Syracuse, Duke battle to bounce back from bad losses, more action

Friday February 21st, 2014

College Basketball
Seth Davis' Fresh Takes

No. 1 Syracuse (25-1) at No. 5 Duke (21-6)

Saturday, 7 p.m., ESPN

Who would have guessed that both teams would come into their second meeting off a loss? Duke's game at North Carolina wasn't even scheduled to precede this one when the Blue Devils lost at Syracuse in overtime on Feb. 1. As in the loss at Syracuse, Duke's strategy of shooting three-pointers against the Tar Heels cost it the ability to get to the foul line. Syracuse, meanwhile, has not played well offensively since it beat Duke, and that finally caught up with the Orange against Boston College. Duke badly needs to bounce back, and since the Blue Devils are playing at home, you've gotta believe they're going to do just that.

Duke 71, Syracuse 68

No. 4 Arizona (24-2) at Colorado (20-7)

Saturday, 9 p.m., ESPN

Give Colorado coach Tad Boyle credit for keeping the Buffaloes in the hunt despite the loss of point guard Spencer Dinwiddie to an ACL injury. Colorado has now won five of its last six games, including on Wednesday against Arizona State -- the team that upset Arizona last weekend. The Wildcats, of course, are trying to recover from their own season-ending injury to sophomore forward Brandon Ashley, which has diminished their effectiveness at the defensive end. The Buffs need this win to buffer their NCAA tournament resume -- and they know it.

Colorado 77, Arizona 72

No. 6 San Diego State (23-2) at New Mexico (20-5)

Saturday, 10 p.m., ESPN2

The Lobos aren't going to scare anyone defensively (they're ranked 88th nationally in defensive efficiency according to, but they can score. They have one of the best frontcourt tandems in the country in Alex Kirk and Cameron Bairstow, and on Wednesday senior guard Kendall Williams scored 29 points in a win at UNLV. The Aztecs, meanwhile, have the opposite problem, shutting down opposing offenses while struggling at times to muster points of their own.

New Mexico 68, San Diego State 64

No. 11 Louisville (22-4) at No. 7 Cincinnati (24-3)

Saturday, Noon, CBS

You'd think a reigning NCAA champion that has won nine out of its last 10 would generate buzz, but the only chatter about Louisville these days stems from the vow of Rick Pitino and the players not to shave until their next loss. Considering that the Cards already lost at home to Cincinnati on Jan. 30, I'll go with the Bearcats and their suffocating D.

Cincinnati 64, Louisville 60

No. 19 Texas (20-6) at No. 8 Kansas (20-6)

Saturday, 7:30 p.m., ESPNU

Even though the Jayhawks are on their way to winning their 10th consecutive Big 12 title, the play of point guard Naadir Tharpe has been concerning. The 5-11 junior has shot 9-for-30 from the floor (3-for-17 from three) in his last four games. On the flip side, 7-1 center Joel Embiid returned after a one-game injury hiatus to contribute 18 points and eight rebounds in a one-point win at Texas Tech. Texas is used to having a size advantage up front, but that won't be the case in this one.

Kansas 80, Texas 71

St. John's (18-9) at No. 9 Villanova (23-3)

Saturday, 1:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1

St. John's' resurgence from an 0-5 start in the conference is one of the more remarkable stories in college basketball. Beating Villanova on the road would be hard enough, except now the Red Storm have to do it without their shot-blocking center Chris Obekpa, who is out another week-and-a-half with a sprained ankle. As for the Wildcats, they played their last three games on the road, one of which a blowout loss at Creighton. They're ready for some home cooking.

Villanova 76, St. John's 66

No. 16 Wisconsin (21-5) at No. 15 Iowa (19-6)

Saturday, Noon, ESPN2

You remember the last time these teams played, right? Iowa built up a second-half lead in Madison, but Fran McCaffrey got tossed and the Badgers came back to win. A week later, Wisconsin went into its five-out-of-six nosedive, but has since recovered by winning four straight. The Hawkeyes need to do a better job defending Wisconsin's perimeter shooting than Michigan did last weekend, but unlike a lot of teams, they have the ability to match Wisconsin shot for shot.

Iowa 74, Wisconsin 70

No. 23 UCLA (21-5) at Stanford (17-8)

Saturday, 6 p.m., ESPN2

The Bruins are hitting the stride at just the right time. Their 20-point thumping at Cal was their fourth win in a row and seventh in their last eight games, and it put them within reach of the Pac-12 regular season championship. UCLA has quietly played terrific defense this season, and thanks to the dynamic presence of do-everything point guard Kyle Anderson, the Bruins are ranked 26th nationally in tempo. Stanford needs this win to bolster its NCAA tournament resume, but even though I usually go with desperate home teams, I think UCLA is maturing in all the right ways and is prepared to prove it by notching another road win.

UCLA 84, Stanford 74

No. 13 Michigan State (22-5) at No. 20 Michigan (18-7)

Sunday, Noon, CBS

Who were those strangers donning the green and white Thursday night? With Keith Appling in the lineup despite a bum wrist, Michigan State drained a school-record 17 three-pointers in a win at Purdue. That's bad news for a Michigan team that has lost three of its last five games and gave the Spartans some extra motivation by beating them in East Lansing back on Jan. 25.

Michigan State 79, Michigan 73

SMU (21-6) at No. 21 UConn (21-5)

Sunday, 2 p.m., CBS Sports Network

SMU has done a good job building an NCAA tournament-worthy resume, but the one gaping hole is a signature road win. That is unlikely to happen here: The Huskies will be itching to avenge their Jan. 4 loss to SMU in Dallas. Shabazz Napier has played as well as any guard in America, but lately the Huskies have gotten a nice lift from 6-foot junior Ryan Boatright, who over his last two games has averaged 17.5 points while converting a combined 14-for-16 from the foul line.

UConn 79, SMU 72

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