Mike Bets is on a weekend hiatus after what can only be described as a three-day trip to loser land, but there are a ton of big college basketball games today. I won’t leave you hanging. Here’s a quick rundown of the games to watch on what might be the biggest day of the season so far. All times are Central. The home team will be listed second unless the game is played at a neutral site, which will be noted in parentheses. Let’s get to it.
- Butler v. Indiana, 10:30 (Indianapolis – neutral site)
Butler has been incredibly disappointing to start the season, and covid issues haven’t helped the situation. They’ve played just two games and still aren’t bak to a full roster. That’s made it difficult to recover from a poor opening effort against Western Michigan (66-62), and the Bulldogs were killed by Villanova (66-85) in their return to the court this week. We might be headed for a similar result here against a talented Indiana team. Outside of a 44-66 suffocation suffered at the hands of Texas, the Hoosiers have been very good. They ran past Providence and Stanford with wins of 15+, crushed the teams they were supposed to, and gave Florida State everything they could handle in Tallahassee. Expect them to win this one going away.
Pick: Indiana 75, Butler 64
- 1 Gonzaga v. 3 Iowa, 11:00 (South Dakota)
The game of the day, and probably the game of the season after Gonzaga-Baylor was postponed due to covid problems within the Zag’s program. That means that this is their first game in seventeen days. Will it be an issue? Who knows, but it is significant that there are no reports of significant player shortages. What we do know is that Gonzaga looked incredibly impressive in a 3-0 starts against Kansas, Auburn, and West Virginia, winning by 12, 23, and 5 and averaging 93 points per game. Today they go up against their best opponent yet, a 6-0 Iowa team averaging 100.5 points per game and a margin of victory 32. They beat UNC 93-80, and no one else, including Iowa St, has been within 27 when the final whistle blew. This is a battle between heavyweights, and both should score early and often. Sit back and relax for this one.
Pick: Iowa 94, Gonzaga 88
- 23 Louisville v. 12 Wisconsin, 11:00
Louisville hasn’t played in 18 days and will remain short-handed for this one with 7-8 scholarship players. That will make a win here, and a 5-0 start, difficult. The Cardinals already have wins over Seton Hall (71-70) and Western Kentucky (75-54) but will be hard-pressed to add another to the resume against a Wisconsin team that has looked very good the last few times out. Since a disappointing loss to Marquette in the final seconds of their first real test of the season, the Badgers have beaten solid Rhode Island and Loyola Chicago teams by 11 and 14 at home. With this one in Madison too, expect another win. Louisville just doesn’t have enough in the tank today.
Pick: Wisconsin 71, Louisville 62
- 22 UNC v. Kentucky, 1:00 (Cleveland)
UNC has clearly improved from last year’s disappointment, but there’s still work to be done, as their loss to Iowa revealed. Throw in the other loss to Texas, that one at the buzzer, and the Tar Heels sit at 4-2 with their only wins of note coming by 4 against Stanford and by 27 against a 1-4 UNLV team. In other words, there’s room to get better. That can start with a win over a Kentucky team that’s gone through the wringer so far with losses to Notre Dame, Georgia Tech, Kansas, and Richmond. They haven’t won since their opening game, a 81-45 triumph over Morehead State. UNC should win this game. It would be nothing but a disappointment if they don’t.
Pick: UNC 70, Kentucky 63
- Western Kentucky v. Alabama, 1:00
Western Kentucky has been all over the place to start their season, beating Northern Iowa, Memphis, and Rhode Island, getting past Gardner Webb by just 2 points, hanging with West Virginia in a 6-point loss, and getting rolled by Louisville in a 24-point loss. They’ve looked very good at their best. Alabama is 4-2, and they’ve had a wide spectrum of results as well. Stanford beat them by 18 and Clemson controlled them in a 64-56 win, but they beat Providence and UNLV by double digits and just beat a good Furman team after a huge second half comeback. This is a talented Crimson Tide team, and I would take them between these two.
