It just means more. That’s a great slogan I just thought of for the Big 12 to adopt in basketball. The nation’s premier conference steps out of the ESPN+ shadows this weekend for the annual late-January clash with the SEC. Most years, this thing gets spoiled by teams not living up to expectations once the matchups roll around, but this year’s slate looks spectacular across the board. Beyond the hyped clash in Lawrence, there are great Q1 win opportunities abound, and the Ole Miss-Kansas State game. Time to dust off the old gambling account and put our skills to the test.
#19 LSU (16-4) at TCU (13-4)
Tipoff: 11:00am | TV: ESPN2 | The Line: LSU -2.5
LSU is really, really good with an endless supply of lanky, great athletes. This is a defensive battle, and no offense to TCU, but Fort Worth isn’t an intimidating home court advantage. The Frogs badly need the game for their NCAA Tournament resume, but I can’t see it happening.
Pick: LSU -2.5
West Virginia (13-6) at Arkansas (15-5)
Tipoff: 1:00pm | TV: ESPN2 | The Line: Arkansas -8
I’m worried about Huggy Bear here. Arkansas has gotten over their slump, and as much as I love West Virginia, they can’t in good faith be picked to cover on the road.
Pick: Arkansas -8
Missouri (8-11) at #23 Iowa State (15-5)
Tipoff: 1:00pm | TV: ESPNU | The Line:
Call it a happiness hedge if you want. I just don’t see Iowa State blowing anyone out from this point forward. But, Iowa State is winning this game to grab a spiritual hold on the Telephone Trophy.
Pick: Missouri +11
Oklahoma (13-7) at #1 Auburn (19-1)
Tipoff: 1:00pm | TV: ESPN | The Line: Auburn -9.5
Oklahoma certainly didn’t expect to be walking in to play the #1 team in the nation. It seems to take the Tigers at home, but that #1 ranking comes with added pressure. Somehow the Sooners keep this close enough.
Pick: Oklahoma +9.5
#4 Baylor (18-2) at Alabama (13-7)
Tipoff: 3:00pm | TV: ESPN | The Line: Baylor -2.5
Baylor is inevitable. They’ve gotten over the weird funk where they lost 2 home games. Scott Drew is a covering machine. Hammer the Bears.
Pick: Baylor -2.5
Kansas State (10-9) at Ole Miss (10-10)
Tipoff: 3:00pm | TV: ESPNU | The Line: Kansas State -1.5
The closest thing to a dud on the slate. When in doubt, the Big 12 team is probably the better pick.
Pick: Kansas State -1.5
Oklahoma State (10-9) at Florida (12-8)
Tipoff: 3:00pm | TV: ESPN2 | The Line: Florida -4
Oklahoma State might be the best 10-9 team in the nation. Mike Boynton is a terrific coach, holding the team together despite the NCAA tournament ban. Florida is inconsistent at best, and bad at worst. Roll Cowboys.
Pick: Oklahoma State +4
#12 Kentucky (16-4) at #5 Kansas (17-2)
Tipoff: 5:00pm | TV: ESPN | The Line: Kansas -5
Kansas has been surprisingly shaky in a couple of home games against good teams. I trust Kentucky’s guards, and this experienced(!) team to give Kansas a dogfight at Allen Fieldhouse.
Pick: Kentucky +5
Mississippi State (13-6) at #15 Texas Tech (15-5)
Tipoff: 5:00pm | TV: ESPN2 | The Line: Texas Tech -7.5
Both teams are coming off devastating overtime losses earlier this week. Texas Tech gets the recovery bump and covers at home where they’re undefeated this season.
Pick: Texas Tech -7.5
#18 Tennessee (14-5) at Texas (15-5)
Tipoff: 7:00pm | TV: ESPN | The Line: Texas -2.5
Texas doesn’t beat good teams. Tennessee wins outright in Rick Barnes’ return to Austin.
Pick: Tennessee +2.5
NFL CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP PICKS
Bengals at Chiefs -7
A little advice for NFL gambling at this point in the playoffs: you will be way better off if you ignore point spreads and pick the team you think wins the game. If you have to justify, “I think the Bengals keep it close but the Chiefs win” it’s a losing strategy. I think the Chiefs win. I think they can win by more than a touchdown, even though I love Joe Burrow.
49ers +3.5 at Rams
Deebo Samuel might be the best pure football player in the NFL. The Niners have the Rams’ number. San Fran has to be the pick until proven otherwise.
PROP OF THE WEEK FOR HOUSTON/BYU/CINCY/UCF FANS
Number of mentions of Texas/OU joining the SEC throughout the day?