Weekend Picks: Unbeatens Kentucky, Louisville clash on Saturday
No.1 Kentucky (12-0) at No. 4 Louisville (11-0)
Saturday, 2 p.m., ESPN2
We’ll never know if the ACC would have issued a one-game suspension to Montrezl Harrell for throwing an elbow against Western Kentucky, but we can hazard a guess. (Not bloody likely.) With Harrell in the fold, the Cardinals’ starting five can hang with Kentucky’s for a while. However, when the coaches dip into their benches, the Wildcats will own a huge advantage. I’ve long said that if Kentucky is going to lose a game, it will probably come in an unimportant game against a team it overlooks. That won’t be the case here.
Kentucky 80, Louisville 70
Saturday, 6 p.m., ESPN2
BYU guard Tyler Haws, the nation’s fifth-leading scorer, has been hobbled by a sprained ankle. That caused him to snap his streak of double-figure scoring games, which dates back to Jan. 24, 2013, in the Cougars’ overtime win over UMass. With a few days more rest, that ankle should be stronger for the Cougars’ biggest home game of the season. Gonzaga is a great team, but the Bulldogs aren’t perfect, and I have a feeling they’re due.
BYU 76, Gonzaga 74
Saturday, 5 p.m., Big Ten Network
Oakland is typically one of the stronger midmajor programs in America, but Greg Kampe’s Golden Grizzlies are riding a four-game losing streak and are in the midst of a down year. That will spell bad news against a surging Terrapins team that is hoping to benefit of the return of Dez Wells, the team’s leading scorer who has missed the last four weeks because of a fractured wrist.
Maryland 75, Oakland 60
No. 24 Colorado State (12-0) at New Mexico State (5-8)
Saturday, 9 p.m.
Larry Eustachy’s Rams are one of the season’s surprise teams and are now ranked in both national polls. That owes mostly to the presence of versatile 6-foot-7 senior forward J.J. Avila, a transfer from Navy who ranks in the top 10 of the Mountain West in points (14.1), rebounds (7.5), assists (3.4) and steals (1.75). This is the team’s final tune-up before the start of Mountain West play, and it’s hard to imagine the Rams stubbing their toe against an Aggies team that has lost four games this season by three points or fewer.
Colorado State 76, New Mexico State 63
Georgetown (7-3) vs. Indiana (10-2)
Madison Square Garden, Saturday, Noon, ESPN2
People love to talk about the nation's best freshmen, but I’m not sure many people realize how terrific Georgetown’s L.J. Peak has been. The 6-5 guard from Gaffney, S.C., has averaged 10.2 points this season, and he scored 18 points in a tough loss to Kansas two weeks ago. Indiana’s star freshman guard, James Blackmon Jr., is also a terrific offensive player, but the Hoosiers are not real big inside, which should enable Hoyas center Joshua Smith to be the difference.
Georgetown 68, Indiana 63
Georgia State (7-3) at Green Bay (9-3)
Saturday, 1 p.m., ESPN3
This matchup features three of the best midmajor guards in the country. Two of them play for Georgia State -- 6-6 junior R.J. Hunter, who ranks 11th nationally in scoring (21.2 ppg), and 6-2 senior Ryan Harrow, who ranks 16th (20.2). Green Bay will counter with the Diminutive Dynamo Keifer Sykes, a 6-foot senior speedster who is averaging 17.7 points and 3.4 assists per game. I’ll take the Phoenix because they’re at home, but this game should be highly entertaining.
Green Bay 78, Georgia State 74
No. 17 St. John’s (10-1) vs. Tulane (9-2)
Sunday, Brooklyn, Noon, FS1
You’d have to go back to the days of Hot Rod Williams to recall a time when Tulane basketball was this good, but the Green Wave’s hot start includes a near-upset last week at Washington. That performance will work against them in this game, because it means the veteran Red Storm will be less inclined to overlook their opponent. St. John’s sophomore guard Rysheed Jordan missed the team’s previous game because of a stomach virus, but he is expected to be back for this one.
St. John’s 78, Tulane 70
Harvard (7-2) at Arizona State (7-5)
Sunday, 2 p.m., Pac-12 Network
I’ve been Harvard’s biggest cheerleader over the last three years, but I have to admit the Crimson has been a disappointment. They lost to Holy Cross last month, they’ve survived close calls against the likes of UMass and Vermont, and they looked like a jayvee team in a 49-point rout at Virginia on Sunday. The Sun Devils have lost five times, but they’ve been competitive in all their losses, so you have to like them at home here.
Arizona State 66, Harvard 60
Sunday, 6 p.m., FS1
Belmont has a terrific backcourt in Craig Bradshaw and Reece Chamberlain, who are leading the Ohio Valley Conference in points and assists, respectively, but the Bruins are not as competitive as they have been in the recent past. Butler, meanwhile, is in rediscovery mode after dropping two of its last three, so I expect a bounce back before the Bulldogs gear up for the start of Big East play.
Butler 70, Belmont 60
Sunday, 6:30 p.m., ESPNU
I’ve got to wonder about UCLA’s confidence after the Bruins got manhandled at home by Gonzaga and Kentucky. That’s not a good situation heading into a three-game road trip, beginning with an Alabama team that is due to break through with a signature win. The Crimson Tide played competitively away from home against Iowa State, Xavier and Wichita State, but they lost all three. I’m not sure what kind of homecourt advantage Alabama will have with its entire fan base in New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl, but that’s not going to bother the Tide’s 6-5 five senior guard Levi Randolph, who leads the team in points (16.5), rebounds (4.9) and assists (3.1).
Alabama 75, UCLA 70