Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:54 AM
Saturday's NCAA Basketball Best Bets for Feb. 22, SEC and MWC
It's one of the few full regular season Saturday's left in the college basketball season, and that's always a great time of year. Today's card has got significant games from top to bottom, opening it up with #3 Kansas vs #1 Baylor and closing it down with #2 Gonzaga vs #23 BYU.
But in between those contests there are two other ranked teams at home that I want to take a look at, as I believe only one of them is worthy of being backed.
Florida at Kentucky (ESPN, 6:00 p.m. ET)
Best Bet #1: Kentucky -4.5
This game is starting to look like one where Kentucky kind of hangs it on someone. Yes, they are off that big win at LSU, and even with their lead growing in the SEC, another win or two doesn't hurt. At the same time, it's been awhile since Florida really played significant competition in this league – they've only laid fewer then -6 twice in their last seven games – and they may not be ready for it out of the gates.
The Wildcats have got to make sure they take advantage of these games at home the rest of the way, because if they win those, there is probably no catching them. The big one will be Auburn, but that's still a week away, meaning minimal worries about looking past Florida today, and the Gators recent profile looks better then it should given the level of that competition. One early run from Kentucky tonight and the Wildcats will be off and running.
But even in a game that's closer throughout, Kentucky probably finds a way to pull away later on at home, as Florida has been playing the bottom of the conference for weeks now. There is a big gap in the have's and have not's right now in the SEC, and Florida's done what they were really supposed to do against the Arkansas, Georgia's and Vanderbilt's of the world. Kentucky in Kentucky is a big step up from that, and the Gators get exposed because of it.
Kentucky's size and strength inside will take over this game late, and this 1-4 ATS run at home for the Wildcats that is used more as support for taking the points with the Gators and their slightly increasing popularity, gets an one of the easier ones.
UNLV at San Diego State (CBSSN, 8:30 p.m. ET)
Best Bet #2: UNLV +14.5
This really is one of the last Saturday's for the Mountain West, as next Saturday is the regular season finale for most teams, and by then we'll likely have this San Diego State team trying to pull off a perfect season. It's not going to be the easiest of games at Nevada, but the Aztecs have to make sure they get there first.
San Diego State's got to be motivated to see the finish line on a possible perfect regular season and that's tough to do. But a tougher contest then expected in one of these late season games is not necessarily a bad thing for their overall growth. Heck, some would say if they are going to lose at least once, there's probably no better time then soon to do it. I'm not saying UNLV really threatens the ML here in the end, but if there is going to be one final stumble in San Diego's quest for a perfect campaign, wouldn't it be this potential ho-hum home game they are expected to win easily.
I mean, it is less likely to be their final home game of the year during the week, as this team will want to finish things the right way and walk off that court as winners. And after that, it's the road trip to Nevada to try and finish things off. Focus shouldn't be an issue there at all for the Aztecs either.
But, as this type of home chalk before all that, against a Runnin' Rebels team that was San Diego State's smallest margin of victory in conference play, and smallest since December 8th overall, this would be the spot to at least root for some adversity for San Diego State. The first meeting was one where the Aztecs had to hold on late for the four-point victory, and while tonight's win will probably be a bit more comfortable for San Diego State from simply being at home, 15 points comfortable seems like a bit much. There is always backdoor potential at that number, and from the big picture perspective, this game before the “lasts” (last home game, last season game), UNLV could always get caught going through the motions for 30+ minutes.
It's not like UNLV played well over their heads in that four-point loss either, they just made sure to take care of the basketball (9 turnovers). A bit more scoring help for Bryce Hamilton – 29 points in that 1st meeting, the next highest UNLV scorer had 11 – and maybe the Rebels already have a victory over this Aztecs squad. IN a game that reeks of sluggishness for the home side, UNLV's the right type of opponent to back here, especially at this number.
San Diego State will do what's needed to keep the undefeated dream alive, but it's likely to be in the single digits. Even if the Aztecs are sharp from start to finish, the backdoor's likely always going to be open regardless, as it's not like this opponent didn't find any success in the first meeting. Motivation's important for San Diego State at this time of year with everyone questioning their strength of schedule and all that, and this is likely the last game the Aztecs have very little outside motivation to put it on someone.
Could they? For sure.
Will they? Probably not.
Give me the points.