Weekend Picks: Arkansas-Kentucky, Arizona-Utah highlight packed slate
Saturday, 4 p.m., CBS
When I am appointed czar of college basketball (which will happen any day now), I am going to reserve the option of moving the site of a game where conference opponents play just once. Because this game should be played in Bud Walton Arena, where Arkansas is nearly impossible to beat. The Razorbacks have been clearly the second-best team in the SEC this season, which means there is zero chance Kentucky will overlook them.
Kentucky 84, Arkansas 75
Saturday, 10 p.m., ESPN2
The Zags have bent a few times in league play, but they haven’t broken yet. That includes last Saturday, when they trailed by 17 points at Saint Mary’s but rallied late to win by 10. The Cougars couldn’t quite pull off the win over Gonzaga in Provo back in late December, and they have been vulnerable on the road, having lost at Saint Mary’s, San Diego and Pepperdine. The Cougars have the nation’s fourth-leading scorer in Tyler Haws (22.3 points per game), but their defense has been nonexistent, and that is not a good formula for winning in Spokane.
Gonzaga 85, BYU 79
[daily_cut.Kentucky Wildcats]Saturday, 8 p.m., ESPN
The meeting in Tucson between these teams was disappointing. Arizona led by five at halftime, but freshman forward Stanley Johnson scored all 18 of his points in the second half to give the Wildcats an 18-point win. Could a change in venue really make that much of a difference? I think so, but the Utes are going to have to defend with much more toughness and energy.
Utah 70, Arizona 68
Saturday, 5 p.m., ESPN
It looks like Texas’ long, sad march to a possible NIT bid will continue for at least another game. Winning in Allen Fieldhouse is hard enough. Doing so in Kansas’ first game after a disappointing loss at Kansas State will be darn near impossible.
Kansas 75, Texas 62
No. 10 Northern Iowa (27-2) at No. 11 Wichita State (26-3)
Saturday, 2 p.m., ESPN
It’s amazing how quiet things have been around Wichita State this season. The Shockers have lost just three games, but perhaps their 16-point defeat at Northern Iowa on Jan. 31 helped settle the buzz. It says here they are ready to return home and bring in the noise.
Wichita State 68, Northern Iowa 61
No. 12 Iowa State (20-7) at Kansas State (14-15)
Saturday, 4 p.m., ESPN2
Kansas State is coming off an emotional high following the grand upset of Kansas. Iowa State, which is still in the chase for a Big 12 title, is coming off a disappointing loss at home to Baylor. I spy a swinging pendulum.
Iowa State 74, Kansas State 70
No. 15 North Carolina (19-9) at Miami (18-10)
Saturday, 2 p.m., CBS
The Tar Heels’ inspired performance in the loss at Duke overshadowed the fact that they have now lost five of their last seven games, including by 12 at home to N.C. State on Tuesday night. That does not sound like a group that’s ready to win a road game against a team that desperately needs a victory here to get to the NCAA tournament.
Miami 71, North Carolina 67
No. 20 West Virginia (22-6) at No. 19 Baylor (21-7)
Saturday, 4 p.m., ESPNU
Baylor has had a pretty solid season, but it wasn’t until the Bears went into Hilton Coliseum and knocked off Iowa State that people (including myself) truly took notice. The Bears have gotten terrific production off the bench from 6’7” forward Royce O’Neale, who had 10 in the win at Iowa State, but it is their dual point guard tandem of Kenny Chery and Lester Medford that will enable them to beat West Virginia’s fullcourt pressure for buckets. That’s how they throttled the Mountaineers by 18 points in Morgantown three weeks ago.
Baylor 80, West Virginia 70
Georgetown (18-8) at St. John’s (19-9)
Saturday, Noon, CBS
The Red Storm have played themselves back into the NCAA tournament picture by winning six of its last eight games, but one of those losses was by 22 points at Georgetown. The Hoyas are a tough matchup because they can run with St. John’s if they want, but they can also slow the pace and pound it inside to Joshua Smith. I don’t think two weeks and a change of scenery is going to reverse that.
Georgetown 68, St. John’s 61
Michigan State (19-9) at No. 5 Wisconsin (25-3)
Sunday, 4 p.m., CBS
The Spartans are playing better basketball the last couple of weeks, their overtime loss at home to Minnesota on Thursday night notwithstanding. The Badgers also suffered a disappointing loss Tuesday night at Maryland, but five days of rest and practice, plus a return to Kohl Center, should be more than enough to help them get over it.
Wisconsin 72, Michigan State 62
Syracuse (18-10) at No. 4 Duke (25-3)
Saturday, 7 p.m., ESPN
You have to give Syracuse lots of credit for how well it has been playing since the school issued a postseason ban four weeks ago. The Orange have won four of their last seven, including Tuesday’s road victory at Notre Dame. Duke, meanwhile, looked gassed while being stretched to overtime at Virginia Tech Wednesday night. The Blue Devils will need the energy of the home crowd as well as another POY-caliber performance from Jahlil Okafor, who had 30 points and 9 rebounds against the Hokies but continues to struggle from the foul line.
Duke 75, Syracuse 64