Avid fans (and bettors) of college basketball have a huge Saturday in store. True whether you’re an aficionado of Ole Miss and Mississippi State, the SEC, or other national powers.
Important games have paired off nicely. Let’s work our way through the slate…
▪ MAGNOLIA MADNESS: Texas A&M at Mississippi State (ESPN2, 1 p.m.) and Ole Miss at Missouri (SEC Network, 2:30 p.m.).
It looks like both the Bulldogs and the Rebels will be dancing later this month. Both are 9-8 straight up in the tough SEC. Any record of .500 or better should be safe. Mississippi State is already a lock, projected midweek by Joe Lunardi’s “bracketology” at ESPN for a No. 6 seed. Ole Miss is technically “on the bubble” with a projected No. 10 seed. But, it’s a “soft” bubble this year, which will make it tough for mediocrities behind them to catch up unless the Rebels struggle badly over the next week.
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Mississippi State is looking to bounce back after an ugly road loss at Tennessee this past Tuesday. Even with that, the Bulldogs have covered three of their last four against the point spread, and are 5-2 ATS their last seven games. Texas A&M is fourth from the bottom in the current SEC straight up standings, but has covered six of its last nine outings.
Ole Miss covered Tuesday in a close home loss to Kentucky. That’s three straight ticket cashers for the Rebels, and six of eight against the spread. Ole Miss has been one of the best betting teams across the nation this season, bringing a 22-8 ATS record into the final weekend. Missouri is the third worst team in the SEC’s straight up standings at 5-12, but has covered four of its last five against the spread.
▪ SEC STALWARTS: No. 5 Tennessee at Auburn (ESPN, 11 a.m.), Florida at No. 6 Kentucky (CBS, 1 p.m.).
This twinbill should have a tournament feel. Lunardi had Kentucky as a No. 1 seed, Tennessee as a No. 2 seed midweek. Auburn is safely in as a projected #6 seed. Florida is in the same boat as Ole Miss, currently projected as a No. 10 seed but not yet a certified lock.
The most recent point spread trends for the quartet…Tennessee is 2-5 ATS its last seven, though the Vols did cover their last two with impressive home victory margins over Kentucky and Mississippi State. Auburn is 1-3 ATS its last four, and a disappointing 0-7 ATS against respected Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, and Ole Miss this season (meaning Auburn has been a “bet-against” when facing quality).
Florida is a surprisingly bad 3-10 ATS its last 13 games, with one of the covers coming against horrible Vandy (who’s 0-17 straight up in league play!). Kentucky has raised concerns about peaking to early with three straight non-covers, and a 2-5 ATS record its last seven games.
▪ CHAMPIONSHIP PRELUDES: No. 4 Duke at No. 3 North Carolina (ESPN, 5 p.m.), No. 7 Michigan at No. 9 Michigan State (ESPN, 7 p.m.).
Wow…all four teams have been on the short list for potential No. 1 seeds this season (along with Gonzaga, Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee). The top eight spots in the tournament brackets will really be loaded. Of course, these matchups could occur again next week in the ACC and Big 10 tournaments.
Duke will probably be without Zion Williamson barring a surprising announcement. Bettors should brace themselves for the possibility that he won’t return at all before turning pro (or may return, but at less than 100% strength). The Blue Devils will have revenge after getting routed by Carolina in the game Zion got hurt, and are in a bounce-back spot after a humbling one-point win over Wake Forest as a 25-point favorite.
Against the market, Duke is 2-5 ATS its last seven games (including two failures before the blown tire against the Tar Heels). North Carolina is 9-4 ATS its last 13, 18-10-2 ATS overall this season.
Michigan is 6-2 ATS its last eight games, though one of the failures was in a 77-70 loss to Sparty in East Lansing. Inconsistent Michigan State followed up a stellar 15-2 ATS stretch midseason with a mini-slump that featured a pair of outright losses to bubble-team Indiana.