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Jigsaw Man has the right missing pieces for Kentucky, UCLA, more

You can feel it fast approaching. It's not over the horizon anymore, not far off in the distance. Rather, it's just around that bend up ahead, a few paces away.

The stretch run.

It's coming all right. The finish line to the 2012-13 college basketball season is almost in sight. Except your team isn't ready for the mad dash. It's close. It's real close. But it's not ready. That's because it is still one piece away from being a complete picture. Problem is, that piece is nowhere to be found. Not by you, anyway. So who can you call?

The Jigsaw Man, that's who.

That's right, the Jigsaw Man is back to work his benevolent magic. He has been scouring the country looking for missing pieces that will transform good teams into great ones. Today, he is ready to produce his findings for 10 very lucky teams.

Loyal Hoop Thinkers know that the Jigsaw Man likes to challenge himself. He doesn't like obvious choices. He prefers to find unheralded players who could benefit from a change of scenery. The Jigsaw Man is as creative as he is magnanimous. You might say it brings him inner piece.

If your team was not chosen this time around, do not despair. The Jigsaw Man is always lurking. When you least expect him, he alights to bestow his findings. In the meantime, here are the 10 puzzles that he has solved. Happy piecemaking:

ILLINOIS

Biggest problem: Even when the Illini were riding high, their fans had to know it was a mirage. A team that lives and dies from behind the three-point line will always die once it starts playing conference road games. The Illini sure do love to hoist 'em. They're seventh in the Big Ten in three-point percentage but they're second in threes made. They're 20th nationally in three-pointers-to-field goal attempts, yet they're 338th in assists-to-made-field goals. It's not because they're selfish or don't have guards who can pass. The problem is this team does not have a post scorer who can take pressure off the marksmen and tie the offense together. The Jigsaw Man does not believe any inside man will do, however. He should also be long and athletic enough to join Brandon Paul et al. on the break. The Jigsaw Man wants this addition to be a spur, not an anchor.

Missing piece:Jackie Carmichael, 6-foot-9 senior forward, Illinois State. The Jigsaw Man understands the value of a dollar, so he likes that Illinois won't even have to leave its home state to fix its problem. And Carmichael, who entered his final season in college high on NBA scouts' radar, needs to be rescued from the Redbirds' miserable season. Carmichael is a dynamic scorer with his back to the basket (17.9 ppg on 54.7 percent shooting). The Jigsaw Man likes to imagine him running high screen-and-rolls with Brandon Paul. Carmichael's 9.2 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game will also spark many a fast break. When the Illini faithful see how well Carmichael fits, they will make the Jigsaw Man the toast of Champaign.

Fresh Takes: Seth Davis breaks down the hottest topics in college basketball

KENTUCKY

Biggest problem: It's no secret that this is a very young team. According to Kempom.com, there are only eight teams in all of Division I that are younger than the Wildcats. (Mazel tov, Texas. You're last.) That's a shame, because this is still one of the most talented teams in the country. It also has a terrific pair of shot-blocking centers in Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein. Even Ryan Harrow is coming along nicely at the point. The Jigsaw Man believes what Kentucky needs is an experienced, do-everything player who is a first-rate leader. And considering UK is ranked 289th in the country in free throw shooting, it would help if this player were also dependable at the stripe.

Missing piece: Solomon Hill, 6-7 senior, Arizona. For a guy who was named his conference's preseason player of the year, Hill sure generates very little buzz. The Jigsaw Man wants to see King Solomon parachute into Lexington and seize hold of the Big Blue Kingdom. There's literally nothing he doesn't do well. Hill shoots (43.5 percent from three), he scores (13.6 ppg), he rebounds (5.4 average), he passes (2.6 assists) and he defends (1.2 steals). He even knocks down 79 percent of his free throws. Best of all, he is a four-year starter who leads both through his voice and his example. He will fit beautifully at Kentucky. The Jigsaw Man is very pleased with his Solomonic wisdom.

MARYLAND

Biggest problem: The Terps have a lottery pick in 7-1 center Alex Len. The only problem is, he can't pass to himself. Not only do Maryland's guards have a problem hanging onto the ball (the Terps are last in the ACC in turnover margin and 264th nationally in turnover percentage), they also are terrible at shooting three-pointers (they're 10th in the ACC in both three-point percentage and made threes per game). The Jigsaw Man believes Maryland needs a multi-dimensional guard who can run the offense, drill threes, feed the post, and bring experience and toughness.

