SI.com's Seth Davis weighs in on the five hottest topics in college hoops.
Saturday, Jan. 21
6 p.m. (ESPN)
No. 1 Syracuse (20-0, 7-0 Big East) at Notre Dame (11-8, 3-3) I'm tempted. Really, I am. I believe that Syracuse will lose before the Big East tournament, and it will happen on the road. However, I can't quite pull the trigger given how poorly Notre Dame has played on the defensive end this season. The Fighting Irish are ranked 12th in the Big East in field goal percentage defense (41.8), and they have a negative rebound margin. That means the Orange should have their way both inside and out. I expect Mike Brey to go into his "burn" offense and have his team hold the ball until the end of the shot clock. But at some point, to beat the No. 1 team in the country you have to score. The Irish, who failed to reach the 60-point loss in their last two games, are not capable of scoring enough.
Alabama (13-4, 2-1 SEC) at No. 2 Kentucky (18-1, 4-0) While the rest of the world was enamored with Anthony Davis's 27-point, 14-rebound, seven-block masterpiece against Arkansas Tuesday night, I was more fixated on the modest but steady performance turned in by UK point guard Marquis Teague. The 6-foot-2 freshman only took four shots (none from three), but he had nine assists to just three turnovers. Teague had just one assist and five turnovers in his previous game against Tennessee, so there's no telling what the future holds. But if he is the linchpin to the Wildcats' championship hopes, then there is increasing reason for optimism in Lexington. Meanwhile, if you saw Alabama get embarrassed at home by Vanderbilt Thursday night, it's hard to foresee the Tide being competitive in this one, much less winning it.
2 p.m. (ESPN)
No. 5 Missouri (17-1, 4-1 Big 12) at No. 3 Baylor (17-1, 4-1) To win at Kansas, you have to play like men. Baylor played like boys. Now we'll see what this team is made of. Unlike Kansas, which out-rebounded the Bears by 14, Missouri does not come close to matching Baylor's size in the paint. The only question is whether Baylor attacks the rim better than it did on Monday. A lot has been made of Perry Jones' frustrating tendency to settle for jump shots, but only three players made it to the foul line against the Jayhawks, and the team took a total of 11 attempts. I'm guessing that after six days to stew and study, Baylor will bring the appropriate level of drive into this one.
4 p.m. (ESPN)
Florida State (12-6, 3-1 ACC) at No. 4 Duke (16-2, 4-0) If this game were in Tallahassee, I would go with the Seminoles. This is yet another terrific defensive team coached by Leonard Hamilton; the Seminoles lead the ACC in field goal percentage defense (36.7), steals (8.8) and blocks (6.6). The difference lately has been their ability to put points on the board as well. Duke, on the other hand, is still dead last in the ACC in field goal percentage defense (43.6), but the Blue Devils shoot so well in Cameron Indoor Stadium that it shouldn't make much difference.
4 p.m. (CBS)
No. 13 UConn (14-4) at Tennessee (8-10) After UConn squeaked by Florida State in overtime at the Battle 4 Atlantis, I asked Jim Calhoun what he learned about his team. His answer: "We need Ryan Boatright." They sure needed him Wednesday night when the Huskies lost at home to Cincinnati. Boatright could be declared eligible at any moment by the NCAA, but if he's not in the lineup the Huskies are going to have a hard time beating a less-talented, but more rough-and-tumble Tennessee squad. The Volunteers need this win in the worst way. They've lost four of their last five, but they beat Florida at home and took Kentucky to the wire before falling by three. If this becomes a shootout Tennessee is toast, but I think the Vols will be able to control the tempo, and I like the added muscle provided by freshman forward Jarnell Stokes, who has 20 points and 12 rebounds in his two games since joining the team.
7 p.m. (ESPN2)
No. 18 Mississippi State (15-4, 2-2 SEC) at Vanderbilt (14-4, 4-0 SEC) I didn't quite jump off the Vanderbilt bandwagon after the Commodores lost at home to Indiana State for its third defeat in four games, but I was on the bottom step by the door. Well, I'm back in the front row now that Festus Ezeli is finally getting healthy and the Commodores have rattled off seven straight wins, including Thursday night's drubbing of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Mississippi State has dropped three of its last six games despite getting much more offensive production than expected from Arnett Moultrie, the 6-11 transfer from UTEP who is fourth in the SEC in scoring (16.1 ppg) and ranks eighth nationally in rebounding (11.0).
2 p.m. (CBS)
No. 20 Michigan (15-4) at Arkansas (13-5) This might seem at first blush to be a walkover for Michigan. But look closer and riddle me this: What exactly is Michigan playing for here? Sure, it would be nice to win, but the Wolverines deposited a big pile of house money when they beat Michigan State on Tuesday night. Arkansas, on the other hand, was embarrassed by Kentucky at Rupp Arena, and now the Razorbacks return home for a game they know can do wonders for their NCAA tournament hopes. As great as Michigan point guard Trey Burke has been, he is still a freshman, and I think Arkansas' full-court pressure (not to mention the fans in a packed Bud Walton Arena) will rattle him just enough to allow the Razorbacks to pull off the upset.
10 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)
New Mexico (15-3, 1-1 Mountain West) at No. 14 UNLV (17-3, 1-1) The Lobos had a 10-point lead over a ranked team on their home floor, but they couldn't close the deal. That would be tough to recover from psychologically under any circumstances, much less this one. Even though San Diego State beat UNLV at home, I still think UNLV is a better team, and the Runnin' Rebels, who are ranked ninth in the country in scoring at nearly 82 per game, will be anxious to make a statement of their own. UNLV is getting terrific production lately out of dynamic junior guard Anthony Marshall, who has had career highs in scoring in each of his last two games.
1 p.m. (ESPN2)
Xavier (13-5, 4-1 Atlantic 10) at Dayton (13-5, 3-1) It turns out that the Atlantic 10 is even deeper than we thought, so this battle for outright first place looms pretty large. Xavier seems to have finally righted its ship with four straight wins, but this will be its toughest test since it faced Gonzaga on New Year's Eve. It has been amazing to see how Tu Holloway's scoring has fallen off the last couple of weeks (though he did have 12 assists in Wednesday's win over Saint Joseph's). The Flyers don't overwhelm opponents with star power, but they do have great balance, with six players averaging between eight and 12 points per game. They also have one of the Atlantic 10's top guards in 6-foot junior Kevin Dillard, who ranks in the league's top six in assists and steals. Most of all, they have the homecourt advantage, and we all know what that usually means.
6 p.m. (Comcast Sports Net)
Stanford (15-4, 5-2 Pac 12) at Washington (11-7, 4-2) You all know how much I love to pick desperate home teams. Well, you can't get much more desperate than Washington. The Huskies missed a golden opportunity Thursday night when they failed to beat Cal at home. For a team that is supposed to be so stellar on offense, the Huskies were woeful against the Bears, making just 5 of their 21 attempts from three-point range. Stanford has had its own problems on the road inside the conference. The Cardinal's lone win came at Oregon State in that four-overtime classic, and they shot 8-for-33 from three-point range in the loss at Washington State Thursday night.
Last Pickoff: 7-3 Overall: 50-20
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