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UConn's out for revenge against Pitt; Duke-UNC Part II

The First Five
UConn Pittsburgh
Saturday, 12:00 p.m.
No. 1 UConn (27-2) at No. 3 Pittsburgh (27-3)
Pittsburgh picked up a solid win at home against Marquette on Wednesday night, but it came with a price when the Panthers' highly efficient senior point guard, Levance Fields, went down with a back injury late in the game. He is questionable for this game. Of course, UConn has dealt with its own injury setback after losing Jerome Dyson, but there are two differences. First, Fields is far, far more important to Pitt than Dyson was to UConn. And second, the Huskies have already played almost six games without Dyson, five of which they won. That lone loss came at home against Pitt, so the Huskies, who will have had a full week off since their last game, should come into the Pete with revenge on their minds.
UConn 72, Pittsburgh 69
Kentucky Florida
Saturday, 2 p.m.
Kentucky (19-11) at Florida (19-9)

Is it possible the SEC is only going to get two teams into the NCAA tournament? It might not be likely, but it is possible, thanks largely to the devastating losses these two once-proud programs suffered this week. Florida, which shot 7-for-25 from three-point range in losing its third-straight game Wednesday night at Mississippi State, is obviously struggling, but Kentucky is in an absolute freefall. The Wildcats have lost three of their last four, and may have bottomed out when they lost at home to Georgia. The Bulldogs came into the game with a 2-12 league record and ranked last in scoring (65.5 ppg), yet the Cats, who were fighting for their at-large lives, allowed them to score 90 points in Rupp. It's hard to imagine UK pulling off a road win against a team that is just as desperate as the Wildcats are to right the ship.

Florida 77, Kentucky 70
Texas Kansas
Saturday, 4:00 p.m.
Texas (20-9) at No. 9 Kansas (24-6)

Newsflash: Teams lose. Last I checked, these were people playing these games, not robots, so I'm ready to give the young Jayhawks a mulligan for their loss at Texas Tech on Wednesday. Sherron Collins shot an unsightly 3-for-19 from the field, while the Red Raiders drilled 15 of their 27 three-point attempts. Kansas wasn't ready to play -- end of story. But you can bet they'll be ready for the Longhorns. They're coming off an embarrassing loss, they're playing at home on Senior Day, and they have a chance to win an outright Big 12 regular-season championship. Plus, they're the better team.

Kansas 80, Texas 71
Purdue Michigan State
Sunday, 12:00 p.m.

This is not the way the Boilermakers wanted to go into the NCAA tournament. They have lost two of their last three games, including Wednesday's embarrassing defeat at home -- home! -- to Northwestern. I don't know how much of Robbie Hummel's eight-point performance can be attributed to his chronically bad back, but he did play 34 minutes. If Purdue is trying to coast into the postseason then they're going to be embarrassed again Sunday by a surging Michigan State team that is finally healthy. The Spartans were a little underwhelming while beating Indiana on Tuesday night, but in coming home after five days of rest and preparation, they should be sharp and ready to go. Priority No. 1, as usual, will be to take care of the ball. The Spartans coughed it up 22 times when they got blitzed by 18 in Mackey Arena on Feb. 17.

Michigan State 74, Purdue 67
Duke North Carolina
Sunday, 4:00 p.m.

Much has changed since these two last battled three weeks ago. The Tar Heels have "activated" freshman center Tyler Zeller, who broke his wrist in the season's second game and has played a total of 27 minutes in four games. Zeller may be able to contribute to UNC's stretch run, but it's doubtful he'll be able to show the physical or mental toughness required to have an impact in a rivalry game like this. Duke will also be playing a freshman who didn't take the court the last time these two teams met. Elliott Williams, a 6-4 combo guard from Memphis, didn't play a minute in either of Duke's losses to North Carolina and Boston College, but he has been a revelation while starting the last five games. (He has averaged 11.6 points and 3.8 assists in those games, all of which Duke won.) That means Duke is a better team now than they were on Feb. 11, but the Devils are still not as good as Carolina, especially since Duke sophomore guard Nolan Smith, who suffered a concussion in the win over Maryland, remains doubtful. The Heels stubbed their toe at Maryland, but that aside they have been sublime the last two months. Besides, can you envision this team losing in the last home game for Tyler Hansbrough, Bobby Frasor and Danny Green? Neither can I.

North Carolina 84, Duke 74
The Second Five
Michigan (18-12) at Minnesota (21-8)

Neither one of these teams can win on the road, so the Gophers are the natural pick. The Wolverines will have to make serious noise in the Big Ten tournament to get an at-large bid.

Minnesota 70, Michigan 65
Missouri (25-5) at Texas A&M (22-8)

Team A just scored its biggest win of the season at home, and now it has to hit the road. Team B is playing at home with a chance to punch its ticket to the NCAA tournament. This one's a no-brainer.

Texas A&M 71, Missouri 65

The Huskies shot 48.1 percent from the floor and out-rebounded the Cougars by 13 when they won by 20 points in Pullman on Jan. 3. It's hard to imagine they'll see a different result playing at home with a Pac-10 regular-season title at stake.

Washington 70, Washington State 56

The Golden Eagles have lost three straight to UConn, Louisville and Pitt since Dominic James got hurt, but they might have lost those games anyway. I think they'll have just enough to escape Syracuse at home on Senior Day.

Marquette 72, Syracuse 69
UNLV (21-8) at San Diego State (19-8)

These teams are evenly matched -- the Rebels lost at home in overtime in the first meeting -- and both need this game to bolster their at-large chances. When all else is equal, you go with the home team.

San Diego State 79, UNLV 76
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