College basketball picks, schedule: Predictions for Baylor vs. Alabama and other Big 12/SEC Challenge games

The annual Big 12/SEC challenge has a little extra intrigue this season. For the first time since the last wave of conference realignments over the summer, these two conferences will meet in the field. Eventually, the movement among the league-changing teams will send Texas and Oklahoma from the Big 12 to the SEC, where they will face off on opposite sides of this annual college hoops showdown.

So perhaps it’s only fitting that the Sooners travel to No. 1 Auburn as part of Saturday’s festivities. Welcome to the SEC, Sooners! As if life in the Big 12 wasn’t tough enough, good luck in one of the toughest road environments in the country against a team riding a 16-game winning streak.

Meanwhile, Big 12 teams left behind in the realignment such as TCU, Iowa State, Kansas and Texas Tech will be able to welcome SEC haters to their home arenas and remind them that the Big 12 is no slouch. of a basketball conference. Since the start of the challenge in the 2013-14 season, the Big 12 have held a 44-35 record. But the SEC won 5-4 in last season’s event and has a 10-9 advantage in games played over the past two seasons.

Ultimately, the national champion came from the Big 12 last season – Baylor – and the league is hailed as the toughest conference in the country this season. If the SEC can pull off some decisive victories on Saturday, maybe that narrative is starting to change.

Here are the breakdowns and expert picks for each Big 12/SEC Challenge game.

Odds via Caesars Sportsbook | All times Eastern

Featured Game | Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Baylor Bears

4 p.m. | ESPN, fuboTV (Try for free) — If those teams had played in mid-December, it would have been No. 1 Baylor against No. 6 Alabama. Instead, it’s No. 4 Baylor taking on unranked Alabama. The Crimson Tide is just 5-6 in its last 11 games since winning three straight against Miami, Gonzaga and Houston. There may not be a more impressive three-game winning streak in the country this season, and that’s what makes recent struggles so disconcerting. The Crimson Tide are unpredictable, so it makes sense that they would follow up a horrific loss in Georgia with a victory over the defending national champions. Prediction: Alabama 83, Baylor 80

Featured Game | Florida Gators vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys

4 p.m. | ESPN2, fuboTV (Try for free) — With Florida on a two-game slide and on the wrong end of the NCAA Tournament bubble, this is something close to a must win. Oklahoma State is not the team you want to see under these circumstances. With no playoffs to play, the Cowboys took on a spoiler role by making life difficult for everyone in their path. Wins over Texas and Baylor showcase their work and show that Oklahoma State can match UF’s toughness. Prediction: Oklahoma State 69, Florida 67

Featured Game | Ole Miss Rebels vs Kansas State Wildcats

4 p.m. | ESPNU, fuboTV (Try for free) — Five of Kansas State’s last seven losses have ended by three runs or less. By comparison, only one of Ole Miss’s 10 losses this season has been by three points or less. The Rebels have looked pretty good at times — see a 16-point win over Florida on Monday and a 10-point win over Mississippi State earlier this month — but when they’re bad, they’re really bad. K-State still ranks 68th in the NET as seven of its nine losses are to Quad 1 teams. The Wildcats are better than their record suggests and should take care of business against the Rebels. Prediction: Kansas State 67, Ole Miss 60

Featured Game | Kansas Jayhawks vs. Kentucky Wildcats

6:00 p.m. | ESPN, fuboTV (Try for free) — The last five times these teams met, the final margin of victory was eight points or less. Kentucky scratched for a win on the road, and if guards Sahvir Wheeler and TyTy Washington can stay healthy for an entire game, the Wildcats will have a chance. But Kansas is proving adept at winning close games, and they have the ultimate trump card in Ochai Agbaji. The senior superstar will be a tough game for the UK and should help the Jayhawks win a close one. Prediction: Kansas 77, Kentucky 70

Featured game | Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs

6:00 p.m. | ESPN2, fuboTV (Try for free) — Mississippi State started the week playing 12th Kentucky and ends it playing 13th Texas Tech. It would be a season-changing win for the Bulldogs, who are looking away from the NCAA Tournament picture due to two Quad 3 losses. But if anyone can slow down prolific MSU guard Iverson Molinar, it are the long, lanky, menacing defenders of Texas Tech. Expect the Red Raiders to bounce back from Monday’s overtime loss at Kansas. Prediction: Texas Tech 65, Mississippi State 54

Featured Game | Texas Longhorns vs. Tennessee Volunteers

8 p.m. | ESPN, fuboTV (Try for free) — Rick Barnes will coach his first game at Texas since he and the Longhorns parted ways after the 2014-15 season. Texas hasn’t won an NCAA tournament game since leaving, while Barnes won three with a floundering Tennessee program when he arrived. It can be a commendable offensive play decided by a single possession. If so, the home field advantage gives Texas a slight edge. Prediction: Texas 58, Tennessee 57

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Featured Game | TCU Horned Frogs vs. LSU Tigers

12 p.m. | ESPN2, fuboTV (Try for free) — The health of LSU starters Darius Days and Xavier Pinson looms large in this one. Pinson has missed five straight games with a knee injury and Days missed LSU’s 70-64 win over Texas A&M on Wednesday with an ankle injury. If one or both can’t play, it’s a great opportunity for TCU to bolster their NCAA tournament resume. The Horned Frogs are 13-4 and would improve to 3-3 in Quad 1 games with a win. Prediction: TCU 65, LSU 60

2 p.m. | ESPN2, fuboTV (Try for free) — This one is a battle between teams going in opposite directions. The Razorbacks have won five in a row to resurrect their NCAA tournament hopes while the Mountaineers have lost four in a row by an average of 14.5 points. Arkansas has lost only one real game at home this season, and West Virginia has lost its last three on the road. Look for Arkansas to dominate the boards and build a big lead in the second half. Prediction: Arkansas 80, West Virginia 70

2 p.m. | ESPN, fuboTV (Try for free) — Auburn played its worst game of the season Tuesday at Missouri with Jabari Smith going just 2 of 15. The Tigers shot just 30 percent as a team and still won 55-54. Oklahoma ended a four-game losing streak on Wednesday by beating West Virginia 72-62. The Sooners are strong enough defensively to stay close, but the Tigers are back at home and should take advantage of the momentum of a noisy environment to claim victory. Prediction: Auburn 79, Oklahoma 71

2 p.m. | ESPNU, fuboTV (Try for free) — Missouri has spent much of this season alternating between impressive and abysmal, with the Tigers’ latest outing being an impressive one-point home loss to No. 1 Auburn. Iowa State is treading water in the Big 12 and can’t afford what would amount to a Quad 3 loss. The Cyclones will use home-court advantage to earn the win, though it may be closer provided that. Prediction: Iowa State 70, Missouri 66

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