College Basketball Top 25 Picks March 12, 2017
It’s Selection Sunday! It’s all come down to this. By the end of the day bettors and fans alike will know exactly where their teams stand heading into the NCAA Tournament. Number one seeds are handed out, bubble teams are given their fate and the bracket will finally be set as we embark on another month of madness.
But first, we need to decide three incredible important games. The SEC, Big Ten and AAC championships are all being decided Sunday afternoon before the bracket is revealed and that means there’s some huge stakes on the line for all six teams taking the court today. With money to be made in each matchup we’re here to make sure you stay informed on the last day of college basketball before the tournament begins.
Let’s get to it!
**Note these rankings reflect the rankings of each team in their conference
#3 Arkansas Razorbacks at #1 Kentucky Wildcats
- Arkansas (+8.5) at Kentucky (-8.5)
The two highest scoring teams in the SEC take the court for the conference championship on Sunday afternoon and the entertainment should be through the roof. For Kentucky the Wildcats are just trying to extend their historical dominance. They’re looking for their 30th SEC conference tournament championship when they battle Arkansas.
The Wildcats advanced to the finals after narrowly slipping by a tough Alabama team 79-74 while Arkansas had a much easier time in their semi-final game. They handed the Commodores a 76-62 thumping on Saturday to punch their ticket through. Still, the Razorbacks will have plenty to be concerned about after losing to the Wildcats 97-71 in their only meeting back in January.
Kentucky is also enjoying a 10 game win streak and continue to win in a variety of different ways with players stepping up all over the court. Not to be outdone, Arkansas has won eight of their last nine contests and are playing the best basketball of their season. The Razorbacks will need to keep a close eye on De’Aaron Fox. Kentucky’s point guard has come alive recently with 28 points on Saturday including an incredible 14 points in just the last seven minutes alone.
He’s now dropped a combined 48 points in his two tournament games and the Razorbacks would be foolish not to remember the 27 he dropped on them back in their big loss in January. For the Commodores it was all about a balanced attack. While Moses Kingsley led the way with a double-double including 12 points and 13 boards, four other players reached double digits in the Razorbacks’ win over the Commodores.
Making this game even more entertaining is the rivalry between both schools. With some ugly games back in the 90’s there’s no love lost between either team. That was on full display when the two played earlier this year with Fox and Barford getting into it and both receiving double technical. Both teams will need to keep their cool if they want to leave with an SEC championship on Sunday.
Malik Monk against Dusty Hannahs. Both players lead their teams in scoring and yet have had a somewhat quiet tournament given their excellent play during the regular season. Hannahs is capable of breaking out at any moment with 14.6 points per game while Monk is capable of completely taking over. The Wildcat averages 20.5 points a night and is a shoe in for the NBA lottery.
Kentucky has the strength and resilience to win almost any game but their recent performances have been troubling. They’ve trailed by double digits in four of their last five games and will need to come out strong against Arkansas to lock up the win. We still think the Wildcats get it done, but love taking the Razorbacks to cover. Grab Arkansas on the spread.
#2 Cincinnati Bearcats at #1 SMU Mustangs
- Cincinnati (+2) at SMU (-2)
Expect a defensive battle when the two best defenses in the AAC try to lock each other down on Sunday afternoon in the AAC conference championship.
Regardless of the outcome both teams are destined for a similar seed in the NCAA tournament and enter the final game of the conference tournament with identical 29-4 records overall. Each team is at worst a fifth seed heading into the Madness and now all that’s left to play for is pride. As we always say, sometimes pride is the best motivator and each team wants to finish with a 30 win season and a new look in their trophy case.
If you’re a fan of solid team defense then this game is for you. Both teams rank first and second in the conference in points allowed per game and if Sunday is anything like the first two times these teams have met it should be a low scoring affair. The Bearcats won the first meeting by just two points in a 66-64 nail biter back in January before the Mustangs got their revenge in February. SMU won 60-51 in another low scoring game and held Cincinnati to just 34.7 percent shooting from the floor.
That victory was arguably the most important game of the season for SMU as they rattled off 15 straight wins and 25 victories in their last 26 games. They launched their incredible season off of that huge win with defense at the forefront of their success. They beat UCF 70-59 in their semifinal game for the 23rd time in the last 26 teams that they’ve held a team to under 66 points. It was a nice change for a team that almost blew a 24 point lead against East Carolina and gave up an uncharacteristic 77 points.
They’re not too shabby on offense either and that’s mainly thanks to Semi Ojeleye. The player of the year in the AAC bailed them out against the Pirates with 36 points but needed just 18 to get the job done against Central Florida.
The Bearcats play the same brand of tough defense but don’t have the same star on offense that the Mustangs do. They come at you with a balanced attack from all five spots. Jacob Evans leads the way with 13.8 points but anyone can step up any night like Gary Clark did on Saturday. Despite dealing with a broken tooth and leg cramps he poured in 25 points on just nine shots.
Semi Ojeleye against Gary Clark. Clark isn’t the prolific scorer Ojeleye is but he has what it takes to get it done and will be leaned on by his teammates to deliver. He’ll need to help out on defense as well though as it’s going to take a full team effort for the Bearcats to slow down the AAC Player of the Year.
SMU transformed into one of the best teams in the country each game with the season winding down and look as strong as ever heading into the AAC championship. With the spread set at just two points we think the Mustangs can lock the Bearcats down and emerge with a trophy. Take SMU on the spread.
#8 Michigan Wolverines at #2 Wisconsin Badgers
- Michigan (+1.5) at Wisconsin (-1.5)
The Wolverines will try to continue their improbable run as they attempt to become the first number 8 seed ever to win the Big Ten championship. With their plane incident out of the way the team is playing some of their best basketball of the season but will now need to try and take down the perennial powerhouse that is Wisconsin.
The Badgers enter with a 25-8 record overall and will battle the 23-11 Wolverines with an automatic trip to the NCAA Tournament on the line. Wisconsin is already a lock to make the tourney but Michigan could use this win to solidify their chances. If they fail to capture the championship they’ll join a long list of other teams hoping for an at-large bid.
Wisconsin hammered Northwestern 76-48 in their semi-final game to prove they still have what it takes for a deep tournament run while Michigan pulled off a huge 84-77 win in their semi-final matchup against an incredibly hot Minnesota team. Both teams were carried by some strong individual play.
For Wisconsin, it was all about their star Ethan Happ who dropped 16 points but was most impressive from the free throw line where he canned eight of 11 shots. After struggling from the line all season that performance was a huge boost for his and the rest of the team’s confidence.
The Wolverines were led by guard Derrick Walton Jr. in their semi-final win. He had an amazing 29 points and was a perfect ten for ten at the foul line. The Wolverines shot 63 percent from the field as a team in the first half and will try and bust out to a fast start again on Sunday.
Ethan Happ against D.J. Wilson. Happ does everything for this Badgers team and while there’s not just one player who’s going to be responsible for guarding him most of the onus will fall on Wilson. He leads the Wolverines in rebounds with 5.4 a game and also racks up 1.4 blocks. He’ll need to protect the rim all night against the pesky Happ.
The spread is set so small thanks to how well the Wolverines have been playing lately but Wisconsin’s dominating performance against Northwestern has us trusting them again. Take the Badgers on the spread.