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Saturday college hoops picks and preview: Thoughts on Tennessee-Alabama, Kansas-Baylor, Marquette-Creighton and more!



It's the penultimate Saturday of the college hoops regular season, and boy oh boy do we have a loaded slate.


Tennessee-Alabama. Gonzaga-Saint Mary's. Kansas-Baylor.



Now, to the picks.



No. 24 Florida at No. 18 South Carolina - Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN


Spread: South Carolina (-2)


Over/Under: 144.5


Both teams are playing great basketball in SEC play. They are also both very different teams from each other. Florida is an offensive first team and is a top-10 scoring team in all of college basketball at 84.7 points per game. They are also top-15 KenPom team in adjusted offensive efficiency at 119.7 and they are a top-30 team in adjusted tempo on KenPom at 71.1. Four different Gators average over double digits in scoring with Walter Clayton Jr. being the leader, averaging 16.8 points per game. Florida is also the best rebounding team in all of college basketball at 43.7 rebounds per game.


South Carolina is the complete opposite and wants to muck things up and focuses a lot on defense. They are a top-25 scoring defense, allowing 65.3 points per game. In KenPom, they are 43rd in adjusted defensive efficiency at 99.3. They are a team that can control the game on offense with an adjusted tempo on KenPom of 63.1 which is 354th in the country. Meechie Johnson is a star for the Gamecocks and leads the team in scoring at 13.8 points per game. With the game in Columbia, it favors the Gamecocks in this spot.


They muck games up and will cause issues for the Florida offense the entire game. Expect the Gamecocks to win this game at home.


Pick: South Carolina (-2)



No. 7 Kansas at No. 15 Baylor - Saturday, 1 p.m. ET, ABC


Spread: Baylor (-6)


Over/Under: 144.5


This is just the latest landmine for both teams in the loaded Big 12 conference. These two teams have had similar seasons and are both widely projected as a 3-seed across all the brackets that have been made by bracketologists.


Kansas is coming off a shocking loss to BYU at home, a place where they seemingly never lose. Overall, Kansas is led by their defense, as they are allowing 67.9 points per game, are ranked 10th in adjusted defense on KenPom at 94.1. Six different Jayhawks average at least 0.8 steals or more per game and then three players average at least 0.6 blocks or more per game. Three different players average over double digits with Kevin McCullar Jr. leading the way at 19 points per game, but Hunter Dickinson is just under him at 18.3 points per game.


Baylor has been led by their offense this season. They are a top-25 scoring offense, averaging 81.6 points per game. They are top five in KenPom in adjusted offense at 123.1. Six different players average over double digits for the Bears. Ja’Kobe Walter is the leader for the Bears on offense, averaging 14.8 points per game. These are two of the best teams in the Big 12 outside of Houston. These two teams are similar too, but with the game in Waco the advantage is with the Bears.


Kevin McCullar Jr. is also questionable for the Jayhawks to play which also does not help at all. Baylor wins.


Pick: Baylor (-6)



No. 5 Marquette at No. 12 Creighton - Saturday, 2:30 ET, FOX


Spread: Creighton (-6)


Over/Under: 154


Creighton already knocked off UConn at home and is primed to knock of Marquette in this matchup. The Bluejays have won five of their last six games overall, with the only loss being to St. John’s. Creighton has been great this season across the board on offense and defense. They average 80.9 points per game which is in the top-35 in all of college basketball and they are 11th in KenPom in adjusted offensive efficiency at 120.3. Four players average double digits with three of those four averaging at least 17 or more points per game on offense. Baylor Scheierman leads the way on offense with 18.2 points per game. They are also top-20 in assists per game, averaging 17.2 assists per game. They are also a solid defensive team. They are 23rd in KenPom adjusted defense at 97. It also helps that Ryan Kalkbrenner was great down low, averaging 2.9 blocks per game which is tied for the top five in all of college basketball.