Missing piece: Matthew Dellavedova, 6-4 senior, Saint Mary's. The Jigsaw Man would like this Aussie native to bid g'day to the ACC. Dellavadova has been lighting up West Coast gyms for four years. He ranks second in the West Coast Conference and 17th nationally in assists at 6.5 per game, and he's also ranked in the top 10 in the league in scoring (17.0 ppg) and three-point shooting (39.2 percent). Dellavedova plays with great flair, so the Terps faithful will enjoy his style points as well. Alex Len never had it so good.

MICHIGAN STATE

Biggest problem: The Jigsaw Man likes Keith Appling. He just doesn't like Appling for this team. The 6-1 junior from Detroit has done an admirable job running Tom Izzo's offense the last two seasons, but he has never looked comfortable. Meanwhile, shouldering those responsibilities has thrown off his shooting. (Appling is averaging 13.8 points but he is making just 42.6 percent from the floor and 30.9 percent from three-point range. As a freshman playing shooting guard full-time, he made 41.1 percent from three.) The Jigsaw Man would like to give the Spartans a true pass-first point guard who will allow Appling to move off the ball and do a better job delivering post feeds to Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne. (The Jigsaw Man is tired of seeing Nix try to execute a drop step. It makes his head hurt.) This addition should also be a tough defensive player who will help a team that is ranked 294th in the country in steals percentage. And don't worry, the Jigsaw Man is also very cognizant that it takes a special type of player to run Izzo's team. He has to be smart, tough and able to deliver in the clutch.

Missing piece: Jake Odum, 6-4 junior guard, Indiana State. Izzo better be careful getting in this kid's grill, because Odum gives as good as he gets. He has terrific size for a point guard and he knows how to use it. Odum leads the Sycamores in scoring at 14.2 points per game, but the Jigsaw Man believes he would sublimate his scoring for the chance to play for a Big Ten title. Odum is third in the Missouri Valley in assists (4.5), eighth in steals (1.5) and 10th in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.65-to-1). He also averages 4.6 rebounds and makes 76 percent of his free throws. In fact, the Jigsaw Man notices a resemblance between Odum and Dane Fife, the former Indiana Hoosier who is now Izzo's assistant. If Izzo likes having Fife next to him on the bench, he's gonna love having Fife's clone on the floor.

MINNESOTA

Biggest problem: The Golden Gophers have plenty of experience and brute force. (They rank first nationally in offensive rebound percentage.) They also have one of the most dynamic scoring guards in the country in Andre Hollis. Their problem is they throw the ball all over the gym. Witness their 15 turnovers in a low-possession loss at Northwestern on Wednesday night. The Gophers are ranked last in the Big Ten in turnovers at 14.7 per game, and some of them are so boneheaded they ought to be counted twice. Minnesota also needs better defense at the point of attack. It is first in the Big Ten in blocks per game (6.4) but it is 338th nationally in steals percentage.

Missing piece: Darius Theus, 6-3 senior, VCU. Playing for Shaka Smart, we know that Theus knows how to push the tempo. Remarkably, he does it without losing control of the ball. Theus ranks first in the Atlantic 10 in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.62-to-1) and is fifth in assists (4.9). He also ranks sixth nationally in steals at 2.83 per game. Best of all, he doesn't look to score; he takes fewer than six shots per game and averages 6.6 points. You think these Rodney Williams and his wing mates are gonna love playing with him?

MISSOURI

Biggest problem: Yes, the Tigers are hurting without injured forward Laurence Bowers, but at least Bowers is going to return soon. The same cannot be said for Michael Dixon, the 6-1 senior who never played a game this season and left school in the wake of sexual assault charges. The Tigers have been unable to replace what Dixon was ready to give them: outside shooting, experience, toughness and aggressiveness in attacking the rim. Missouri is ranked 272nd in the country in free throw rate, and in the SEC the Tigers are eighth in three-point percentage, 10th in steals and 10th in turnover margin. They need someone in the Dixon mold who can toughen them up at both ends of the floor.

Missing piece: Fuquan Edwin, 6-6 junior guard, Seton Hall. The Jigsaw Man is tired of seeing Edwin toil in obscurity. For three seasons, Edwin has been one of the toughest, most versatile defenders in the Big East. He currently ranks 15th nationally in steals. The difference now is Edwin has improved his offense. He ranks sixth in the league in scoring (17.3 ppg) and first in three-point percentage (50.0). He is also grabbing 5.7 rebounds per game. Edwin's ball pressure will create even more transition opportunities for Phil Pressey. And Edwin will do a good job filling the lane beside him.

