NCAA Basketball Picks For Saturday: Best Of The Late Evening Plays

Matthew Jordan

Saturday, January 23, 2016 4:41 PM GMT

Very busy Saturday of college basketball,also several postponements due to the major storm on East Coast, so I have broken my top 3 NCAA basketball picks into early and later games.

Auburn vs. Florida
Auburn (9-8, 3-3 SEC) upset Kentucky last Saturday and then avoided a potential letdown game on Tuesday with an 83-77 home win over Alabama. Cinmeon Bowers scored 20 points and grabbed 17 rebounds and Kareem Canty played through a sprained ankle and finished with 25 points. If there's one concern for Auburn, it's that sharp-shooting freshman guard Bryce Brown has made just three of his last 17 3-point attempts during the last three games and has totaled 11 points in those three. The five games before that he scored in double digits. Auburn hasn't beaten Florida in the regular season since 1999. The Gators (12-6, 4-2) just swept the Mississippi schools. They edged visiting Mississippi State 81-78 on Tuesday. Dorian Finney-Smith scored 20 points and had 10 rebounds for his third straight double-double. He's only the sixth Florida player with three straight double-doubles in the past 20 years and the  other five are all currently in the NBA. UF's KeVaughn Allen has been one of the SEC's best freshmen of late as he averaged 23 points and 5.5 rebounds in the wins over Ole Miss and Mississippi State. He hit two free throws with 1.3 seconds left to help seal the win over the Bulldogs. UF won the lone meeting with Auburn last year by 20. The Tigers are 8-3 ATS in their past 12 conference games. UF has covered just five of its past 26 following a win.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Auburn +11.5
Best Line Offered: at Heritage

 

UNLV vs. Nevada
Can an interim coach win Coach of the Year honors in a conference? That question might have to be asked later this year in the Mountain West as UNLV (12-7, 3-3) is 3-0 since firing coach Dave Rice -- well, he "stepped away" -- and replacing him with interim coach Todd Simon, who obviously is making quite a case thus far for the permanent job even though school officials have their eyes on big-name guys (Rick Pitino?). UNLV won at Utah State 80-68 on Tuesday. The Rebels went on a 21-2 run to open the second half and never looked back. Rice was a great recruiter and convinced five-star freshman big man Stephen Zimmerman to stay in Las Vegas, but Zimmerman has really blown up under Simon with three straight double-doubles. He had 12 points and 16 rebounds along with four blocks against USU. Nevada (11-7, 3-3) pulled a minor upset at Wyoming on Wednesday, 75-69. The Wolfpack were down 10 with  just under 15 minutes left but went on a 12-1 run out of a timeout. Nevada again trailed by three with 3:40 left, but D.J. Fenner then scored 10 of his team's final 15 points. These state rivals split the regular season series last season but UNLV beat Nevada 67-46 in the Mountain West Tournament. The Rebels have covered 13 of their past 17 road games. Nevada is 0-5 against the NCAA basketball odds in its past five after a win. The road team is 6-2 ATS in the past eight  meetings.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: UNLV -5
Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes

 

Portland vs. Saint Mary's
This looks like a trap game for Saint Mary's (16-2, 7-1) which is atop the West Coast Conference after beating heavy preseason favorite Gonzaga 70-67 on Thursday night, ending an eight-game losing streak to the  bully on the block in that conference. I'll admit I didn't see that coming even though SMC was a 3.5-point home favorite, where it is now 14-0 this season. Evan Fitzner scored 20 points and hit two free throws with 2.9 seconds left for a three-point lead, and Gonzaga couldn't get off a good shot at the buzzer in an attempt to tie. The Zags had won a national-best 13 straight road games and led by as many as 15 points in the second half. The Gaels forced three straight crucial turnovers and outscored the Bulldogs by 16 in the final 10 minutes. It was the first win this season by less than double digits for Saint Mary's. The crowd in Moraga's McKeon Pavilion predictably stormed the court after the win, so I don't see how this isn't a letdown game against a below-average Portland team. The Pilots (9-12, 3-5) lost 70-61 at Pacific on Thursday. Portland was on the short end of the stick at the free-throw line, getting 15 attempts (making 11) to 34 for Pacific (making 25). Portland had nine different chances to take a lead with possession down the stretch but couldn't one time. The Pilots are 8-1 ATS in their past nine games vs. teams with a winning record. SMC is 0-4 ATS in its past four following an ATS loss. The road team is 4-1 ATS in the past five  meetings. Add Portland to your NCAA basketball picks.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Portland +17
Best Line Offered: at Pinnacle