The NFL is over for a while and the NBA is on hiatus for All-Star Weekend, so you have no more excuses not to watch a lot of college hoops this weekend.
If you’re not watching the Olympics, you need to occupy your time with something, and there are plenty of fun games this weekend. We don’t have high profile games because the powers that be just didn’t see Purdue, Auburn or Arizona coming.
Still, sometimes the lesser-known games offer better values, so let’s take a look at the weekend and pick a few spots.
Friday February 18
Richmond Spiders vs. VCU Rams
Projected line: Rams -3
On Friday, the picks were really slim this week, as the Big East and Big Ten only have their low-level teams in action. The Rams and Spiders are A-10 programs hoping to do enough to earn general offers for the Big Dance. The Rams are just one game behind Davidson in the league thanks to the conference’s second-best league defense, but two of their three league losses have been by 20 points or more, so when they’re out of play, they are really struggling. . Richmond is lower in the league standings and still has some work to do. Basically, the Spiders’ entire season has won the games they’re supposed to win, but they only have one win as an underdog this season. I don’t think they’re going to do two at VCU. They are a safe Friday night fade.
Saturday February 19
Tennessee Volunteers vs. Arkansas Razorbacks
4:00 p.m. ET
Projected line: Volunteers -1
Tennessee is looking to capitalize on its big win over Kentucky this weekend. Those two teams are tied for second in the SEC behind Auburn at 10-3, with the Razorbacks just behind them at 9-4, so there’s a lot at stake in Fayetteville. The Vols’ three league losses have come on the road, which is why I was a little surprised the stats still made them a favorite at Arkansas, who just gave an Auburn team then the best classified his only defeat in the league last weekend. The Hogs followed that up with a loss at Alabama last weekend, ending a long winning streak that saw them climb up the standings. I really like this Arkansas team even though they don’t shoot very well from deep. With Tennessee’s road issues and youth at point guard, the Vols are an easy team to wipe out there. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this line tip off.
Take Arkansas (down to -3)
Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. Texas Longhorns
12:30 p.m. ET
Projected line: Longhorns -2
Earlier this month, the Red Raiders hosted former coach Chris Beard and the Longhorns, beating them by 13 points in a game they took control of early. This weekend they visit Austin, looking to add another big win to their recent sweep of Baylor, positive proof that they can beat good teams on the road too. Texas lost to that same Baylor team last weekend and only survived their final game against Oklahoma, needing overtime to dispatch the Sooners. Texas only has one home loss this season, though, to Kansas State of all teams, but their style of play leaves the Longhorns open because their offense sometimes struggles. They are so enigmatic. Texas Tech is a team that can match their defensive abilities, and that’s the main reason we’ll be under scrutiny on Saturday. I always like value with the home team as long as the number stays under one possession, but if it goes over that be prepared to flip.
Illinois Fighting Illini vs. Michigan State Spartans
12:00 p.m. ET
Projected line: Spartans -1
The Big Ten is tight at the top. Illinois is one of four teams with four losses, and Michigan State has five, so this game will help determine which team wins the crown. These two teams are among the top five in offensive and defensive efficiency in the league, and when they met in Illinois last month, the home team came out on top with a 56-55 win. Kofi Cockburn did not play in this game, however, and he makes a huge difference for Illinois. Point guard Andre Curbelo also missed that game for the Illini, but they still managed to get the win. Going on the road isn’t going to be easy, but Illinois is the most talented team. It would be the Illini’s best road win so far, and I really like their chances. I particularly like them in an underdog role. Michigan State hasn’t impressed me this season. Spartans are no pushover, but they’re far from elite as well.
Iowa Hawkeyes vs. Ohio State Buckeyes
2:30 p.m. ET
Projected line: Buckeyes -3
Another Big Ten battle will take place at Value City Arena in Columbus. Ohio State is one of those teams with four losses, but Iowa, at 7-6, is just looking for a win that will help its overall offer status. This one is going to be all about offenses. Iowa is fourth nationally in offensive efficiency and Ohio State is eighth. There’s also a fun duel between conference and National Player of the Year nominees Keegan Murray (Iowa) and EJ Liddell (Ohio State). I’m giving Iowa a big chance to upset because the Hawkeyes play fast but do it without returning the ball. Ohio State is better defensively, but marginal. The Hawkeyes will try their luck one-on-one with almost anyone. It will definitely be a fun watch.
Sunday February 20
Michigan Wolverines vs. Wisconsin Badgers
1:00 p.m. ET
Projected line: Badgers -3
I know, more Big Ten. The Wolverines have no room for error thanks to early struggles while Wisconsin is still in the hunt for the regular season title. The Badgers aren’t pretty on offense, but it’s more about missed shots than missed chances as they don’t return the ball. Guard Johnny Davis is also in the conversation for player of the year. He’s more of a volume guy than an efficiency guy, but that’s because the Badgers need him. They rely on one more player than they normally do. Wisconsin has already suffered two losses in Madison against Big Ten opponents, so there’s no air of invincibility at the Kohl Center. The Badgers’ consistency makes it the game though. Michigan has burned/fooled us too many times.