Weekend Picks: Regular season wraps up with strong slate of games
Friday, 8 p.m.
The Ivy is the only Division I conference that does not have a postseason tournament, so this game will probably determine who represents the league in the NCAA tournament. When Harvard coughed up its one-game advantage last Friday’s loss at Cornell, its backcourt tandem of Siyani Chambers and Wesley Saunders shot a combined 9-for-31. The Crimson did, however, knock off Yale in New Haven by a bucket back on Feb. 7. Returning home with the stakes this high, I like Harvard to make it a clean sweep.
Harvard 62, Yale 58
No. 3 Duke (27-3) at No. 19 North Carolina (21-9)
Saturday, 9 p.m., ESPN
It’s not just a rival’s intensity that enables North Carolina to play so well against Duke. It’s also style. The Blue Devils are one of the few teams that are happy to run with North Carolina, and the Heels are one of the few teams who are even better at the running game than Duke. And the faster the game, the less of a factor Jahlil Okafor becomes. Throw in the setting in Chapel Hill, and I’ll take the Heels in a mild upset.
North Carolina 80, Duke 76
No. 2 Virginia (28-1) at No. 16 Louisville (23-7)Saturday, 6:30 p.m., ESPN
It’s unfortunate that Virginia’s best three-point shooter, Justin Anderson, will not make his return as expected because of an appendectomy, but don’t expect Louisville to offer much sympathy. The Cardinals will have to play the rest of the season without their dismissed point guard, Chris Jones, and they looked pretty bad while losing at home to Notre Dame by 12 points on Wednesday night. A date with Tony Bennett’s dentist drill won't help.
Virginia 64, Louisville 52
St. John’s (21-9) at No. 4 Villanova (28-2)
Saturday, 2 p.m., Fox
St. John’s may be the nation’s hottest team right now, thanks to the emergence of Sir’Dominic Pointer. But do the Red Storm have enough firepower to knock off the Wildcats on the road on Senior Day for Darrun Hilliard and JayVaughn Pinkston? The Wildcats were fortunate to win at Creighton on Tuesday, which just tells me they will be ready to come out and play their best.
Villanova 75, St. John’s 70
For a team that just won its 11th straight conference title, the Jayhawks seem to be limping to the finish line. With nothing to play for, against a good team on the road, with Perry Ellis sidelined by a sprained knee and Cliff Alexander still out because of an NCAA issue, Kansas could be walking into a buzzsaw.
Oklahoma 78, Kansas 63
Saturday, 2 p.m., ESPN
LSU looked for a while as a safe bet to make the NCAA tournament, but a home loss to Tennessee on Tuesday called that into question. Now the Tigers have to make their closing argument on one of the toughest homecourts in college basketball. Sounds like they will head into the SEC tournament on a two-game losing streak with some more work to do.
Arkansas 78, LSU 71
No. 21 Butler (21-9) at No. 24 Providence (21-9)
Saturday, Noon, Fox Sports Network
Providence is the worst three-point shooting team in the Big East, but when the Friars need to score, they usually find a way. That was the case in Hinkle Fieldhouse on Jan. 6, when Providence outscored Butler from the foul line in a 66-62 win. I like them to complete the season sweep in the Dunk and become a dangerous team in the NCAA tournament.
Providence 71, Butler 67
Michigan State (20-10) at Indiana (19-11)Saturday, Noon, ESPN
Who would have guessed when the Hoosiers blitzed Maryland by 19 points in late January that they would be holding on for dear life in early March? That is the case after they have lost seven of their last 11 games. Michigan State did well to take care of business at home against Purdue on Wednesday night, so the Spartans won’t take the floor with the same desperation the Hoosiers will.
Indiana 69, Michigan State 64
Kansas State (15-15) at Texas (18-12)
Saturday, 4 p.m., ESPN2
This game is truly bubblicious. I don’t know that I’ve seen a team have better frontcourt players and utilize it less than the Longhorns, but they did pull off a comeback win over Baylor on Monday night to keep their NCAA hopes alive. Kansas State beat Kansas and Iowa State at home, but given the way the Wildcats have played on the road, it’s a stretch to think they can pull this one off.
Texas 65, Kansas State 60
No. 6 Wisconsin (27-3) at No. 23 Ohio State (22-8)Sunday, 4:30 p.m., CBS
The Badgers have already clinched the Big Ten regular season crown, but they are still in position for a No. 1 seed, so that’s plenty of incentive to carry into Columbus. Meanwhile, Buckeyes forward Marc Loving hasn’t been the same player since he returned from a three-game suspension. When he went out, Loving was the Big Ten’s leading three-point shooter, but he has made just 2-for-13 from behind the arc in the last five games.
Wisconsin 70, Ohio State 63