NORTH CAROLINA STATE

Biggest problem: The Wolfpack's biggest strength is also their biggest weakness: They score too easily. That means they are content to out-score teams as opposed to locking 'em up. N.C. State is ranked seventh in the country in offensive efficiency but 141st in defensive efficiency. They are giving up 59 points per game, which is 231st in the country. And they are eighth in the ACC in field goal defense at 40 percent. The Wolfpack gave up 51 second-half points to Wake Forest this week. The Jigsaw Man has played on some Jewish Community Center teams that could hold Wake Forest to under 50 in a half.

Missing piece: Travis Releford, 6-6 senior, Kansas. It's unfair that the Jayhawks have three fifth-year seniors who are all excellent defenders. They can spare one. Releford is the perfect match for N.C. State because he can defend four positions -- and he loves doing it. He always draws the toughest defensive assignment on the team. (On Tuesday night he harassed Kansas State's high-flying forward Rodney McGruder into a 4-for-12 shooting performance). This year, Releford has also improved his offense. He will give the Pack the toughness and leadership that they lack.

OHIO STATE

Biggest problem: The Buckeyes' offense doesn't seem all that bad. They're ranked fifth in the Big Ten in scoring (73.5) and fourth in three-point percentage (36.9), and they're 19th nationally in offensive efficiency. But this is one case where numbers can be deceiving. The Buckeyes have one of the nation's most dynamic scorers in Deshaun Thomas (20.8 ppg, tops in the Big Ten), but beyond that they do not have a dependable option. Adding a polished post player would help, but given the athletes assembled on this roster, the Jigsaw Man believes that the Buckeyes would benefit more by adding a long, slashing type of player similar to Thomas.

Missing piece: Cleanthony Early, 6-8 junior, Wichita State. Early has some decent numbers -- 15.4 ppg, 49.3 field goal shooting, 33.8 percent from three -- but he is capable of putting up even better stats. He scored 39 against Southern Illinois, 24 at Bradley, 25 against Iowa, and 21 against Western Carolina. The Jigsaw Man also likes that he's grabbing nearly five boards per game and making 82 percent of his free throws. He believes that having Early on the wing will allow Aaron Craft to focus on what he does best, which is passing and playing defense. Once this piece is in place, the Jigsaw Man is certain the Buckeyes will score Early and often.

SAN DIEGO STATE

Biggest problem: The Jigsaw Man may not be bright, but even he knows that it's hard to score points if you don't shoot the ball well. This has been San Diego State's challenge for most of the season. Because the Aztecs play Saran wrap defense, and because they have one of the best athletic slashers in the country in Jamaal Franklin, they have managed to beat most of their opponents by scrapping and clawing. When that fails, they have to rely on their jump shooting -- and then they become very ordinary. The easy answer would be to give them a high-percentage three-point shooter, but the Jigsaw Man does not believe in quick fixes. He believes that if San Diego State had a bona fide post scorer and offensive rebounder, that would open up more driving lanes for their guards and take pressure off their outside shooting.

Missing piece: Mike Muscala, 6-11 senior, Bucknell. Muscala represents an increasing rarity in college hoops: A true center who is comfortable playing with his back to the basket. He ranks 16th nationally in scoring (20.1 ppg) and is sixth in rebounding (11.2). And lest you think he just accrues big numbers against Patriot League lightweights, consider that Muscala went for 25 and 14 against Missouri, 18 and 7 against LaSalle, 16 and 15 against George Mason, and 14 and 10 against Purdue. He is an experienced, polished offensive player who will breathe new life into San Diego State's stifled attack.

UCLA

Biggest problem: It wasn't that long ago that Ben Howland's teams were known for their toughness and defense. They weren't always pretty to watch, but they were hard to score against. That is not the case with this group. The Bruins are ranked 112th in the country in defensive efficiency, and in the Pac-12 they're seventh in three-point defense (33.0), seventh in blocks (4.2), ninth in rebound margin (+ 2.1) and 10th in field goal defense (41.4). The fact that they're second in steals (8.0) is a reflection of their new up-tempo style (also very un-Howland-like) but also their lack of discipline. Instead of going for the risky play all the time, the Jigsaw Man would like to see the Bruins become more patient and fundamentally sound at that end of the floor.

