A lack of interconference connectivity in January and February can cause headaches for college basketball bettors wanting to prepare for March Madness. Current form tells you only how teams stack up against their regular rivals. You must guess how NCAA tournament-caliber teams in one major conference stack up against those in another.
Sure, pre-conference results help. But late-January form can be very different from November or December. Some teams have figured things out after a slow start — like Syracuse. Others created illusions with soft early schedules that were exposed by quality competition — too many to list!
That’s why Saturday’s Big 12/SEC Challenge is such a godsend to bettors already thinking about March Madness. Analysts will learn very quickly how teams from two power conferences grade out head to head. Be sure you log opening point spreads and important game-day line movement.
Here are capsules for the most interesting matchups, ranked in order of combined national rankings from Ken Pomeroy as posted at kenpom.com.
— Baylor (5) at Florida (27) (8 p.m. ET, ESPN)
If you watch only one game, this is it. Baylor knocked off Kansas in Lawrence and would love to do the same to Florida in Gainesville. That would surely set the Bears on a more solid path to a No. 1 seed in the Dance. They’re No. 1 in the AP poll but only No. 5 with Pomeroy. Clearly a round-of-32-type matchup.
— Kentucky (23) at Texas Tech (25) (6 p.m. ET, ESPN)
This is not quite the dream pairing it would have been a year ago, but these teams certainly will be dangerous in the Dance. Both have been overpriced by oddsmakers this season. They’re each 8-10 ATS and are coming off non-covers Tuesday night.
— Tennessee (50) at Kansas (1) (4 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Tennessee is less likely to sparkle on the road after crushing Ole Miss on Tuesday in Knoxville. But Kansas could be unfocused after its game-ending brawl with Kansas State on Tuesday night. Might get interesting. Or it might give you a reason to grab an early dinner before later tip-offs.
— Mississippi State (41) at Oklahoma (45) (2 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
Great test. Both look to be on the right side of the bubble for now. Mississippi State has covered four straight games. Oklahoma just hung tough with Baylor but is only 4-11 ATS in its last 15 games.
— Missouri (85) at West Virginia (6) (Noon ET, ESPN)
West Virginia has covered six of its last seven after obliterating Texas 97-59 on Monday night. If Mizzou can’t handle full-court pressure, another blowout could be at hand. You may be handicapping a lot of West Virginia games the next 10 weeks.
— Iowa State (66) at Auburn (26) (Noon ET, ESPNU)
Erratic Auburn suffered recent blowout losses to Florida and Alabama. Maybe the Tigers were reading too many press clippings about how they were for real. Here’s a chance to make new headlines against a likely bubble team.