NCAA Basketball Picks Of The Day: Top Big 12/SEC Challenge Plays

Matthew Jordan

Saturday, January 30, 2016 1:21 AM GMT

Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016 1:21 AM GMT

The Big 12 and SEC are staging their Challenge this Saturday instead of being spread over a few days during non-conference season in December. Good idea? Here's a look at three of those later games Saturday with my picks with BetOnline's NCAA Basketball odds.

No. 1 Oklahoma vs. LSU (+7)
With all due respect to Kentucky-Kansas below, this is the most interesting game on the entire NCAA schedule Saturday because it features the top two candidates for the Wooden Award, which goes to the national player of the year. The leader right now is Oklahoma senior Buddy Hield, who is No. 2 in the nation in scoring at 25.9 points per game. He's shooting 54.0 percent overall and 52.3 percent from 3-point range (No. 8 nationally). But while Hield is the lock Big 12 Player of the Year and first-team All-American, he's not the NBA prospect that LSU freshman Ben Simmons is. Simmons, who will be the No. 1 pick in this summer's draft, is averaging 19.8 points, 12.7 rebounds (No. 3 nationally) and 4.9 assists, drawing comparisons to Magic Johnson.  If there's one criticism of Simmons, it's that the Aussie is too unselfish at times. While Hield is a stellar perimeter shooter, Simmons doesn't have much range yet, but he's a sublime passer and terrific rebounder. You won't see Simmons shoot the ball outside of 15 feet. The only thing at stake for Oklahoma (17-2) here is to stay at No. 1 in the new polls Monday. LSU (13-7) is an NCAA Tournament bubble team so a win here would be massive for the Tigers' resume. A Big Dance without Simmons would be a shame. LSU does have a home win over then-No. 9 Kentucky this season but bad losses to the likes of Charleston and Wake Forest. Back LSU at +5 NCAA Basketball odds. OU is 2-8 ATS in its past 10 Saturday games. LSU has covered seven of its past 10 on the day.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: LSU +5
Best Line Offered: at Heritage

 

Georgia vs. No. 17 Baylor (-11.5)
Georgia (11-7) is another SEC team that has work to do to be considered for an NCAA Tournament bid. The Bulldogs had won two straight before an 89-85 loss at Simmons' LSU team on Tuesday. The Dawgs did nearly force overtime despite trailing with 11 points with 50 seconds left. UGA, which scored 14 points in the next 34 seconds, had a chance to tie but E'Torrion Wilridge missed a short jumper with two seconds remaining and LSU got the rebound and hit two free throws. Georgia has faced only one ranked team this season and was clobbered by 34 at home by Texas A&M. The Dawgs have played one Big 12 team, losing by two to Kansas State. Entering Saturday’s games, the Big 12 is 98-20 against nonconference opponents, the best winning percentage of any conference by a mile. Baylor (16-4) should add to that win column at home. The Bears have lost once at home all season and that was to No. 1 Oklahoma. They are 16-0 this season when leading at any point in the second half. And if you want an opponent comparison, Baylor also beat Kansas State, 79-72 in double overtime. Take Baylor with your NCAA Basketball picks. Georgia is just 1-4 on the road this season.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Baylor 11.5
Best Line Offered: at TheGreek

 

No. 20 Kentucky vs. No. 4 Kansas (-5.5)
Clearly the marquee matchup between two of the biggest-name and most successful programs in NCAA history -- they are  the winning programs in history. This will be their 29th meeting, with Kentucky leading 22-6 and having won thee straight. Last season , then-No. 1 Kentucky beat Kansas 72-40 on Nov. 18, 2014, in the Champions Classic in Indianapolis. ESPN's GameDay will be there Saturday. Several future NBA players will be on the court too. Yet if we are being honest, it's not quite what was expected as Kentucky and Kansas were both at No. 1 in the AP poll for a bit earlier this season. In reality, both UK and KU have moderately disappointed. Kentucky (16-4) is playing perhaps its best basketball of the season with three straight blowouts since an upset loss at Auburn. All four UK losses have been away from Lexington and all to unranked schools. Kansas (16-4) is likely to drop in the next polls no matter this result as it was beaten soundly at No. 14 Iowa State 85-72 on Monday despite leading by seven at halftime. All four Kansas losses have been away from home but the Jayhawks have a 34-game winning streak at Allen Fieldhouse. Kansas is 1-1 in the Big 12/SEC Challenge, having split with Florida, both winning at home. Think KU wins a very close game so I'll take the points. Kentucky is 6-1 ATS in its past seven vs. teams with a winning record. Kansas is 0-5 ATS in its past five games.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Kentucky +5.5
Best Line Offered: at Pinnacle

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