Surging Michigan takes on ailing Michigan State, more weekend action
No. 2 Syracuse (18-0) at Miami (10-8)
Saturday, 1 p.m., CBS
Syracuse found out back on Jan. 4 that Miami is not an easy team to play. The Hurricanes, who are ranked 32nd nationally in defensive efficiency and 351st in tempo, took the Orange to the wire before losing, 49-44. Syracuse is going to have to show patience and knock down some outside shots, which has been a problem lately for Trevor Cooney. The Orange are the better team, but they have been riding high for a while, and it's hard to escape the feeling that they're due to come down to earth.
Syracuse 55, Miami 54
No. 21 Michigan (14-4) at No. 3 Michigan State (18-1)
Saturday, 7 p.m., ESPN
I'm not sure what else can go wrong for Michigan State this season, but whatever it is, it's likely to happen. One of the few players who has escaped the slew of injuries and illnesses has been sophomore forward Branden Dawson. So of course Dawson broke his hand Thursday night after slamming it on a table in anger while watching himself on video. With senior center Adreian Payne still likely sidelined with a sprained foot, there is not much logic behind picking the Spartans to win, but I just can't go against them at home.
Michigan State 70, Michigan 68
No. 4 Villanova (16-2) at Marquette (11-8)
Saturday, 2 p.m., Fox Sports 1
The Wildcats are probably still wondering what hit them after Creighton drilled 21 three-pointers at Wells Fargo Center on Monday night to hand 'Nova its second loss. The good news is, it could take Marquette weeks to make 21 threes. The Golden Eagles, who have been woefully deficient on offense this season, only make 4.7 per game, which ranks last in the Big East and 305th nationally.
Villanova 70, Marquette 60
Tennessee (12-6) at No. 6 Florida (16-2)
Saturday, 4 p.m., ESPN
The Volunteers need a signature win to buffer their NCAA tournament resume, but the O'Dome is not the place to get one. The Gators just grinded their way through a couple of gnarly road wins at Auburn (by 7) and Alabama (by 6). With a healthy Casey Prather, who missed two games because of an ankle injury but had a combined 35 points and 12 rebounds in the two wins, the Gators are as good as any team in the country.
Florida 78, Tennessee 66
No. 9 Wisconsin (16-3) at Purdue (13-6)
Saturday, 5 p.m., Big Ten Network
Ohio State managed to snap its four-game losing streak Thursday night against Illinois, so now it's Wisconsin's turn to end a three-game skid. It is pretty stunning to see a Bo Ryan-coached team play such porous defense. During the Badgers' three-game slide, their opponents have shot 53, 55 and 59 percent, respectively. Wisconsin needs to do a better job containing dribble penetration, but Purdue, which ranks 10th in the Big Ten in field goal percentage and last in free throw percentage, is not well-equipped to take advantage of the Badgers' defensive problems.
Wisconsin 74, Purdue 62
Florida State (13-5) at No. 18 Duke (15-4)
Saturday, Noon, ESPN
Jabari Parker has emerged from his mini-slump with a little more blue in his collar. Though he did not sink a three-pointer in the Blue Devils' win at Miami Wednesday night, he was 7-for-8 from the foul line and grabbed a career-high 15 rebounds. That's a sign of maturity, and it bodes well for Duke's prospects during the second half of the ACC season.
Duke 72, Florida State 60
No. 22 Kansas State (14-5) at No. 16 Iowa State (14-3)
Saturday, 1:45 p.m., Big 12 Network
Iowa State has lost three straight, but I don't think the Cyclones are in jeopardy of falling off the map. They are going through a standard swoon, but one that underscores their vulnerability on the boards. Iowa State, which doesn't have a rotation player taller than 6-foot-7, is ranked 297th in the country in offensive rebound percentage. So when the shots aren't falling, as was the case against Texas Wednesday night, they don't have much of a Plan B. I say the Cyclones are ready to bounce back.
Iowa State 77, Kansas State 71
Texas (15-4) at No. 24 Baylor (13-5)
Saturday, 1:30 p.m., Big 12 Network
Texas is tied for second in the Big 12 standings, but it is the only team in the league's top five that is not ranked. That should change, though, after the Longhorns beat Iowa State and Kansas State in their past two games. Even so, although I've been saying for a while that I thought Baylor was overrated, the Bears have lost four of their first five conference games, which means they should play this game with genuine desperation. And you all know how much I like desperate home teams.
Baylor 80, Texas 73
Xavier (15-4) at Providence (14-5)
Saturday, Noon, FS1
Slowly, quietly, the Friars are looking like an NCAA tournament team. They suffered a recent three-game losing streak, but two of those losses went to overtime (including on the road at No. 13 UMass). Now they have won four straight and are one game back of the Big East leaders in the loss column. PC is paced by 6-1 senior guard Bryce Cotton, who leads the Big East in assists (5.8) and is second in scoring (20.3), but it also boasts two of the Big East's top five rebounders in 6-9 senior Kadeem Betts and 6-6 junior LaDontae Henton. That's a lot of fire power, and a home-court advantage to boot.
Providence 72, Xavier 68
Cal (14-5) at UCLA (15-4)
Sunday, 8 p.m., ESPNU
You might think the bigger games are stressful for coaches, but it's actually the games against weaker opponents that give coaches agita. Cal demonstrated why by losing its first Pac-12 game at USC on Thursday night. The Bears might be more amped to play in this game, but so will UCLA, which got a career-high 22 points from 6-9 sophomore forward Tony Parker in a win over Stanford on Thursday night.
UCLA 82, Cal 75
Last week: 6-4