NCAA Basketball Picks for Saturday: First Weekend Of Conference Play

Matthew Jordan

Saturday, January 2, 2016 12:33 PM UTC

Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016 12:33 PM UTC

It's the first college basketball Saturday of the season where all the major conferences are in action. In addition, the No. 1 spot in the polls on Monday is up for grabs with Michigan State's loss.

No. 23 Baylor vs. No. 2 Kansas
Clearly Kansas (11-1) is first in line to supplant Michigan State atop the polls if the Jayhawks can beat Baylor. KU's only loss was to those Spartans very early in the season in Chicago. Kansas routed UC Irvine 78-53 to close non-conference play on Tuesday -- well, KU does play Kentucky in a special game Jan. 30 in the middle of the Big 12 schedule. The Anteaters, with three guys standing at least 6-foot-10, led by 7-foot-6 Mamadou Ndiaye, gave Kansas trouble for a while and only trailed by two at halftime. But the Kansas frontcourt accounted for 30 of the team's 50 points in the second half. Senior Perry Ellis had 13 of his 14 points in the second half. He added a team-best nine rebounds. It was Kansas' 10th straight win, the school's longest since the 2012-13 season, which seems hard to believe. Kansas also has won 30 straight games at home. Baylor (10-2) ended non-conference play with a 72-59 win over Texas Southern. Rico Gathers recorded his 30th career double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. It was Baylor's 33rd straight home win against non-conference opponents. Baylor has won 23 straight home games against unranked opponents. The Bears' losses this season came at then-No. 25 Oregon by seven and then-No. 24 Texas A&M by 19. Kansas was 3-0 vs. Baylor last year. The one in Waco was by just a point, while the one in Lawrence and in the Big 12 Tournament were each by 10. KU has won five straight in the series overall. Kansas, which has won 24 straight conference openers. Baylor is 1-7 ATS its past eight games. KU has covered five straight in series against the NCAA basketball odds.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Kansas -10.5
Best Line Offered: at Heritage


No. 11 Iowa State vs. No. 3 Oklahoma 
If Kansas loses or for some reason isn't voted No. 1 on Monday, then Oklahoma certainly has a strong claim if the Sooners can beat Iowa State. Incidentally, Oklahoma visits Kansas on Big Monday on ESPN so we could  have a No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown. The Sooners (11-0) closed non-conference play with an 83-71 win over Harvard on Christmas in Hawaii. With Michigan State's Denzel Valentine now hurt, OU's Buddy Hield is your leading Player of the Year candidate and the reigning Big 12 Player of the Week. The senior had 34 points against Harvard and is averaging 24.9 points on the season, which is third in the nation and No. 1 among Power 5 Conference players. OU already has quality wins over Memphis, Wisconsin and a 23-point rout of then-No. 9 Villanova. This is a very good team. Iowa State (11-1) has won two straight since an upset loss to Northern Iowa. The Cyclones won at a good Cincinnati team on Dec. 22 and then warmed up for this one with a 104-84 rout of Coppin State on Wednesday. Monte Morris had 10 points and 11 assists with zero turnovers. He became the second-fastest ISU player to reach 400 career assists (82 games). Oklahoma certainly could be on upset alert as Iowa State has won 19 games against ranked opponents in the last three seasons, the most in the nation. ISU has defeated four ranked opponents in a row. It was 2-1 vs. Oklahoma last year. Iowa State ranks last among Big 12 teams in 3-point field goal percentage defense. OU ranks first in 3-point shooting at.462. Take the Sooners as the NCAA basketball pick. The home team is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings.

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NCAAB Free Pick: Oklahoma -8
Best Line Offered: at Pinnalce


Ole Miss vs. No. 10 Kentucky 
This would be one of those wins that could be the difference in Ole Miss possibly reaching the NCAA Tournament or not. The Rebels went 10-2 in non-conference play but didn't play anyone ranked. The best wins were vs. Seton Hall and Memphis. Ole Miss, on a seven-game winning streak, were nearly upset at home by Troy in its most recent game on Dec. 22. The Rebels escaped with an 85-83 OT win in their final game ever in Tad Smith Coliseum, where they have played since 1966. Senior guard Stefan Moody leads the SEC, and ranks eighth nationally, in scoring at 23.8 ppg (7.2 more than last year). He has scored at least 20 in seven straight, the longest streak at the school since 1992. Moody has taken 29.1 percent of the Rebels’ shots, 35.8 percent of their 3-point attempts and 30.7 percent of the team's free throws. Opening SEC play on the road is nothing new for this program as Ole Miss has in 14 of the last 18 seasons. The Rebels are 11-4 in true road games the past two years. Kentucky (10-2) beat No. 16 Louisville 74-67 on Dec. 26 in its final non-conference game. Freshman guard Jamal Murray leads Kentucky in scoring at 16.7 ppg and is averaging 19.0 ppg over the last five games.  The Cats are 49-2 all-time vs. Ole Miss in Lexington, with the last Rebels win there in 1998. However, Ole Miss did nearly upset No. 1 UK last year at Rupp Arena, falling 89-86 in overtime. A Rebels' 3-pointer to win in regulation bounced high off the rim. Moody had 25 points. The Rebels are 4-1 ATS in their past five at Kentucky. The Wildcats are 2-7 ATS in their past nine overall.

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NCAAB Free Pick: Ole Miss +12
Best Line Offered: at Bookmaker

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