Picks: Kansas-Baylor leads three Top 25 matchups this weekend
No. 2 Villanova (25–2) at Seton Hall (16–9)
Saturday, 12:30 p.m., Fox
Classic trap game alert. Seton Hall is a talented team (witness Khadeen Carrington’s 41-point explosion in Wednesday’s win over Creighton) desperately in need of a bubblicious win. Villanova is the better team but playing its third consecutive road game, and it has far less incentive.
Seton Hall 80, Villanova 76 (OT)
No. 3 Kansas (23–3) at No. 4 Baylor (22–4)
Saturday, 1 p.m., CBS
A cynic would say it would be a lot harder for Kansas to win this game since it’s not being played in Allen Fieldhouse, where the Jayhawks owned a 27-to-6 advantage in free throw attempts during their 73–68 win over Baylor on Feb. 1. I would simply say that Kansas’s lack of size and depth has taxed its energy the last couple of weeks. Baylor should be primed to restart its mojo after losing three of its last five games, including at Texas Tech on Monday night.
Baylor 79, Kansas 74
Michigan State (16–10) at No. 16 Purdue (21–5)
Saturday, 4 p.m., ESPN
The Spartans have risen from the dead the last two weeks, winning four out of five games. However, three of those wins came against Big Ten teams that will not be in the NCAA tournament. Not so the case here, when Purdue can rotate a trio of big defenders on the Spartans’ talented—but only—post player, freshman Nick Ward.
Purdue 76, Michigan State 65
No. 13 Kentucky (21–5) at Georgia (15–11)
Saturday, Saturday, 6 p.m., ESPN
If we are playing the incentive game, Georgia should be the pick, especially since the Bulldogs took Kentucky to overtime in Rupp on Jan. 31 before losing. However, the Wildcats were missing three players for that game, including freshman point guard De’Aaron Fox, and they need to keep their recent momentum going following a stretch where they lost three out of four games. Georgia has two of the SEC’s top six scorers in junior forward Yante Maten (19.4 ppg) and senior guard J.J. Frazier (16.6), but as a team they are ranked 10th in scoring (72.4 ppg) and last in threes made per game.
Kentucky 74, Georgia 68
Xavier (18–8) at Marquette (15–10)
Saturday, 8 p.m., CBSSSN
Xavier point guard Quentin Goodin has done a decent job filling in for the injured Edmond Sumner the last five games, but that is a tall task for any player, much less a freshman. The Musketeers were also missing their leading scorer, Trevon Bluiett, in their loss Wednesday at Providence, and it’s not clear if he will be back for this one. Marquette is the best three-point shooting team in the country, but it has lost four of its last five games to fall under .500 in the conference. This is a must win.
Marquette 71, Xavier 67
No. 14 Virginia (18–7) at No. 10 North Carolina (22–5)
Saturday, 8:15 p.m., ESPN
Aren’t we all kind of getting the feeling that the jig is up at Virginia, which has lost four of its last six? As usual, the Cavaliers present a formidable challenge with their defense and tempo, but when it comes to scoring points, they are deficient. They are ranked fifth in the ACC in offensive efficiency. That hurt them badly during Wednesday’s home loss to Duke, when Virginia shot 36.8% from the floor and was just 5 for 20 from three. North Carolina is not going to scare anyone with its defense (42nd nationally in efficiency), but one thing the Tar Heels can do is put up points, especially in the Dean Dome.
North Carolina 68, Virginia 59
USC (21–5) at No. 6 UCLA (23–3)
Saturday, 10 p.m., Pac-12 Network
Neither of these teams had mid-week games, so they should plenty rested for an intense, intra-city rivalry game. USC was able to knock off the Bruins at home on Jan. 25 thanks to a barrage of three-pointers. I think UCLA is more committed to defense now than it was a few weeks ago, and the Bruins should be plenty eager to exact revenge in Pauley Pavilion.
UCLA 82, USC 70
No. 22 Saint Mary’s (23–3) at BYU (19–9)
Saturday, 10 p.m., ESPN2
It’s not often we get a matchup of highly skilled post players, but that’s what we will be on display with BYU’s Eric Mika, who is second in the WCC in points (20.0) and tied for first in rebounds (9.5), against the Gaels’ Jock Landale, who is ranked in the top four in the conference in points (17.0), rebounds (9.5) and field goal percentage (60.3). The Gaels shot 55.4% from the floor when they beat BYU at home on Jan. 5, but I think the Cougars will be able to return the favor in the Marriott Center.
BYU 71, Saint Mary’s 66
No. 23 Maryland (22–4) at No. 11 Wisconsin (21–5)
Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS
We don’t know yet if Badgers senior guard Bronson Koenig, who missed Thursday’s loss at Michigan because of a sore calf, will return for this one. But even if he’s not back, it’s hard for me to imagine that Wisconsin will lose three games in a row.
Wisconsin 70, Maryland 67
Michigan (17–9) at Minnesota (19–7)
Sunday, 7 p.m., BTN
The Golden Gophers have had an up-and-down season, but they are currently on an upswing having won four in a row. That includes a one-point squeaker at home over Indiana, thanks to Nate Mason’s 31 points (including 11 for 12 on free throws). The Wolverines got a nice win at home over an undermanned Wisconsin team Thursday night, but the Wolverines are still one of the worst defensive teams in the Big Ten. That’s not a good attribute to take into a difficult road environment against a team that is getting ever-closer to locking up an NCAA bid.
Minnesota 70, Michigan 65