CBB Picks: Take Kentucky, Auburn against the spread on Saturday's slate

The Kentucky Wildcats are in a perfect spot to bounce back from a midweek loss.

Kentucky's defense turned in a fantastic 40 minutes in its last meeting with the Alabama Crimson Tide.

A similar situation could play out inside Rupp Arena on Saturday afternoon with Oscar Tshiebwe featuring in a starring role.

Auburn could enforce its will on the defensive side of the ball as well on Saturday on the road at Florida. The Tigers have played well since suffering their lone SEC defeat and they could take advantage of a Florida side trending in the wrong direction.

Below is a look at all of my college basketball plays. More will be added throughout the early afternoon.

Saturday CBB Picks

Boston College at Syracuse (-8.5) (Noon ET, ESPNU)

I've stayed away from Syracuse for most of the season, but I like the Orange in this spot.

Syracuse just beat Boston College by nine points last week in Chestnut Hill and BC has not been great on the road outside of pushing Notre Dame to overtime.

Boston College failed to produce 60 points in four of its last five road games and I do think it will be a little exhausted from the overtime battle in South Bend from Wednesday.

Syracuse produced over 90 points in its last three home games, and if the two sets of form hold true, the Orange should win by double figures.

Illinois at Michigan State (Over 137.5) (Noon ET, ESPN)

Illinois and Michigan State both shoot over 45 percent from the field and average over 72 points per game.

The Fighting Illini and Spartans played in a tight low-scoring affair back on January 25, but I do not foresee either side shooting well below its average from the field again.

Michigan State shot 34 percent from the field in that game and it should be much better as it tries to rebound from its loss to Rutgers.

Xavier at UConn (-6.5) (Noon ET, Fox)

I can't trust Xavier right now.

The Musketeers lost three of their last four games to St. John's, Seton Hall and DePaul.

Xavier has underperformed during that stretch and it faces a tough road matchup against UConn.

The Huskies played well at home of late with wins over Marquette and Seton Hall. The home-court advantage combined with Xavier's poor form should lend itself to a big Huskies victory.

UTEP (-7) at Southern Miss (1 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

UTEP defeated Southern Miss by 33 points on January 8.

The Miners are 5-1 against the spread in their last six games and they are leaps and bounds better than the Southern Miss team that ranks 300th or worse in most defensive categories on KenPom.

Southern Miss may not lose by 30+ this time around, but it is hard to see it keeping the game close because of its poor defensive stats.

Alabama at Kentucky (-7) (1 p.m. ET, CBS)

Kentucky has a massive edge in the matchup with Alabama.

Oscar Tshiebwe had 10 points and 15 rebounds versus the Crimson Tide on February 5 and he affected countless other shots.

Alabama does not have an answer for the Kentucky big man and the Wildcats offense could run through him more inside Rupp Arena on Saturday.

The Crimson Tide shot 10 percent from three-point range in the first meeting and another low percentage is possible against Kentucky's 20th-ranked three-point defense.

Central Connecticut State at Wagner (-15.5) (1 p.m. ET)

Wagner is 4-1 in its last five games as a home favorite.

The Seahawks have played well at home outside of a loss to Merrimack, and they should have plenty of motivation to blow out a Central Connecticut State side that kept the game within two points the last time they met.

CCSU just lost on the road by 14 points to Bryant, who is the other top team in the NEC. We should see something similar out of its matchup with Wagner.

Northeastern at Hofstra (-11.5) (2 p.m. ET)

Northeastern and Hofstra have played like teams on opposite ends of the CAA standings lately.

Hofstra produced three straight double-digit wins over Delaware, Drexel and Elon, while Northeastern fell by double figures against Drexel and Delaware.

The Pride beat the Huskies by 22 points in their first meeting in January and Northeastern has covered once in its last 10 trips to the hardwood.

Auburn (-5) at Florida (2 p.m. ET, ESPN)

It seems a bit peculiar to see Auburn as a smaller favorite than it has been for its trip to Gainesville.

The spread has moved in the Tigers' direction over the last 12 hours and there is good reason for that to happen.

Auburn rebounded from its loss to Arkansas with double-digit wins over Vanderbilt and Texas A&M and it faces a Florida offense that failed to reach 60 points in back-to-back losses.

Auburn's defense could have the same effect on Florida's offense as Kentucky and Texas A&M had in recent showdowns with the Gators.

I trust Auburn much more on both sides of the ball and this could be a game in which its defense is the star.

