It’s time to get busy! The Madness that is March is just about upon us. This week, there are fifteen games in our February week 4 March Madness regular season preview. All fifteen games could affect seeding before the NCAA Tournament. Sure, the conference tournaments are on the horizon. But, losses during the regular season are still a huge part of what the Selection Committee looks at.
February Week 4 March Madness Regular Season Preview
Wednesday, Feb 22
#10 Duke at Syracuse
Duke lost 62 to 64 the last time that they faced Syracuse. That game was in the horrible month of January where the Dookies couldn’t do anything right. The game also took place at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
When Duke loses in front of the Cameron Crazies, it’s bad. But, this Duke team is different than the one that Syracuse upset. The Blue Devils should handle Syracuse by at least 10 points. With that being written, Duke is still a young team whose leader, Grayson Allen, likes to kick players. So, anything can happen.
#7 Louisville at #8 North Carolina
Louisville, North Carolina, and Duke are tied atop the ACC. All three teams have 5 losses as of Feb. 20. This Wednesday matchup between the Cardinals and the Tar Heels could go a long way in determining which team from the ACC garners the top spot in the Southeast. Louisville beat NC 71 to 65 in the last game between these two. But, NC has been on a roll. Since losing 78 to 86 to Duke, the Heels have won two straight both ATS and SU. They beat Virginia 65 to 41 on Feb. 18.
#6 Oregon at California
This could be a trap game for the Oregon Ducks who have gone 5-0 against the spread in their last 5. The Ducks beat Cal 86 to 63 on Jan. 19. Since the loss, the Golden Bears had won 5 straight before losing 57 to 62 at Arizona on Feb. 11, and losing 68 to 73 at Stanford on Feb. 17. Cal could surprise the Ducks at home.
#22 Butler at #2 Villanova
Villanova beat Butler 66 to 58 the last time they faced the Bulldogs. That game was back on Jan. 4. Villanova is easily one of the Top 4 teams in the nation. They should handle Butler with no problems on Wednesday night. Word of caution, Villanova gets way over bet when they play at home. So, even though the Wildcats figure to be in control throughout in this game, they could end up losing against the spread. Nova is only 6 and 6 ATS at home as of Feb. 21.
Thursday, Feb. 23
#16 Wisconsin at Ohio State
This is one of those terrific rivalry games between two solid Big Ten teams. Ohio State is often one of the top teams in the Big Ten. That isn’t this season where the Buckeyes sit at 15 and 13 overall as of Feb. 21. It’s hard to see Ohio State making it to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament unless they win the Big Ten Tournament.
Wisconsin is at 22 and 5. They could garner a 2-seed, or, maybe, even a 3-seed, should they run the table and win the Big Ten Tournament. If Wisconsin were to lose to Ohio State this Thursday night, forget it. The Badgers are most likely looking at nothing better than a 4-seed even if they win the Big Ten Tourney.
USC at #4 Arizona
At one point this season, USC was ranked in the Top 25. The Trojans had been playing well, including beating rival UCLA 84 to 76 on Jan. 25, but this past week the Trojans fell apart. USC lost by 11 points to Oregon. They lost by 32 points to UCLA at Pauley Pavilion last week.
On the surface, it looks like Arizona should destroy the Trojans. But, Arizona is a horrible 4-8-2 against the spread in Tucson this season. Arizona’s terrible ATS record gives USC a shot against the spread.
Saturday, Feb. 25
#8 North Carolina at Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh lost by only 2 points, 78 to 80, when they faced North Carolina on Jan. 31. Who knows? Maybe, the Panthers are that good of a team, right? I’m not so sure. North Carolina has really stepped it up in their last two games. The Tar Heels covered in both. The Heels usually don’t cover spreads on the road. They’re only 2 and 7 this season. No matter. I think they cover versus Pittsburgh as a slight road favorite on Feb. 25.
#17 SMU at Connecticut
SMU hasn’t lost since Jan. 12. Every game from here on out is important to the Mustangs. If they don’t lose again, they could garner a 2-seed in the Tournament. Beating Connecticut on the road is never easy. UConn is 14 and 12. If they were to win the rest of their games, they could make it to the NCAA Tournament. Connecticut is going to be fired up for this game. SMU had better be at their best.
#13 Florida at #11 Kentucky
Florida battles Kentucky in Lexington this Saturday. The Wildcats are ranked ahead of Florida. It’s the Gators, though, who appear ready to take charge of the SEC. Florida dominated Kentucky 88 to 66 on Feb. 4. This is a good chance for Kentucky’s coach, John Calipari, to see if his freshmen have matured at all since the loss. If Kentucky doesn’t keep the rematch closer, Calipari will know that his team has a long way to go.
#23 Creighton at #2 Villanova
Creighton has lost 2 out of its last 4 games. That doesn’t bode well for the Blue Jays going into Villanova to play the 2nd ranked Wildcats. Villanova is only 6 and 6 against the spread at home this season as of Feb. 21. Creighton could keep this much closer than the spread might indicate. Be careful before jumping on Nova to cover ATS even though they appear to be a lock to beat Creighton straight up.
#14 Purdue at Michigan
Once again, the Big Ten is deep. 7 teams in the Big Ten have 11 losses or less. Two of those teams battle on Saturday, Feb. 25. Michigan is at 17 and 10. Purdue is at 22 and 5. Michigan must win to bolster its NCAA Tournament resume. Purdue must win to keep pace with Wisconsin in the Big Ten. Since this game is at Michigan, Purdue could have its hands full.
#9 Baylor at Iowa State
Iowa State has won 4 in a row and 5 out of their last 6. One of the wins was a terrific 92 to 89 overtime victory against Kansas at home on Feb. 4. This could be a watershed game for the Baylor Bears. Baylor has lost its last 2 going into this week. The Bears must beat Iowa State on the road to continue the path to a Top 4 seed in the Tournament.
#3 Kansas at Texas
Kansas is one of the worst against the spread teams in college basketball. The Jayhawks are only 8-16-1 ATS overall. They are 3-5-1 ATS on the road. Texas is 10-18 straight up this season. Kansas won’t lose straight up to the Longhorns. If they’re favored by over 20, Rock Chalk might lose against the spread. Kansas needs a big win over Texas to remain ranked in the Top 3.
#5 UCLA at #4 Arizona
The best game of the week is on Saturday when UCLA battles Arizona at McKale Center. Both teams have their sights set on a 2 or possibly 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. With Gonzaga looming large for the 1-seed in the West, UCLA and Arizona could be fighting it out for either the 2 seed in the West or the 1 seed in a different region.
Arizona beat UCLA 96 to 85 at UCLA on Jan. 21. UCLA will be looking to turn the tables on their top basketball rival. I think Arizona wins this by the slimmest of margins, a point, 2 points at the most.
BYU at #1 Gonzaga
It’s going to take a gargantuan effort for BYU to garner a bid to the NCAA Tournament. Beating Gonzaga could get the powers that be to notice BYU’s resume. In the last game between these two, the Zags only beat BYU 85 to 75. Sure, this game takes place at Gonzaga. But, it’s difficult to go undefeated on the hardwood in college hoops. The Zags figure to stub their toes at least once before the NCAA Tournament.