Each week during the college basketball season, I will offer my picks and predicted final scores for the biggest games on Saturday as well as some mid-major matchups. This way, when the lines are released Friday evening, you'll have at least one Vegas pro's opinion as to what the final scores might look like and the teams you should be looking to wager on.
Here's a look at six key matchups on Saturday from the ESPN family of networks, including Syracuse-Virginia, Pitt-Notre Dame, Kansas-Oklahoma State and Cincinnati-UConn.
Note: Teams in bold are my projected ATS picks.
No. 4 Syracuse Orange at No. 12 Virginia Cavaliers
Syracuse has morphed from a point spread juggernaut into an against the spread (ATS) disaster area in recent weeks. The Orange covered the spread only twice in eight February games. And quite frankly, they were lucky to cover the spread in those two games. One point spread cover came on Tyler Ennis' miracle 3-pointer at the buzzer against Pittsburgh; the other came by a half point at home against Clemson. Clearly, the early-season value on Jim Boeheim's club (11-4-1 ATS in its first 16 lined games) has come and gone.
Virginia doesn't have the same long-term basketball pedigree as the Orange. We don't see them on TV every week. Head coach Tony Bennett gets confused with his 'song-and dance' namesake, something that never happens in Boeheim's world. The national media hype only covers one of these two teams, despite the fact that both Ken Pomeroy and Jeff Sagarin's computer rankings have the Cavs as the superior team these days. The value here is on this under-hyped home favorite, primed for a national TV statement win.
ATS pick: Virginia 61, Syracuse 54.