Pick: Alabama 76, Western Kentucky 71
- Purdue v. Notre Dame, 1:30 (Indianapolis)
Purdue made a big statement with a 67-60 win over Ohio State to kick off Big Ten play. The Boilermakers are now 5-2 with wins over the Buckeyes and Liberty, but they’ve been far from convincing so far. They were never much of a risk against Clemson in a 11-point loss, they blew a 32-14 halftime lead against Miami, and they allowed a Valparaiso team that is now 1-4 against D1 competition to stay with them for the entire game. That might not matter against 2-3 Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish have their 8-point win over Detroit and snuck past Kentucky by 1 after leading 48-26 at half, and they’ve lost to Michigan State, Ohio State, and Duke. They had Ohio State down at half but weren’t all that competitive late in the other two losses. Neither of these teams is bad, but they’re not exactly good either as things stand. I would lean towards a Purdue team that has achieved a little bit more so far.
Pick: Purdue 68, Notre Dame 62
- Ole Miss v. Dayton, 1:30
Ole Miss has played absolutely no one and looked pretty dang good doing it, getting through Jackson State, UNC Wilmington, Central Arkansas, and Middle Tennessee State by 35, 20, 14, and 19, respectively. Today, we should learn more about just how good this team is. Dayton is 3-1 with a win over Mississipi State and a close loss to a 5-0 SMU team. They’ve also been very poor against worse competition with wins over Eastern Illinois and Northern Kentucky coming by just 9 combined. This game might also tell us more about them. Dayton has played the tougher schedule, but Ole Miss has simply been more impressive so far. I think that should result in a relatively close Ole Miss win.
Pick: Ole Miss 70, Dayton 63
- 2 Baylor v. Kansas State, 3:00
This game shouldn’t be close. Kansas State is terrible. They’ve managed to lose against UNLV and Fort Hays St by double digits. They beat UWM by just 1 and UMKC by just 4. Drake beat them by double digits. Colorado beat them by more than 20. With all that said, their only impressive win of the season came the other day. Iowa State isn’t good either, but it was still unexpected to see Kansas State control the game on the way to a 74-65 win. The real question here is simple. How good will Baylor look after a ten-day layoff.
Pick: Baylor 83, Kansas State 61
- UCLA v. 20 Ohio State, 3:15 (Cleveland)
Ohio State won’t be ranked anymore no matter what happens here after their loss to Purdue. That loss ended a 5-0 start that included a close win over Notre Dame and games against Cleveland State and UMass Lowell that were far closer than they should have been. A win over UCLA this afternoon would be a big statement. The Bruins have won five in a row after a 58-73 loss to San Diego State. They’ve beaten San Diego, Cal, and Seattle by 20+ in the last two weeks, and they controlled Marquette in a 69-60 win the other day. They’re the hotter team, and they should be the favorite to get the win in this one.
Pick: UCLA 72, Ohio State 62
- Cincinnati v Georgia, 7:00
Georgia is 5-0 but hasn’t played anyone. They just beat Samford by only 4 points, and Montana and Florida A&M both stayed within 15. Cincinnati has played a much stronger schedule, and they’ve started 2-3. The schedule doesn’t give you a boost if you’re losing all the tough games. The Bearcats did beat Furman, but they’ve lost to South Florida, Tennessee, and Xavier. This one is really a toss-up, and we should learn a lot about both teams by the end of it.
Pick: Georgia 68, Cincinnati 66
- Colorado State v. St Mary’s, 7:00
This is a battle between two potential important mid-majors. St Mary’s is 7-1 with wins over South Dakota State, Northern Iowa, and Eastern Washington. They haven’t lost since their opener. Colorado State is 2-0 and just beat Northern Arizona 91-52 their last time out. This is likely a step up that they can’t make so early in the season, but this should be an interesting game to watch.
Pick: St Mary’s 79, Colorado State 72
- Arizona v. Stanford, 7:00
This is an important early Pac 12 game. Arizona is very young, and their 5-0 start against inferior competition has seen them be all over the place by margin of victory. Stanford has gotten off to a 3-2 start with a blowout win over Alabama, a blowout loss to Indiana, and a close loss to UNC. This one is tough to call, but the winner will put themselves near the top of the Pac 12 (for now) as conference play begins.
Pick: Arizona 74, Stanford 71