We’re getting closer and closer to March Madness — and this year features plenty of surprises. Lots of observers thought that Wichita State would run away with the American Athletic Conference, but the big surprise has been the emergence of Cincinnati. Virginia sits atop the AP top 25 for the first time since 1982. Texas Tech has emerged as a top-10 team — and has held their place despite a grueling Big 12 schedule. Let’s take a look at some NCAA Basketball betting picks for this week.
Top NCAA Basketball Betting Picks of the Week – January 13th
For the first time since 1982, Virginia is No. 1. https://t.co/PM1ZOxxwrq
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) February 12, 2018
Wednesday, February 14
Kentucky at Auburn (9:00pm ET, ESPN2)
To say that this has been an up-and-down year for Kentucky basketball might be one of the biggest understatements of the year. The Wildcats have won at then-#7 West Virginia but have also lost to five unranked opponents in SEC play — as well as three games in a row, most recently losing by 11 at Texas A&M, a setback that knocked Kentucky back out of the Top 25. In that loss on Saturday night, Kentucky only permitted the Aggies 26 points in the first half, going into the locker room up by four points, but gave up 59 points in the second half to end up on the losing end. The Aggies took advantage of slow transition on the fast break, and Kentucky is showing signs of unraveling heading down the stretch.
The Wildcats head to Auburn, where they face a Tigers team that lost to those same Aggies last Wednesday. However, Auburn rebounded from that one-point home setback with a 17-point rout of Georgia on the road — without leading scorer Bryce Brown, who was held out of the game as a precautionary measure thanks to a shoulder injury he suffered against Texas A&M. Jared Harper stepped up, scoring a career-best 24 points, and Mustapha Heron added 19. The Tigers have four different scorers averaging double figures on the season, and that sort of balance should bode well in tournament play.
NCAA Basketball Betting Prediction: Auburn 81, Kentucky 73
Thursday, February 15
Temple at Wichita State (7:00pm ET, ESPN2)
Conference play did not open well for the Temple Owls, as they dropped four in a row before picking up a two-point win at probation-hampered SMU. Now, the Owls have won five conference games in a row, including a two-point home win over Wichita State. The other wins in that stretch have come by 28 (Connecticut), 7 (at Tulane), 17 (East Carolina) and 18 (at South Florida). Quinton Rose (who put up 20 against South Florida) has been the catalyst for the team’s revival from the AAC basement and head to Wichita to take on the Shockers with a chance to make a huge statement in the conference.
Wichita State has bounced back well from their loss at Temple, routing Memphis by 20 on the road and then shellacking Connecticut by 21 at home. Landry Shamet put up 16 points in just 23 minutes in that laugher. Rashard Kelly led the team with 10 rebounds, including a pair of offensive rebounds on the same possession in the early going that would set the tone. If the Shockers can maintain that same intensity coming out against the Owls, they should cruise to their 20th win.
NCAA Basketball Betting Prediction: Wichita State 78, Temple 72
Saturday, February 17
West Virginia at Kansas (6:00pm ET, ESPN)
West Virginia’s roller coaster of a season has continued in the last week, as they took a bad loss at home against Oklahoma State but followed it up with a 16-point win over TCU at home on Monday night. Freshman Teddy Allen came off the bench with 16 points, breaking out of a major drought, giving him double figures for just the second time in his last seven games — and points for the first time in the last three games. A commitment to hustle has been difficult for Allen, which has been a factor in West Virginia’s struggles in Big 12 play.
The Mountaineers lost at home to Kansas, 71-66, nine games ago, but they visit a Jayhawks team that is in real trouble in the Big 12 after losing two of three, including a 16-point whipping at Baylor on Saturday. Manu Lecomte put the Bears on his back and scored eight points in a row to key the upset. It also didn’t help that Kansas only scored 20 points in the first half, a season low for a half. The Jayhawks went just 6 for 31 from downtown, and their post starters, MItch Lightfoot and Udoka Azubuike, both were in foul trouble for the whole night. Can the Jayhawks fix these issues in time to take down the Mountaineers?
NCAA Basketball Betting Prediction: Kansas 82, West Virginia 79