Arkansas State at UT-Arlington (-2) (3 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

UT Arlington is 5-1 ATS in its last six games and it scored 80+ plus in its last two games, both of which were victories.

Arkansas State are in the middle of a brutal four-game road trip and it lost the first three games of that contest.

The Red Wolves have one more game until they return home and that could play on their minds on Saturday at the end of a grueling stretch.

LSU (-4.5) at South Carolina (3:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network)

LSU is starting to find its footing again.

The Tigers held their last three opponents under 70 points and they should do the same against a South Carolina side that ranks below 250th in both two-and-three-point offense.

Tennessee at Arkansas (-2) (4 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Arkansas is 9-1 ATS in its last 10 games.

The Razorbacks have a single loss in that span, which was a one-point defeat to Alabama.

Just like LSU, Arkansas is on the right track as March lurks around the corner, and its defense has played better of late.

Arkansas held three of its last five home foes under 70 points and it gets Tennessee in a possible letdown spot after the Vols beat Kentucky.

North Carolina at Virginia Tech (-4.5) (4 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Virginia Tech made a direct run to the NCAA tournament bubble in the last three weeks.

The Hokies took advantage of a three-game home run in which they held all opponents under 60 points to inch toward the bubble.

Virginia Tech's defense will be the key once again versus a North Carolina squad that struggled on the road.

The Tar Heels lost to Wake Forest, Miami and Notre Dame on the road in ACC play and they barely beat Clemson and Louisville. There should not be a lot of trust put in them away from Chapel Hill.

Montana State (+132) at Southern Utah (4 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

Montana State has been the class of the Big Sky conference all season.

The Bobcats can feel safer about earning the No. 1 seed in the Big Sky tournament by beating Southern Utah.

Montana State ranks 14th in two-point offense and 44th in effective field-goal percentage.

The Bobcats have a consistent offense and their defense gives up five fewer points per game than SUU.

Middle Tennessee (+3.5) at Florida Atlantic (4 p.m. ET)

Florida Atlantic struggled in its last two games against the top teams in Conference USA.

The Owls fell to Western Kentucky and North Texas and they slipped up earlier in the season against Middle Tennessee.

The Blue Raiders won the first meeting by 13 points and they have lost once in their last 10 games.

FAU's struggles against WKU and North Texas concern me in this spot and that's why I lean toward MTSU.

North Texas (+3.5) at UAB (4 p.m. ET)

I was on North Texas on Thursday against FAU and I'm going back to the Mean Green again.

UNT is 8-2 ATS in its last 10 games and it has one of the toughest defenses to play against in Division 1. It allowed over 60 points once in the last eight contests.

Cal Baptist at Seattle (-6.5) (4 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

Seattle won its last four home games by eight or more points.

Cal Baptist fell in its last three road contests by six or more points.

Seattle ranks in the Top 60 in a majority of defensive categories and that should drive toward close to a double-figure victory.

Virginia at Miami (-2) (5 p.m. ET, ACC Network)

I've been all over Miami this season, so why change that now?

The Hurricanes should have revenge on their mind with Virginia coming to Coral Gables on Saturday night.

Oh, by the way, Miami is also 7-3 ATS in its last 10 games.

SE Louisiana (-6.5) at Incarnate Word (5 p.m. ET)

SE Louisiana won its first meeting with Incarnate Word by 10 points.

UIW is 1-9 overall in Southland Conference play and it suffered six of its last seven losses by nine or more points.

SE Louisiana scored 80 or more points in its last five games and it very well could continue UIW horrendous losing run.

Utah State at Boise State (-3.5) (6 p.m. ET, CBSSN)

Boise State gives up nine fewer points per game than Utah State.

The Aggies are trending in the wrong direction with three straight losses to Wyoming, Nevada and San Diego State.

Playing at home versus a team in bad form and against a squad it already beat this season should give Boise State all the advantages it needs.

Kennesaw State at Jacksonville (-6) (6 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

Jacksonville is 17-5 ATS this season.

That is the best mark across Division 1.

The Dolphins win their games with tremendous defense. They give up 58.8 points per game.

Kennesaw State is 3-7 ATS in its last 10 games and its defense ranks 280th or worse in four key defensive categories on KenPom.

James Madison at UNC Wilmington (-3.5) (7 p.m. ET)

I'm going back to UNC Wilmington again.

I'm not blindly doing this. The Seahawks have a clear advantage over James Madison.

James Madison ranks 343rd in two-point defense and it sits 309th in effective field goal percentage on defense.

Those numbers are far from inspiring for a team going on the road against the second-best team in the CAA.

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