Missing piece: Michael Snaer, 6-5 senior guard, Florida State. After being named to the ACC's All-Defensive team as a junior, Snaer was supposed to emerge this season as a more well-rounded, offensive-minded player. It hasn't worked. Though Snaer is scoring 14.8 points per game, he is shooting barely 40 percent from the field, which is down significantly from his junior season. Snaer's Seminoles have sunk to a disappointing 10-7 record. The Jigsaw Man would like to see Snaer get back to his defensive-minded roots. He is also a southern California native (from nearby Moreno), so he should welcome the chance to come home and restore defensive discipline to Westwood.

Other Hoop Thoughts

? Yes, Duke played horribly Wednesday night, but let's not lose sight that Miami is a strong, experienced, tough defensive team. When the Canes are also making shots and sharing the ball, they can beat anyone. And they are very fortunate to get their senior center, Reggie Johnson, back in the lineup much earlier than projected. Johnson only played 16 minutes against the Blue Devils, but as he gets back into game shape, it's going to make Miami that much harder to deal with.

? Cody Zeller is a great example of someone whose field goal percentage is too high. He's shooting 61 percent, which tells me he's playing too safe.

? New Mexico is a much better team when junior guard Tony Snell is hunting his shot. He had 22 and 23 points, respectively, in the Lobos' last two wins over Boise State and Colorado State. Before that, he had not cracked the 20-point mark since Nov. 18.

? On behalf of the All-Glue committee, let me just say: I see you, Melvin Ejim!

? Interesting to see Kansas freshman forward Perry Ellis starting to get a little more run. Ellis isn't going to win any bodybuilding contests, but he is a naturally gifted scorer, and his emergence could really add to the Jayhawks' frontcourt depth.

? The difference between this Florida team and those of the last several years is the Gators are playing D. They are ranked first in the country in defensive efficiency, they're fifth in field goal defense, and they're 18th in rebound margin. That's going to go a long way in March.

? Reason number 1,578 why college hoops is better than the NBA: Coaches who wear school colors on their ties.

? It was tough for me to watch Ohio State guard Shannon Scott's reaction after his ill-advised shot on the final possession of the Buckeyes' loss at Michigan State. Scott was so embarrassed at what he's done that he briefly hid his face in his jersey. That's the same thing my eight-year-old son does when he feels embarrassed during a game. The point is not that Scott is immature. The point is that it was a reminder that these are still kids. They're all somebody's son. (In Scott's case, he's the son of one of the greatest players of all time, former North Carolina Tar Heel Charlie Scott.) It's a good idea for fans and media guys to add a strong dose of empathy when we're criticizing college athletes.

? I strongly disagree with any suggestion that Rick Barnes should fear for his job. As I mentioned above, Texas is literally the youngest team in the entire country. You can see there is some talent there, and when it develops the team will be better. If the Longhorns do miss out on the NCAA tournament, it will be the first time in Barnes' 15 years there that that has happened. He has way too much equity in that program to be jettisoned after one miserable season.

? I love that Creighton coach Greg McDermott has the number "222" stamped on his players' practice uniforms. That was where the team ranked nationally last season in field goal percentage defense. Calls to mind one of my favorite coachisms: If you want to achieve it, you have to emphasize it.

? I want to alert you to a cool new piece of fiction just released by Rus Bradburd, a former assistant coach at UTEP and New Mexico State who was the co-author of Nolan Richardson's autobiography. Rus's novel is called Make It, Take It. It's the story of an assistant coach and top recruiter who has to navigate the ambitions and perils of big-time college athletics. Fun, quick read.

? Bummer to see Utah State lose two of their top three scorers to injuries just as the conference season was heating up. Senior forward Kyisean Reed is done for the season with an ACL tear, but junior guard Preston Medlin, their leading scorer, is due to return in six to eight weeks following a bad knee injury.

? Here's a great under-the-radar, circle-your-calendar game: Belmont at Murray State, Feb. 7. They are the top two teams in the Ohio Valley Conference, but since they are in different divisions, this is the only time they will play all season. Both teams could make a surprise run in the NCAA tournament, but only one of them will get there.

? I've said it before and I'll say it again: Louisville really needs Luke Hancock to get going. Rick Pitino said in October that Hancock, a transfer from George Mason, was the key to their whole season. Instead, he has been a virtual non-factor.

