College Basketball Odds and Picks for Every Big 12/SEC Challenge Game
Two premier college basketball conferences go head-to-head as the Big 12/SEC Challenge commences on Saturday. The battle between the Big 12 and SEC tips off with Missouri vs. West Virginia and Iowa State vs. Auburn at noon, followed by eight more games between the conferences throughout the day.
Games in Lubbock, Lawrence, and Gainseville highlight this edition of Big 12/SEC Challenge. How will Kentucky look on the road as 4-point underdogs? Can the Volunteers upset a Kansas team playing two men down? And are the unranked Florida Gators worthy home favorites over No. 1 Baylor?
Big 12/SEC Challenge College Basketball Picks
Missouri at No. 14 West Virginia -12.5, O/U 134.5
12 p.m ET on ESPN
The Sec-Big 12 Challenge begins with two noon games. One of which is between the Missouri Tigers (9-9) and West Virginia Mountaineers (15-3). Visiting Morgantown will be arguably the toughest road trip Missouri has seen all season, as the Mountaineers have made huge strides in 2019-20.
West Virginia started the season as a disrespectful 160-to-1 longshot to win the 2020 National Championship. You can’t blame oddsmakers, though. West Virginia just came off one of their worst seasons in recent memory, missing out on both the 2019 NCAA Tournament and NIT. Low and behold, Bob Huggins has his Mountaineers back in contention. Now sportsbooks have the Mountainers’ odds as short as 25-to-1 to cut down nets in Atlanta, Georgia this April.
I expect West Virginia to show up with the same tenaciousness on defense that they’ve shown all year on their home court. According to KenPom, West Virginia has the second-largest home court advantage in college hoops. Their recent results at home can attest.
Huggins and the Mountaineers have yet to lose in Morgantown this season, with notable wins (and covers) against Ohio State and Texas Tech. Most recently, West Virginia used their home court to blow out TCU by 32 points and the Texas Longhorns by 38 points. The score of the latter game was 97-59, dealing Texas its worst conference loss in Big 12 history.
It’s a large spread against Missouri, but I expect another blowout and another cover. Missouri doesn’t know what’s coming.
College Basketball Picks: West Virginia -12.5; Under 134.5
Iowa State at No. 16 Auburn -8.5, O/U 146.5
12 p.m. ET on ESPNU
10 months ago, Bruce Pearl led the Auburn Tigers to the Final Four before falling short to Virginia in the semifinals. Auburn is proving that their 2019 tournament run wasn’t a fluke. Pearl’s squad started the season 15-1 before losing on the road in Florida last Saturday.
The Tigers bounced back with an 80-67 win over South Carolina. I expect them to make it two consecutive double-digit wins as they host a struggling Iowa State team, so long as they find a way to contain guard Tyrese Haliburton.
College Basketball Picks: Auburn -8.5
LSU at Texas +1, O/U 142.5
2 p.m. ET on ESPN
If Shaka Smart was already on the hot seat, I’m not sure what to call whatever he’s sitting on now. After the worst conference defeat in school history, unless Texas has a miraculous turnaround, they Longhorns be playing to defend their 2019 NIT Championship rather than participating in the Madness.
The question for Saturday, though, is if Texas players have given up as quickly as their fans. I’d say I expect them to bounce back in a big way at home against LSU, but they weren’t able to do that after losing 59-54 against Baylor earlier in the year. Instead, Smart and the Longhorns lost to unranked Oklahoma by ten points in front of their home crowd.
Prediction: Expect the Frank Erwin Center to be half-filled at tip-off, and a quarter-filled with 10 minutes left in this game as Longhorns fans exit early to watch a re-run of the 2006 Elite Eight between these two teams on their beloved Longhorn Network…SPOILER ALERT: LSU came out on top then, too.
College Basketball Picks: LSU Tigers -1 (and Under on attendance)
Tennessee at No. 3 Kansas -13.5, O/U 125.5
4 p.m. ET on ESPN
Kansas might have beat K-State on Tuesday, but it felt more like a loss. By now, you’ve seen the tweets and videos of the fight that ensued between the two in-state rivals. The Jayhawks bear the brunt of the fight after the Big 12 issued suspensions to two KU big men, David McCormack (two games) and Silvio De Sousa (12 games).
