NCAA Basketball Picks: Saturday Picks of the Day

Matthew Jordan

Saturday, February 15, 2014 1:23 PM UTC

Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014 1:23 PM UTC

The conference schedules are nearing the home stretch, and Saturday's games are big for both San Diego State and Florida, two lock NCAA Tournament teams looking to win their respective regular-season conference titles and boost postseason seeding.

Air Force at No. 5 San Diego State

A top seed in the NCAA Tournament probably was unlikely for San Diego State considering clubs from the Mountain West just don't get that honor, but it's all but a formality now that the Aztecs were upset 68-62 at Wyoming on Tuesday  night as 4-point favorites on NCAA basketball odds. That ended San Diego State's school-record-tying 20-game winning streak and was Wyoming's first home win over a Top-5 team since 1998. SDSU's only other loss this season has been to Arizona. San Diego State finished one win shy of the best start in Mountain West history, 11-0 by Utah State in 2003-04.

San Diego State (12-8 ATS, 4-15 O/U at sportsbooks) isn't a great offensive team to begin with and was held almost 13 points below its average by the Cowboys. The team's calling card is defense, ranking among the national leaders in points per game allowed and field-goal percentage, but Wyoming shot 57.9 percent from the field. It was the most points given up by San Diego State in a regulation game since Jan. 12. In addition, SDSU's best player, Xavier Thames, was only 3-for-16 from the field and 0-for-8 from 3-point range. San Diego State still leads the Mountain West by a game over New Mexico. Those two play next Saturday.

All Air Force (11-7 ATS, 7-11 O/U at sportsbooks) can do is play spoiler as the Falcons will miss the Big Dance for an eighth straight year barring a shocking run in the conference tournament. Air Force ended a six-game losing streak on Wednesday with a 51-48 win at San Jose State as a 2-point favorite for sports bettors. DeLovell Earls had a key steal with 11 seconds left and a block at the buzzer of a potential tying 3-pointer. AFA leading scorer Tre Coggins had a terrible game, going just 1-for-12 from the field for three points. It was his first game back in the starting lineup since a three-game suspension.

Air Force hasn't  had much luck in its history against ranked teams, going 4-80. That includes a 79-72 home loss to San Diego State on Jan. 12 in which the Aztecs were 10.5-point favorites on NCAA basketball odds. JJ O'Brien led SDSU with 18 points and 11 rebounds, while Coggins had 29 points for the Falcons. San Diego State had lost its previous two visits to Colorado Springs, both as a ranked club. All four AFA wins over ranked teams have come at home.

NCAA basketball free pick: San Diego State -18.5 That Wyoming loss is probably just what Coach Steve Fisher wanted -- he'll have the players' full focus for this game.


No. 3 Florida at No. 14 Kentucky

The Gators would be a top seed in the NCAA Tournament if the season ended today and they can essentially clinch the SEC regular-season title with a win in Lexington on Saturday night. Kentucky is two games behind Florida and no one else is close.

With all due respect to unbeaten Syracuse and Wichita State, no team may be playing better right now than Florida, which has won 16 straight games since a flukish loss at Connecticut. Knoxville had been a house of horrors for the Gators, but they won there for only the second time in the past nine trips on Tuesday night, 67-58, as 2-point favorites on NCAA basketball odds. UF was down a point at the half as Tennessee shot 62.5 percent, but that terrific Florida defense clamped down in the second half when the Vols made just 7 of 24 shots. Scottie Wilbekin was 5-for-17 for Florida but led the team with 21 points and his only 3-pointer of the game was key with Florida leading 55-54. That would prove to be the back-breaker for Tennessee.

Kentucky (11-9-2 ATS, 8-12-1 O/U at sportsbooks) won its fourth straight game Wednesday night, 64-56 at Auburn as a 7.5-point favorite for sports bettors. It was a potential trap game with this showdown up next and UK played like it, shooting 17-for-55 from the field and scoring 16 points below its season average. Julius Randle had yet another double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds. John Calipari started five freshmen -- Andrew and Aaron Harrison, James Young, Randle and Dakari Johnson -- for the fourth straight game. Kentucky improved to 85-3 under Calipari when holding a team to 63 points or less.

Florida (10-9-1 ATS, 5-14-1 O/U at sportsbooks) will be UK's fifth ranked opponent of the season and Kentucky is 3-1. The Cats lost the first three to Michigan State, Baylor and North Carolina but all were close and none in Lexington. They handled Louisville on Dec. 28 at Rupp Arena.  If the Gators don't lose here, they could well run the table in conference play. The toughest challenges left would be next Saturday at Ole Miss and the finale at home against UK. It's quite possible the SEC only gets Florida and Kentucky into the NCAA Tournament after landing just three teams a season ago.

The Gators and Wildcats split last season, each winning at home. Florida's home victory was noteworthy because it was the game in which Nerlens Noel tore his ACL, which played a huge role in Kentucky missing the NCAA Tournament.

NCAA basketball free pick: I'll take Kentucky -3 in our NCAA basketball picks. Always tough to know how freshmen will respond, but this is the game of the season for the Wildcats and the kids have played well in big games so far. Gators haven't win in Rupp since 2007.


comment here