? I used to be concerned about Mark Lyons' ability to run the point for Arizona. Not anymore. Yes, he is a scoring point guard, but the way he scores, that is a positive, not a negative. Plus, I like the way Sean Miller can switch Nick Johnson to the point and let Lyons slide off the ball. This team is getting better in all the right ways.

? It's easy to forget that Michigan State sophomore forward Branden Dawson suffered a torn ACL less than a year ago. He is still getting his strength back in that knee. He also just played his best game in a Spartan uniform when he had 18 points and 13 rebounds against Wisconsin. Considering the final score was 49-47, that's like getting 25 and 18 in a more normal game. If Dawson keeps doing that, Michigan State will have a very real chance to win the Big Ten championship. Again.

? When I interviewed Jim Boeheim on my CBS Sports Network show Courtside on Wednesday, he sounded cautiously optimistic that James Southerland will be back in uniform at some point this season. The Orange haven't lost yet without him, but they could sure use the margin of error that his three-point shooting gives them.

Dipping Into The Email Bag

Over the last four years Leonard Hamilton took Florida State to four straight tourneys, an ACC tourney Championship and a Sweet 16. Basically, he is doing things that Nole fans haven't been used to since Charlie Ward, Sam Cassell, and Bobby Sura were in the backcourt. However, this season is turning into a disaster. FSU has lost five home games; notably to Mercer, South Alabama, and been blown out by Florida, and have been plagued by the same scoring problems that have been a staple of his tenure. I know sometimes the grass isn't always greener, but has Coach Ham taken FSU as far as we can go? Or are the Noles just a young team dealing with growing pains?--Nate, Venice, Fla.

I appreciate Nate's passion. I really do. But I will never understand the knee-jerk reactions of fans who believe that changing the coach is the cure for every ill. As Nate notes, it was just last season that Hamilton coached the Seminoles to the first ACC tournament championship in school history. Those four straight NCAA tournaments were also a first at the school. That Sweet 16 appearance was just two years ago. By any reasonable measure, Hamilton is the best basketball coach the school has ever had.

It is only natural that at some point, the program would experience a downturn. Florida State lost four starters from last season. The Seminoles have a freshman point guard and one of the most inexperienced teams in the country. And Hamilton has a very good chance to sign Andrew Wiggins, who is the nation's top high school player. The idea that a one-year downturn is somehow a bad reflection on the coach simply does not jibe with reality. Every program has bad years. Just look at North Carolina.

So my advice to Nate and other Florida State fans, don't go looking for someone else to lead this program. The grass is plenty green in Tallahassee right now.

Did you or any of the other media see the major push off that Butler's Roosevelt Jones did on Gongaza's Kelly Olynyk in order to get the ball and then score? I mean, I am a Michigan grad so I have no horse in this race, but that was absurd as far as a non-call, right? So why, two days later, have I only seen hosannas for Butler and absolutely no mention of this travesty?--Ricardo, Albuquerque

Ricardo obviously doesn't follow me on Twitter (@SethDavisHoops) or wasn't following the night of the game, because I noted the blatant push-off right away. (As did many others.) Although I must say, the more times I saw it, the less I came to believe that it was blatant. But it was a push. The refs just missed it.

However, the refs did not throw a careless in-bounds lob. That was Gonzaga's David Stockton. And while I generally subscribe to the argument that a foul is a foul whether it's in the first seconds or the final seconds, the reality is that most referees are not going to blow the whistle in that situation unless the push is truly blatant. If anything, the refs can be faulted for watching the ball on that play as opposed to the body contact. I also noticed upon further review that while Jones definitely fouled Olynyk, Olynyk also extended his arm in an effort to gain some separation. At live speed, it's understandable that the ref would swallow his whistle and render it a play-on.

As I've said many times, players make mistakes, coaches make mistakes, and refs make mistakes. In this case, the refs made a mistake, but it did not decide the game. The players did.

I've been watching Rick Pitino for many years now and I seem to see his attitude changing toward his players: laughs more, seems kinder, even to the press. Even with the loss to 'Cuse fresh in our minds, do you think his attitude has allowed him to be a better coach/recruiter? I couldn't imagine a Russ Smith playing for the UK Pitino.--Tom , Chicago

This is a very astute observation. I've said many times that Pitino has undergone a more dramatic personal transformation than any other person I've covered. I was around Rick a lot during his Kentucky days, and let me tell you, he was pretty insufferable. He would be the first to admit this. He was always a hard-charging, take-no-prisoners guy, and considering how well it served him professionally, it's understandable why he kept it up.

