Weekend Picks: Duke-Louisville headlines slate of ranked matchups
NOTE: All games below are presented in chronological order.
No. 4 Duke at No. 6 Louisville
Saturday, Noon, ESPN
Montrezl Harrell has been kind of quiet the last three games, but you can be sure he’ll be primed to break out here. As hard as it is to imagine Duke dropping three games in a row, it’s even harder to believe the Blue Devils will have fixed the defensive issues that plagued them in losses at N.C. State (which shot 55.0 percent from the floor) on Sunday and at home against Miami (51.8 percent) on Tuesday in just a couple of days. If you have a hard time containing dribble penetration, then a backcourt featuring Chris Jones and Terry Rozier is about the last thing you want to see.
Louisville 74, Duke 67
Miami at No. 12 Notre Dame
Saturday, 2 p.m., ESPN2
The Hurricanes are in the midst of a four-out-of-six road swing, and they sure started it in style by routing Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Tuesday night. In Notre Dame’s last game, it beat Georgia Tech at home without 6-foot-10 junior forward Zach Auguste, who was sidelined for academic reasons. It is possible Auguste will be back for this game, so I’ll lean toward the Irish in this one. They are historically tough to beat at home, and Miami is due for a comedown.
Notre Dame 72, Miami 69
Saturday, 4 p.m., ESPN
Alabama is not very good at shooting three-pointers or rebounding the ball, but it’s good at everything in between. In this case, the Crimson Tide will need help from Kentucky, but I’m sensing the Wildcats, fresh off Tuesday's 49-point drubbing of Missouri, have fixed the mindset that allowed inferior teams like Ole Miss and Texas A&M to take them to overtime last week.
Kentucky 72, Alabama 60
Michigan State at No. 14 Maryland
Saturday, 4 p.m., CBS
When these teams played in East Lansing on Dec. 30, they produced one of the ugliest first halves of basketball you will ever see, with the Terrapins leading 17-14 at the break en route to a two-point win in double overtime. Maryland wasn’t much better on Wednesday night, trailing Rutgers at home by six points late in the second half before closing with a 22-8 run to win. I like that the Terps are developing their identity around their defense. That should serve them well against a Spartans squad that has won three in a row but needed overtime to beat Northwestern at home last Sunday.
Maryland 70, Michigan State 65
Butler at Georgetown
Saturday, 5 p.m., FS1
It is not easy to predict Big East games this season because the teams are so evenly matched. Butler just pulled off a huge win at Seton Hall on Tuesday thanks to 21 points from junior guard Kellen Dunham. When the Bulldogs beat the Hoyas in the Bahamas over Thanksgiving, Georgetown guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera shot just 4-for-11 from the floor and missed all four of his three-pointers while scoring only 12 points. You’ve got to believe he will shoot better at home.
Georgetown 68, Butler 64
Saturday, 6 p.m., CBS Sports Network
UNLV, the team that knocked off mighty Arizona just three weeks ago, has now lost four of its last five. Part of that is because of a tough schedule (three were on the road to Wyoming, Kansas and Boise State), but the Rebels also lost at home by two points to a really bad Nevada team. This is a young team that still has a lot of growing up to do, and the Viejas Center is not a good place to do it.
San Diego State 60, UNLV 54
No. 16 West Virginia at No. 20 Texas
Saturday, 6:15 p.m., ESPN
Over his last two games, Texas senior forward Jonathan Holmes has shot a combined 2-for-19 from the floor and 0-for-11 from three-point range. The Longhorns lost both games, which is not a coincidence. Holmes is too good a player to stay down for long, and Texas needs this win too badly to lose.
Texas 76, West Virginia 70
No. 8 Utah at No. 10 Arizona
Saturday, 7 p.m., Pac 12 Network
The best part about Arizona’s 14-point win against Colorado on Thursday night was that freshman forward Stanley Johnson, not senior point guard T.J. McConnell, took the most shots. The Wildcats will need to be at their best to beat a surging Utah squad that is benefiting from an All-America-level season from senior guard Delon Wright. Right now, Utah is probably the better team, but it’s just too hard to pick against the Cats in McKale. Should be a doozy.
Arizona 67, Utah 64
No. 9 Kansas at No. 11 Iowa State
Saturday, 8 p.m., ESPN
Freshman point guard Devonte Graham has given the Jayhawks a nice lift since returning from a month-long absence because of turf toe, but sophomore Frank Mason continues to do a stellar job leading the offense. I’ve said all along that Kansas would win the Big 12, but it’s not going to go through the league with a perfect record, and I try not to pick against Hilton Magic.
Iowa State 71, Kansas 67
UConn at Stanford
Saturday, 9 p.m., ESPN2
This is a terrific matchup between two of the nation’s top scoring point guards, Stanford’s Chasson Randle and UConn’s Ryan Boatright. Stanford has also been getting terrific production of late from 6-foot-6 senior swingman Anthony Brown, who has been a defensive specialist in the past.
Stanford 70, UConn 64