The suspensions are unlikely to have a significant impact on Kansas long term. Despite the hype surrounding De Sousa, the junior forward ranks only ninth in minutes for the Jayhawks. As CJ Moore of the Athletic writes, losing De Sousa actually makes it easier for head coach Bill Self to handle his deep rotation. The more significant loss is in the short term, as Kansas will be without McCormack, a six-foot-ten sophomore forward. Neither De Sousa nor McCormack start for the Jayhawks, but McCormack is a key role player, averaging 7.5 points and 4.7 rebounds per game while shooting 56% from the field off the bench.
McCormack’s presence down low will especially be missed if Tennesse attacks the rim and successfully gets star center Udoka Azubuike in foul trouble. Expect Rick Barnes to also utilize Uros Plavisc, the Volunteers’ newly-eligible seven-footer out of Serbia.
Though Tennessee is struggling this season, Barnes is one of the more underrated coaches in college hoops. His last school certainly misses him. The Volunteers are the inferior team despite their new Serbian addition and the Kansas suspensions. Still, I think Barnes finds a way to keep this within the point spread.
College Basketball Pick: Tennessee +13.5
Oklahoma State at Texas A&M +2.5, O/U 126.5
4 p.m. ET on ESPN U
Texas A&M is steadily improving under new head coach Buzz Williams. They’ll face an Oklahoma State team starving for a win after losing their first six Big 12 conference games. A&M has been a dreadful shooting team all season, but I’m taking the points at home with a squad that I believe is much better now than they were before SEC play began.
College Basketball Pick: Texas A&M +2.5
No. 15 Kentucky at No. 18 Texas Tech -4, O/U 132.5
6 p.m. ET on ESPN
This is arguably the biggest non-conference game in Texas Tech program history. It’s at least the biggest in West Texas since Bob Knight and the Indiana Hoosiers visited Lubbock in 1991. As Ryen Russillo has explained from first-hand experience, Lubbock can get weird. Students have been camping out since Thursday to claim their seats inside United Super Markets Arena. The venue, formerly known as the United Spirit Arena, is home to third-toughest home crowd, according to KenPom.
I expected this game to open closer to Tech -1 or -2, but it opened at -3 and -4 at various sportsbooks. I’m hoping the public will bet this down closer to where I thought it would open by tip-off, so I’m going to wait before backing the Red Raiders to cover the spread. Unless something drastic happens, Saturday’s matchup with Kentucky will mark the 47th straight home game that Texas Tech will close as the betting favorite.
In the meantime, I’m jumping on Under 132.5 points. Kentucky has the second-worst eFG% among Power Five schools, but they’ll have a significant size advantage down low against the Red Raiders. Texas Tech might be outsized, but Beard and assistant coach Mark Adams will have their signature defense ready to battle just as they did when they held Jordan Nwora, Steven Enoch and then-No. 1 Louisville to 57 points earlier in the season. For a much better in-depth preview of this game read this.
College Basketball Pick: Under 132.5
No. 1 Baylor at Florida -2, O/U 130.5
8 p.m. ET on ESPN
Now on a 15-game win streak, this week the Baylor Bears became the seventh team to be ranked No. 1 during the 2019-20 season. However, if oddsmakers are right, Baylor’s reign atop the polls will be short-lived. Baylor might have the No. 1 ranking, but the unranked Florida Gators are favored at home today. According to ESPN Stats & Info, it’s only the fourth time in the last 25 seasons an unranked team is favored over the nation’s top-ranked squad.
The Gators were in a similar spot last weekend when they hosted No. 4 Auburn. Florida stunned Auburn, beating them 69-47. The Bears have a huge target on their backs, especially against a bubble team vying for an NCAA tournament bid in an extremely crowded field. I like the Gators to trip Baylor tonight.
College Basketball Pick: Florida -2
Other Big 12/Sec Challenge Basketball Picks
Ole Miss at Oklahoma – 1.5 (2 p.m. on ESPN2)
TCU +7 at Arkansas (4 p.m. on ESPN2)
Kansas State at Alabama – 8.5 (6 p.m. on ESPN2)
UK/TTU Under 132.5
Image Credit: USA Today Sports Images