Weekend picks: Expect Virginia to fall from the ranks of the unbeatens
Last weekend the number of unbeaten teams still remaining was cut in half, with Colorado State, TCU and Villanova each suffering their first loss. Only three teams have yet to lose this season -- Duke, Kentucky and Virginia -- and that number will drop by one before this weekend is over. Games below are presented in chronological order.
Cincinnati at Connecticut
Saturday, 11 a.m., ESPN2
Neither of these teams are ranked, but both are worthy of it, so this game will serve as a helpful differentiator. UConn has won four of its last five games, and in that overtime loss to Temple it played the second half and overtime without star guard Ryan Boatright. Cincinnati has won four straight, but I still think the Bearcats are too offensively challenged to pull off this road victory.
UConn 67, Cincinnati 61
No. 22 Ohio State at Indiana, Saturday
As I wrote in my mailbag column this week, my concern with Indiana is not talent, it’s confidence. The Hoosiers were embarrassed at Michigan State on Monday, losing by 20, but I think they will benefit from coming back home. It will be interesting to see how much zone Ohio State plays. Thad Matta has been moving away from it of late, and Indiana has a lot of jump shooters who could exploit it.
Indiana 75, Ohio State 70
No. 1 Kentucky at Texas A&M
Saturday, 1 p.m., CBS
Normally, I wouldn’t bother picking this game, given that the Aggies have lost the only four tough games they played -- including a 21-point drubbing at Alabama on Tuesday. But the Wildcats have shown a maddening tendency to play to the level of their competition, up or down. Having survived a scare at home against Ole Miss on Tuesday, I’m guessing Kentucky better understands the peril of the light switch.
Kentucky 75, Texas A&M 55
No. 5 Louisville at No. 18 North Carolina
Saturday, 2 p.m., ESPN
North Carolina has been beatable at home this season (Iowa and Notre Dame both clipped the Heels in the Dean Dome), but Louisville has not looked invincible lately, either. The Cardinals nearly lost at Wake Forest on Sunday and then only beat Clemson at home by six on Wednesday. I spy a team ready to be plucked.
North Carolina 74, Louisville 70
No. 19 Seton Hall at Creighton
Saturday, 2 p.m., FS1
The Bluejays had a nice win over Oklahoma back on Nov. 19, but that turned out to be a false positive. They have lost four in a row, including a road game at North Texas and a home game against DePaul, largely because their defense is soft. That’s not a good problem to have against a Seton Hall squad that will be itching to bounce back from Wednesday’s 11-point loss at Xavier.
Seton Hall 74, Creighton 63
No. 11 Maryland at Purdue
Saturday, 2:30 p.m., BTN
Maryland's seven-game winning streak figured to continue on Tuesday night against an Illinois squad that had just lost its leading scorer. So naturally the Terrapins lost, 64-57. Purdue, meanwhile, opened Big Ten play by winning home games over Minnesota and Michigan and then gave Wisconsin all it wanted in Madison on Wednesday before falling by seven. The Boilermakers are comfortable playing at a slow pace and using their two-headed big man, freshman Isaac Haas and junior A.J. Hammons, to maximum effect. That should be just enough.
Purdue 64, Maryland 63
DePaul at No. 8 Villanova
Saturday, 4 p.m., CBS Sports Network
DePaul has been a surprise, starting 3-0 in the Big East (after losing six in a row), but it is still ranked last in the Big East in turnovers (14.4), rebound margin (-4.1) and field goal defense (45.5). That’s bad news against a Villanova team whose identity is built around defensive pressure, speed and toughness.
Villanova 80, DePaul 60
No. 10 Texas at Oklahoma State
Saturday, 5 p.m., ESPNU
By the time this tips off, the Longhorns will have had six days to contemplate their pratfall against Oklahoma. The Cowboys, meanwhile, darn near knocked off Iowa State in Hilton Coliseum on Monday night. The Pokes have the top two scorers in the Big 12 in Phil Forte and Le’Bryan Nash, but Texas is the better team, and it’s coming in angry.
Texas 75, Oklahoma State 70
No. 3 Virginia at No. 13 Notre Dame
Saturday, 6 p.m., ESPN2
Virginia’s Pack Line defense is efficient, but it is not disruptive. The Cavaliers are 204th in the country in steals percentage and 318th in defensive turnover percentage. They haven't lost yet this season, but if a team can care of the ball and make jump shots, it can beat them. Notre Dame does both, plus it’s playing at home.
Notre Dame 70, Virginia 67
No. 17 Iowa State at No. 14 West Virginia
Saturday, 8 p.m., ESPN2
This is the best team Bob Huggins has had in Morgantown since the 2010 squad that reached the Final Four. The Mountaineers are tough: They lead the nation in defensive steals percentage and rank fifth in offensive rebound percentage. The Cyclones, on the other hand, are a highly-skilled group that has nowhere to go if they’re not making threes. That’s not a good formula for this road game.
West Virginia 71, Iowa State 64