Meanwhile, the Golden Eagles have quietly won 11 of 12 games and come into this game, having won three straight since the blowout loss to UConn. Marquette is an experienced team and balanced. Four players average double digits on offense, with Kam Jones leading the way with 15.9 points per game. Tyler Kolek is the engine that makes the Golden Eagles go with 7.6 assists per game, and accounting for almost half of the teams assists per game. On KenPom, they are 21st in adjusted offense at 118.8 and they are 14th in adjusted defense at 95.3.


Marquette beat Creighton earlier this season already at home, but in Omaha this spot favors the Blue Jays. They beat the top team in the Big East already in UConn and they should beat the second ranked team in this spot. Creighton wins at home.


Pick: Creighton (-6)


 

No. 4 Tennessee at No. 14 Alabama - Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN


Spread: Alabama (-3.5)


Over/Under: 170.5


This is a battle for first place in the SEC, as these two teams are tied atop the standings. And what a game it will be. Tennessee marches into Tuscaloosa on a five-game winning streak, while Alabama has also won five of six games.


The Vols are the fifth ranked team in KenPom and have the third ranked adjusted defense at 92. They are also a top-40 team in rebounding at 39 per game and they are top-35 in blocks at 4.8 per game. The difference with the Vols this year is their offense is much better than it has been. They average 80.7 points per game, which is good for 36th in all of college basketball. They are 18th in adjusted offense at 119.3 on KenPom too. Three players on the Volunteers average double digits on offense with Dalton Knecht being the leader with 20.8 points per game and transforming Tennessee’s offense on his own. He dropped 39 points in a win on Wednesday over Auburn, singlehandedly outscoring the Tigers over the final 12 minutes of the game.


It was insane.



Alabama has won four of their last five games. Alabama is the top ranked scoring offense at 91.5 points per game and they are the top offense in KenPom at 128.3 in adjusted offense. The Crimson Tide are the seventh ranked team in KenPom overall mainly due to their offense because they are 101st in adjusted defense at 102.8 and on top of that they are 11th in adjusted tempo at 72.8. For Alabama, it’s all about offense and four different players score double digits with Mark Sears leading the way at 20.6 points per game. They are 30th in rebounds per game at 39.4 and in assists per game at 16.4. Alabama is a very streaky team due to their issues on defense, but with the game at home they have the momentum heading into the game.


Expect the Alabama offense to be too much for the Volunteers in this game. Expect Alabama to win in this game at home.


Pick: Alabama (-3.5)


 

No. 23 Gonzaga at No. 17 Saint Mary’s - Saturday, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN


Spread: Saint Mary's (-2.5)


Over/Under: 141.5


Saint Mary's won the WCC outright title on Thursday night with a win at Pepperdine, but even though the league is still wrapped up there is plenty at stake for these two teams.


For starters, this isn't the first time these two teams have played. Saint Mary’s won the first matchup in Gonzaga, so this matchup would effectively end the conference race in favor of the Gaels. The Bulldogs have won seven straight games since that last loss. It starts with what they do on offense with the Bulldogs averaging 86.1 points per game, which is good enough for fifth in all of college basketball this season. They are also 10th in adjusted offense on KenPom at 120.6. Five different Bulldogs average in double digits in scoring with Graham Ike being key for them down low and leading the way with 16.3 points per game.


Saint Mary’s has won 15 straight and has yet to lose in conference play after a sub-par performance in the non-conference portion of their schedule. They have stood out as one of the best defenses in the country. They are second in scoring defense behind only Houston, allowing 58.1 points per game. They are 15th in KenPom in adjusted defense at 95.4. The Gaels are also great on the glass at 39.9 rebounds per game, which is 24th in the country. They focus on efficiency on offense and control of the game with their adjusted tempo on KenPom being 62.6 which is 356th.


Everything in this game points to Saint Mary’s. Gonzaga has had a ton of missed opportunities and has lost to the Gaels already.


However, in the WCC finale for both teams expect Gonzaga to be the winner in this spot and continue to make a claim to get off the bubble before the WCC championship starts up.


Pick: Gonzaga ML





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