Tomorrow is going to be one of the most action-packed and entertaining Saturday’s of the year in College Basketball this year. Using our rankings, there are four games that pit nationally ranked teams against each other, including two battles of top six teams. This week, I have had a good week of predicting games, going 5-1 overall to push my current record to 20 wins and 6 losses. For this Saturday, I will make predictions on six games. Three today (the 6th to 4th best games of the day) and three tomorrow morning (the 3rd to 1st best games of the day). Before the jump today, I will give you the #6 game of the day and then after the jump the #5 and #4 games. Be sure to check back tomorrow for the top three games of the day and my picks on those games.
#6 Game of the Day: Alabama (14-8, 4-5 SEC) @ LSU (16-6, 5-4 SEC)
Alabama and LSU are two teams in the second tier of SEC teams outside of Kentucky. LSU has put together an impressive resume so far with wins over UMass, West Virginia, and Georgia, however they are coming off of two straight embarrassing losses, one at Mississippi State and just two nights ago, losing a home game to Auburn. If they are going to keep this NCAA tournament ship alive, they need to add a couple more solid wins to the resume and avoid any bad losses, such as the losses they have taken recently. For Alabama, they have a far weaker out of conference resume, with only one decent win over UCLA. They missed a huge chance at a resume builder when they lost by one point to Wichita State. As for this game itself, it pits two teams with conflicting styles. LSU runs the floor very well and scores a ton of points while Alabama grinds out defensive victories. LSU is 8th in the country in rebounding and 21st in assists and their two best players are far and away their two starting big men. Both sophomores, the 6’8″ Jordan Mickey and 6’10” Jarell Martin are averaging over 16 points and 9 rebounds per game. Mickey is also averaging a ridiculous 3.7 blocks per game. These two are the engine that make LSU run and slowing them down will be no small task for Alabama. LSU relies heavily on their starting five, as all five average between 29.1 and 34.9 minutes per game. Alabama will try and wear them down with high pressure, physical defense and force them to use their bench. For Alabama, they are one of the worst offensive teams in the country who rank close to last in assists per game as well as rebounds per game. If they are going to win this game, there big men will have to step up and commit to rebounding the basketball. However, I do not see that happening. LSU will dominate on the glass and both of their two big men will post at least 20 points and 10 rebounds to the tune of a huge, 79 to 64 road victory.
Follow us after the jump for the #5 and #4 games of the day.
The American Athletic Conference has quietly put together a very impressive season, with a legitimate chance at getting four bids. Two of the teams that will be dancing are SMU and Tulsa, who have both steamrolled through the AAC so far. Since December 17th, SMU has not allowed more than 61 points, which they have done twice since that date. In 14 games since that date, where they are 12-2 with both losses coming against Cincinnati, they have given up under 50 points in a game twice and are allowing an average of just 54 points per game. There defense is simply phenomenal and their offense is about middle of the pack when you look at their numbers compared to the rest of the country, in terms of scoring at least. However, when you look at how they play the game, it is a slow grind it out type of game. That is why it is more accurate to look at numbers like field goal percentage and assists per game. While SMU lacks a star player, they are 11th in the country right now shooting the ball 49.1% from the field. They are also 15th in the country at 16.2 assists per game. They slow the game down, run brutally efficient offense, and are challenging to guard due to their ball movement. Tulsa is also a phenomenal defensive team, however their offense is nowhere near as efficient as SMUs. Neither team really has any star players but both teams run their systems well. I think SMU is just a more talented and efficient team and will win this game, 63 to 59, continuing their streak of holding opponents to under 61 points.
#4 Game of the Day: #17 Baylor (17-5, 5-4 Big 12) @ #12 West Virginia (18-4, 6-3 Big 12)
This is the first of two meetings between two teams with high aspirations this year. Both teams are very physical teams that crash the glass, play tough, man to man defense, and rebound the ball incredibly well. Baylor is on a hot streak right now, winning four of their last five games, including wins vs. Texas and Oklahoma. However, they have only won 1 out of their 4 conference road games so far, so this game will really challenge them in that aspect. On the other hand, West Virginia has won 3 out of its 4 conference home games, only losing their home opener to Iowa State. This is a team that plays and shoots the ball much better at home, with their student body behind them. They are currently 24th in the country in points per game at 75.9 and are led by senior guard Juwan Staten and sophomore forward Devin Williams. After a slow start to Big 12 play, Staten has really turned it on in his last four games (three of which WVU has won), averaging 13.8 points and 5.8 assists per game while shooting the ball very well. Devin Williams has had 3 double doubles so far at home in the Big 12 and shoots the ball much better at home. I think West Virginia wins this game, but in a nail biter, 71 to 65, although their dreadful team free throw shooting (65.9% as a team) could cost them this game.