Picks: In a crowded slate games, four top-25 matchups take center stage
(Editor's Note: Due to the snowstorm in the Northeast, dates, times and locations are subject to change.)
Georgetown (12–7) at Connecticut(13–5)
Saturday, noon, CBS
I love these reprised Big East matchups. Georgetown earned its biggest win of the season Tuesday night at Xavier, thanks to Tre Campbell’s career-high 21 points. That should lead me to conclude that the Hoyas will get doinked by a swinging pendulum, but they know they're not operating on much room for error. Plus, with UConn center Amida Brimah still sidelined by a broken finger, the Huskies will have a hard time dealing with Georgetown's two huge post scorers, 6'10" freshman Jessie Govan and 7-foot senior Bradley Hayes.
Georgetown 72, UConn 67
Saturday, noon, ESPN
The Sooners will have had six long days to marinate on their loss at Iowa State on Monday night, which likely will cost them the No. 1 ranking. They lost that game despite a career-high 26 points from Isaiah Cousins. Perhaps I should assume that they will bounce back with a win, but the Bears are riding a five-game win streak of their own (and have won seven of their last eight). I don’t trust Baylor’s defense on the road, but at home I will go with their offensive efficiency as well as their Rico Gathers-led ability to pound the offensive glass.
Baylor 80, Oklahoma 76
Saturday, 2 p.m., ESPN
There’s nothing wrong with Kansas that a little home cookin’ can’t fix. The Jayhawks have lost two of three, including a 19-point loss at Oklahoma State on Tuesday. They are still a good offensive team, not a great one, and junior guard Wayne Selden has been particularly pedestrian since the triple overtime win against Oklahoma on Jan. 4. In his past four games, Selden is averaging just 9.5 points, compared to 15.9 before that, so he's due for a big one. Also, Texas is coming off a surprising road win at West Virginia, so it has some freshly banked house money. Sure, the Longhorns would like to win this game, but Kansas needs to win. That’s enough for me.
Kansas 89, Texas 73
Saturday, 2 p.m., CBS
The Blue Devils aren’t hard to figure out, which is part of their problem. Their strength is derived through dribble penetration, and when those drivers were cut off by Syracuse’s zone defense on Monday, Duke had nowhere to turn. The Blue Devils have been pretty mediocre on defense all season, but that won’t be too much of a problem against a Wolfpack squad that ranks last in the ACC in field goal percentage and 13th in three-point percentage.
Duke 75, NC State 65
Seton Hall (13–5) at No. 5 Xavier (16–2)
Saturday, 2 p.m., FS1
I gotta tell you, I really like this Seton Hall team. The Pirates have lots of speedy athletes who really get after opponents defensively. They have a high-scoring guard tandem in Isaiah Whitehead and Khadeen Carrington (both are ranked in the top 10 in the Big East in scoring), and they also have the league’s leading rebounder in Angel Delgado (9.5 rpg). Still, Seton Hall has two problems in this one. It is a little sloppy with the ball, which will feed Xavier’s running game. And the Musketeers are coming off a disappointing loss at home to Georgetown. They will not be in a pleasant mood.
Xavier 76, Seton Hall 64
No. 17 Louisville (15–3) at Georgia Tech (11–7)
Saturday, 4 p.m., ESPN2
The Cardinals are very quietly putting together a solid record and are coming off perhaps their best game of the season, an 84–65-and-it-wasn’t-even-that-close win over Florida State. Louisville has a swarming defense (second in the ACC in steals) and it leads the nation in field goal percentage defense (36.1%). Georgia Tech has one of the nation’s best rebounders in Charles Mitchell (11.0 average) but I don’t think their guards can withstand that kind of pressure for 40 minutes.
Louisville 72, Georgia Tech 66
Saturday, 4 p .m., CBS
Junior guard Isaac Hamilton has been on an absolute tear of late for UCLA, scoring 25 or more points in three of his last five games. UCLA’s defense was also better in Thursday night’s win at Oregon State, but beating the Ducks on the road is a taller order. Oregon is playing well on both ends of the floor. The Ducks are ranked 18th in the country in offensive efficiency, and they are third in block percentage.
Oregon 83, UCLA 75
No. 7 Maryland (17–2) at No. 11 Michigan State (16–4)
Saturday, 6:30 p.m., ESPN
Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn is very limited offensively, but the Spartans are sorely missing his ability to push the ball and run the offense. He is still out with plantar fasciitis, which means Denzel Valentine has even more responsibility as he tries to adjust to playing after undergoing knee surgery a month ago. Maryland, meanwhile, is maddeningly inconsistent, and unlike Michigan State, the Terrapins don’t have any injury excuses. Their big issues are a lack of perimeter depth and a lack of consistent commitment on the defensive end. I’ll go with the Terps because they tend to rise to the occasion when they need to, and because they have Melo Trimble, who is a big-time winner. But I can't say I'm real confident about it.
Maryland 79, Michigan State 75
Sunday, 1 p.m., BTN
The Hawkeyes are one of the most remarkable stories in a remarkable college basketball season, and they are winning these games by substantial margins. The only single-digit victory came at Purdue on Jan. 2, when they trailed by 19 points in the first half but stormed back to win by seven. Iowa continues to get help from all corners as Peter Jok scored a career-high 29 points at Rutgers Thursday night, and Anthony Clemmons scored 20. I’m sure the Hawkeyes are going to lose a conference game this season, but I’m not going to pick against them.
Iowa 77, Purdue 66
No. 16 Providence (16–3) at No. 4 Villanova (17–2)
Sunday, 1 p.m.
Friars star Kris Dunn is arguably the best perimeter defender in the country, but he can only guard one person. The Wildcats have four guards who can set up their teammates or get their own buckets, including 6'5" junior guard Josh Hart, who leads Villanova in scoring (15.5 ppg) and is second in rebounding (7.3). Hart is launching a formidable challenge to Dunn for Big East player of the year.
Villanova 76, Providence 70