Scott Shapiro's Saturday college basketball preview
Selection Sunday is just 17 days away, and the conference tournaments are even closer, but first there are a slew of important Saturday contests that will help determine who is in, who is out, and who goes where.
Here are the games I like most from a wagering perspective Feb. 29.
#24 Michigan State at #9 Maryland, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)
In arguably the best game of the day, the Spartans will seek revenge in College Park, after they lost to the Terps in East Lansing earlier this month.
In that huge road win, Maryland blew a 15-point, first-half lead, but rallied from seven points down with four minutes to play. Like many times this season, the win came with clutch play from senior guard Anthony Cowan Jr., who netted 24 points, including a few key three-pointers in the closing minutes.
Maryland has not been at its best in its last two games on the road, but found a way to win in near miraculous fashion in Minnesota on Wednesday night. The Terps now head back home, where they are unbeaten, to host a team that is a bit overrated, even though it features an elite head coach and one of the nation’s best players, Cassius Winston.
It will be a challenge for Maryland to beat a Tom Izzo-coached team twice in one season, but if the Terps can once again stay even on the glass, I like their chances to win and cover.
#6 Florida State at Clemson, 2 p.m. ET
The Seminoles head to South Carolina feeling good, after an impressive second half earned them an 82-67 victory against Louisville on Monday night. Florida State has won four straight since it lost at Duke on Feb. 10 and can lock up the regular-season ACC title if it can win the final three games. There is no doubt that FSU is the better team, but do not count out Tigers.
Brad Brownell’s squad was blown out in Tallahassee on Dec. 8 and has been inconsistent all year, but the Tigers have performed well as a home underdog. They beat Duke, 79-72, on Jan. 14, behind 25 points and nine rebounds from Aamir Simms, and followed it up a month later with a 77-62 victory against Louisville, behind 23 points from John Newman.
FSU presents a tough challenge for Clemson, but the Tigers have nothing to lose and have proven they can beat the best the ACC has to offer on their home court. Take the points.
Florida at Tennessee, 2 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Florida was ranked in the top 10 in most preseason polls, but the Gators lost two of their first four games and have taken a long time to come together. However, it seems head coach Mike White has his team playing its best basketball when it matters most.
The Gators have won four of their last five contests, with the lone loss a six-point defeat against the SEC's best team at Rupp Arena.
Florida was impressive when it handled the high-powered LSU offense in a 81-66 win Wednesday night. The gators head to Knoxville to take on a Tennessee team that plays great defense but is limited with offensive weaponry since it lost star guard Lamonte Turner to a season-ending shoulder injury in December.
I am slightly concerned about the Gators being flat after two games against top-tier teams in their conference, but I expect them to pull this one out.