Then, two things happened. First, Pitino endured an embarrassing failure with the Boston Celtics. Then, more poignantly, he lost his best friend and brother-in-law, Billy Minardi, on 9/11. This was a sad full-circle tragedy for Pitino. On the eve of his career-launching run to the Final Four with Providence in 1987, Pitino's infant son died of heart disease. Now, just at the moment when his professional life was bottoming out, he suffered another personal loss. It humbled and humanized him. It made him take himself less seriously. This has, in my opinion, not only made him a better person, it has also made him a better coach. All you have to do is look at what he has accomplished at Louisville the last few years and you can see that.

The most amazing part about all of this is how aware Pitino is of this change. To wit: Last year, I was interviewing Pitino for a television special, I asked him about his son, Richard, who was then an assistant at Louisville. (He has since been hired to be the head coach at FIU.) Rick told me he thought Richard was a much better coach than he was at the same age. When I asked him why, Pitino replied, "Because he's humble. I didn't learn to be humble until I was 50." That is an amazingly self-actualized thing for a multimillionaire college basketball coach to say. As Tom so aptly put it, I could never imagine the Kentucky version of Pitino saying anything remotely like it.

Weekend Pickoff

UCLA at Arizona, Thursday, 9 p.m., ESPN2

When the Bruins are playing well, there are not many teams in the country that are better. But UCLA is not built for the road, and I think the spirited young Cats are going to bring their A game. Arizona 80, UCLA 70

Maryland at Duke, Saturday, 1 p.m., CBS

Who were those strangers in the blue jerseys getting run out of Miami on Wednesday night? The Blue Devils obviously didn't take their talents to Coral Gables. Returning to Cameron should help, but you have to wonder whether this team's confidence has been irrevocably shattered by that rout. Duke 72, Maryland 67

Syracuse at Villanova, Saturday, 11 a.m., ESPNU

This might have been a trap game for Syracuse if Villanova hadn't upset Louisville Tuesday night. Now, instead of walking into a trap, they're getting Villanova at exactly the right time. Syracuse 66, Villanova 60

Oklahoma at Kansas, Saturday, 4 p.m., ESPN

I still don't think Kansas is going undefeated in the Big 12. But I also don't think they're going to lose at home. Kansas 68, Oklahoma 60

Louisville at Georgetown, Saturday, Noon, ESPN

Georgetown is playing better basketball the last two weeks, but there's no way the Cardinals will lose three in a row. And it's not like the Verizon Center is a huge homecourt advantage. Louisville 70, Georgetown 60

Kansas State at Iowa State, Saturday, 1:45 p.m., Big 12 Network

Both of these teams are coming off disappointing losses -- Kansas State at home to Kansas on Monday, and Iowa State at Texas Tech Wednesday night. If the Cyclones are a good team (which I think they are), then they need to win this one at home. They have five players averaging double figure scoring, including point guard Korie Luscious, a transfer from Michigan State. Iowa State 70, Kansas State 67

Minnesota at Wisconsin, Saturday, 2 p.m., Big Ten Network

The Badgers aren't easy to figure out. Since they won at Indiana, they've lost at Iowa and then at home to Michigan State. They're tough to beat at the Kohl Center, but I also think the Gophers will be comfortable playing Wisconsin's slower, physical style. Minnesota suffered a disappointing loss at Northwestern on Wednesday, so they should primed to rebound. Minnesota 51, Wisconsin 46

New Mexico at San Diego State, Saturday, 4 p.m., NBC Sports Network

San Diego State has been struggling to score, but after dropping two games last week, the Aztecs need this one very badly. And you know how much I like desperate home teams. San Diego State 65, New Mexico 64

North Carolina at N.C. State, Saturday, 7 p.m., ESPN

N.C. State likes to pick its spots. Is there any doubt that it will pick this one? N.C. State 82, North Carolina 70

Michigan State at Indiana, Saturday, 1 p.m., CBS

Michigan State wants to win, but Indiana needs to win in order to establish its bona fides as a national championship contender. I think the Hoosiers will rise to the occasion, but it will require getting points from someone who hasn't produced it lately. Will Sheehey, anyone? Indiana 76, Michigan State 70

Last week: 6-4

Season record: 68-32

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