College Basketball Expert Picks: Big 12/SEC Challenge Leads Key Weekend Clashes

Who will win Kentucky-Texas Tech, Baylor-Florida, Maryland-Indiana and more pivotal college hoops games this weekend?
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The Big 12 and SEC will hit pause on conference play for one day on Saturday for their annual challenge, while the rest of the country will keep chugging along with your regular-scheduled league action. No. 1 Baylor will hit the road for an intriguing matchup with Florida, while Kentucky will head to Lubbock for a rare meeting with Texas Tech. The Big Ten, Big East and Pac-12 all have multiple important games as well. Who will win 13 of the biggest games around the country through Sunday? Our writers' picks are in.

MORE: Power Rankings: Who's Emerging in Conference Play?

Season-Long Standings:

Max Meyer: 80-52
Molly Geary: 80-52
Pat Forde: 78-54
Michael Shapiro: 74-58
Jeremy Woo: 69-63

All times are Eastern.

Wisconsin at Purdue (Friday, 7 p.m., FS1)

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Pat Forde picks Purdue: In Big Ten play, the Boilermakers have been a wildly different team in Mackey Arena (3-1, including pummeling Michigan State) than on the road (0-4, including a 14-point loss at Nebraska and a 26-point blowout at Illinois). Wisconsin has been Team Friday Night in the league, playing two other Big Ten games on the road on Fridays—an upset win at Ohio State and a loss at Michigan State. At 10-9, Purdue needs to stack up some wins to solidify its NCAA tournament credentials.

Marquette at No. 13 Butler (Friday, 9 p.m., FS1)

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Molly Geary picks Butler: These two teams are trending in opposite directions right now, with the Golden Eagles having won three straight and the Bulldogs, who were previously 15-1, having lost three straight. This feels like the right situation for the tide to turn, however. Marquette swept the season series last year, but Butler's defense is vastly improved, and I think that will make the difference going up against an offense driven by star Markus Howard. Howard may get his, but I like the Bulldogs' chances of limiting enough of his supporting cast to get back on track at home.

No. 21 Illinois at Michigan (Sat., 12 p.m., FS1)

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Jeremy Woo picks Michigan: It feels like Illinois has been punching above its weight, and a trip to Ann Arbor against a Michigan team starting to get desperate could be a trap game.

No. 9 Villanova at Providence (Sat., 1 p.m., CBS)

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Jeremy Woo picks Villanova: ‘Nova is rolling. That makes this a relatively easy one.

LSU at Texas (Sat., 2 p.m., ESPN)

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Michael Shapiro picks LSU: These schools participated in a shootout on the gridiron in September, but we’ll see nothing of the sort in Austin on Saturday. The Longhorns rank 297th in the nation in points per game, and Shaka Smart’s defensive scheme should limit LSU in the SEC-Big 12 tilt. It will be a grind-it-out affair at the Frank Erwin Center, but one of the Tigers’ five double-digit scorers should produce enough to give LSU the victory. 

Tennessee at No. 3 Kansas (Sat., 4 p.m., ESPN)

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Michael Shapiro picks Kansas: Rick Barnes’ team should cobble together enough victories to reach the NCAA tournament, but the Volunteers won’t add a key résumé win on Saturday in Lawrence. Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield aren’t walking through that door. Udoka Azubuike and Kansas should bully the Volunteers’ front line, giving the Big 12 a win in its conference challenge against the SEC. 

USC at Oregon State (Sat., 5 p.m., Pac-12)

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Max Meyer picks Oregon State: Away from the confines of Corvallis has been a house of horrors thus far for Oregon State, but the Beavers are dangerous at home. The Oregon road trip is typically a pain for traveling Pac-12 teams, and I think a USC team that is not as good as its record is a prime candidate to falter here. USC has ridden the big man duo of Onyeka Okongwu and Nick Rakocevic to a 15-4 start, especially on defense where the Trojans rank 20th in two-point percentage allowed. But Oregon State’s Kylor Kelley is even better rim protector, and the Beavers have one of the best scorers in the Pac-12 in Tres Tinkle. In what should be a close game, Beavers also have a sizeable edge in free throw shooting (73.0% which is 91st in CBB to USC’s 66.4% which is 287th).

No. 15 Kentucky at No. 18 Texas Tech (Sat., 6 p.m., ESPN)

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Jeremy Woo picks Texas Tech: Kentucky has looked pretty well-adjusted in SEC play, but a January trip to Lubbock, where Texas Tech could strongly use another résumé win, smells like trouble.

No. 1 Baylor at Florida (Sat., 8 p.m., ESPN)

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Pat Forde picks Baylor: This feels like a game the Bears should lose, playing a quality opponent on the road out of conference while carrying the burden of the No. 1 ranking in a season where No. 1 doesn't last long. But they do have an extra day to prepare, while the Gators are coming off a game at LSU Tuesday. Baylor makes scoring inside difficult, and Florida hasn't been overly proficient (or accurate) from three-point range. So the pick is Baylor.

Washington at No. 23 Colorado (Sat., 9 p.m., FS1)

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Max Meyer picks Colorado: Washington has been among the most maddening teams all season long, and if you can somewhat contain Isaiah Stewart, the Huskies become very beatable. Headlined by Tyler Bey and Evan Battey, Colorado has a physical presence down low on both ends of the floor. Additionally, with Quade Green’s ineligibility, Washington has been trying to figure out its answer at point guard. While it appears Marcus Tsohonis, who the Huskies originally intended to redshirt, is the answer, he still faces a tough task going up against veteran floor general McKinley Wright.

No. 22 Arizona at Arizona State (Sat., 9:30 p.m., Pac-12)

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Max Meyer picks Arizona: It’s tough to back a road team in Pac-12 play, but I just think Arizona will be too much for its rival here. After missing the past couple games, Chase Jeter’s status is uncertain for Saturday. But the Wildcats have looked better on offense without him, as the spacing is much improved without Jeter and fellow big man Zeke Nnaji clogging up the paint. Additionally, whether it’s been Dylan Smith or Max Hazzard, Arizona has gotten more consistent perimeter help of late from players outside of Nico Mannion and Josh Green.

No. 17 Maryland at Indiana (Sun., 1 p.m., CBS)

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Molly Geary picks Indiana: The Terps finally got the road monkey off their back by beating Northwestern on Tuesday, but it took a furious second-half comeback after a listless first 20 minutes on offense. Indiana coming off an emotional win over Michigan State makes this a potential letdown spot, but the Assembly Hall crowd is going to be extra hyped up for a Sunday afternoon game on national television, and Bloomington is the one place Maryland hasn't won since joining the Big Ten. This is the kind of game both teams need if they're going to make a run at the conference title. The home/road splits for both point to this one going to the Hoosiers.

No. 11 Michigan State at Minnesota (Sun., 3 p.m., FOX)

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Molly Geary picks Minnesota: This is a tricky game to predict made trickier by the fact that the Spartans lost at Indiana on Thursday night. Minnesota is 9-1 at The Barn this season and has been much improved as the year has gone on, and Gophers' big man Daniel Oturu is a star and could offset the usual strong play of Xavier Tillman. When these teams met in East Lansing a few weeks ago MSU won by 16, but Minnesota starting guards Marcus Carr and Gabe Kalscheur combined for just 16 points. On their home floor, I don't think that happens again.