Oregon -10
Here's a T-Rank special: BYU was 64 and Oregon was 22 compared to Kenpom 48 and 56. Oregon has no moved up to 20 and BYU is still at 47, so I'm rooting for a big Oregon win.
But 10 points? That's tough. It will be a high-pace game between two teams who don't play defense. So Oregon could certainly run away things late. Still, it's just so easy for a team to make even a blow-out look close with some late buckets by scrubs. And I wouldn't be shocked by a BYU outright win here.
But I'll go with my rooting interest: Oregon to win and cover.
Georgetown at Kansas -8
I will take the points in this one, but Kansas wins. Kansas has played a brutal schedule, and it continues here. There has been some foolish talk about Kansas given their schedule. Talk like about how Tyler Ennis has been more impressive than Andrew Wiggins (his fellow Canadian). That's nonsense. Kansas has lost to three really good teams away from home. They aren't going to lose at home. But T-Rank tells me G'Town has underachieved, so I'll root for them to keep it close in the loss.
Belmont at Kentucky -17
Ah, who the hell knows. Belmont did win at North Carolina, but they aren't very good this year. They've lost 3 of their last 4, including not-so-good losses to South Dakota St. and Denver on the road. They might well be due to just lay an egg. But this game is a random number generator, so I will go with my heart: Belmont covers in a loss.
Gonzaga at Kansas St. +6
A home underdog in college basketball is a powerful force, but this game is actually in Wichita, not the little apple. Despite my first rule of thumb, I will take Gonzaga to win and cover.
UMass at Florida St. +2
Obviously I'm rooting for the Seminoles in this game. Upset special! Bonus rooting interest is to eliminate Umass from the "ranks of the unbeaten."
Missouri at Illinois +1
It's a pick 'em game on a neutral court. Missouri is undefeated and therefore due for a loss. But Missouri was a T-Rank outlier at 27th (compared to 49 in Kenpom preseason and 45 now). So I'll take Missouri. A push here wouldn't surprise me.
UConn at Washington +5
Previously undefeated UConn just lost a shocker at home to Stanford, and now faces another PAC-12 opponent for its first road game. This is Washington's only chance for an impressive non-conference win, but they are not a good team.
UConn was #10 in the T-Rank, so on that basis I should be cheering for them. On the other hand, I essentially called their home loss to Stanford, despite a certain writer's claim that they didn't face any "possible" losses until their game at SMU. It would be pretty sweet if they lost two of these unlosable games. For that reason, I will take Washington to win outright.
If I do well, I'll brag about these picks next week. If I don't, I will delete this post.