College Basketball Expert Picks: Conference Races Up for Grabs on Final Weekend

The stakes are high for the final games of the regular season, from top-25 clashes to conference crowns on the line.
Publish date:

The final weekend of the college basketball regular season is here, and it's a doozy. It's headlined by five top-25 clashes, and that doesn't even include the Duke-UNC rivalry rematch, Kentucky traveling to Florida or No. 1 Kansas meeting Texas Tech in Lubbock. Several conference titles, whether outright or shared, are still up for grabs–including in the Big Ten, ACC, Big East, Big 12 and Pac-12. What more could you ask for in early March? Our writers' picks are in for 15 exciting matchups on Saturday or Sunday. 

Season-Long Standings:

Jason Jordan: 28-17 (62.2%)
Molly Geary: 134-86 (60.9%)
Pat Forde: 132-88 (60.0%)
Michael Shapiro: 131-89 (59.5%)
Jeremy Woo: 127-93 (57.7%)

All Times Are Eastern.


No. 17 Auburn at Tennessee (Sat., 12 p.m., ESPN2)


Michael Shapiro picks Auburn: Auburn has lost its last three road contests, but the Tigers should be able to close the regular season with a win in Knoxville on Saturday. Bruce Pearl’s squad defeated Tennessee by seven on Feb. 22, and dynamic forward Isaac Okoro didn’t even play in Auburn’s victory. The Tigers don’t have the same scoring punch as last season after the departures of guards Bryce Brown and Jared Harper, though their added interior prowess leaves the door open for a run to the tournament’s second weekend. Tennessee will have trouble keeping up with the Tigers, even on its home floor. 

No. 24 Wisconsin at Indiana (Sat., 12 p.m., ESPN)


Pat Forde picks Wisconsin: The Badgers have rounded into form while the Hoosiers are struggling down the stretch—to the point of playing themselves into the NCAA bubble. Homecourt rules in the Big Ten, but I don’t trust Indiana.

No. 4 Baylor at West Virginia (Sat., 1 p.m., ESPN+)


Michael Shapiro picks Baylor: Baylor should be able to cruise past a scuffling West Virginia team, one that has lost six of its last seven games as the end of the regular season approaches. But how should we assess the Bears’ national title chances? A No. 1 seed is certainly in play, and Scott Drew remains one of college basketball’s more underappreciated coaches. Still, question marks remain regarding Baylor’s Final Four viability. Drew’s crew ranks No. 171 in the nation in points per game, and 135 teams have made more threes. Perhaps Baylor will scrap and claw its way into April, but the lack of a true third scorer could derail the Bears in March.

No. 6 Kentucky at Florida (Sat., 1 p.m., CBS)


Pat Forde picks Florida: The Wildcats had been on a roll, then completely collapsed and blew a 17-point lead at home against Tennessee. Some fissures showed in that game, with point guard Ashton Hagans at odds with John Calipari. Florida is almost certainly in the tourney, but if they want to remove the “almost” from the equation, this win would do it.

No. 1 Kansas at Texas Tech (Sat., 2 p.m., ESPN)


Jeremy Woo picks Kansas: I have started to believe in Kansas, and meanwhile, Texas Tech has lost three straight. The Red Raiders need this one for the résumé, but it may be tough sailing, even at home.

No. 8 Seton Hall at No. 11 Creighton (Sat., 2:30 p.m., FOX)


Pat Forde picks Creighton: The Pirates’ quest for the Big East title runs into another tough opponent. The Bluejays have the firepower to match Myles Powell if this turns into a shootout.

UCLA at USC (Sat., 3:15 p.m., CBS)


Michael Shapiro picks USC: Can the Trojans return to the NCAA tournament after a two-year drought? A win over their crosstown rivals would certainly help. Both bubble teams are in the midst of an impressive stretch–including an eight-game winning streak for UCLA–though USC’s dynamic frontcourt should sway Saturday’s matchup. Freshman Onyeka Okongwu is hurtling toward a top-10 selection in June’s NBA draft. Senior Nick Rakocevic has five double-digit rebound performances in his last seven games. The Trojans remain an intriguing tournament team as they continue to pound the offensive glass. 

No. 10 Louisville at No. 22 Virginia (Sat., 4 p.m., ESPN)


Jason Jordan picks Louisville: The Cardinals sit atop the ACC after their win over Virginia Tech earlier this week. Yes, the Cavs are the ACC’s best defensive team, but in Louisville’s win over Virginia Tech, the Cards held the Hokies to their second-lowest offensive output of the year with 52 points. Also, the Cards hung 80 on the Cavs in a win last month and there was just no answer for Jordan Nwora (22 points and seven rebounds) in that game. That hasn’t changed. 

North Carolina at No. 12 Duke (Sat., 6 p.m., ESPN)


Jason Jordan picks North Carolina: Two weeks ago this would’ve been a less arduous pick. The Tar Heels have been historically bad this season but have managed to piece together an impressive three-game winning streak. During that run, the Cole Anthony-Garrison Brooks duo has combined to average 51 points a game. On the flipside, the Blue Devils have lost three in the last three weeks but pieced together a strong second half earlier this week to rout NC State. Round one was an instant classic to Duke, but the surge seems to be favoring the Tar Heels.

Yale at Harvard (Sat., 7 p.m., ESPN+)


Molly Geary picks Harvard: How about a little Ivy League action? The conference's top two teams will end the regular season in style with this clash in Boston. Yale has been one of the top mid-majors in the country this year and boasts the Ivy's most efficient offense and defense, but the Crimson haven't lost at home all season and enter the weekend (they host Brown first on Friday night) on a six-game win streak. 

Butler at Xavier (Sat., 8:30 p.m., FS1)


Jeremy Woo picks Xavier: Butler is in midst of a backslide, and I think Xavier has started to figure things out at the right time—the Musketeers have been staunch defensively, and Naji Marshall and Tyrique Jones have stepped up. I like them at home.

Stanford at No. 13 Oregon (Sat., 11 p.m., FS1)


Jeremy Woo picks Oregon: Between Oregon’s high-end offense and Stanford’s solid defense, I think this should be fairly close. But I trust Payton Pritchard in those situations, and think he’s positioned for a big month. 

No. 25 Michigan at No. 9 Maryland (Sun., 12 p.m., FOX)


Jason Jordan picks Maryland: The Terps have dropped their last two and given up 78 points in both losses, while shooting just 24 percent from the 3-point line. Anthony Cowan and Jalen Smith have taken on the brunt of the offensive load, but no one has stepped up when their shots aren’t falling. The Wolverines have been similarly bad in recent weeks, but the Terps are in the friendly confines of the Xfinity Center where they’ve lost just one game all season. With first place in the Big Ten on the line don’t expect them to earn their second.

No. 19 Ohio State at No. 16 Michigan State (Sun., 4:30 p.m., CBS)


Molly Geary picks Michigan State: Both of these teams have gotten their act together coming into this one. I think the Buckeyes—who had an unusually poor shooting night in a comeback win over Illinois—have a great chance at keeping this close, but this is Cassius Winston's farewell to the Breslin Center after an unforgettable four-year career. The Spartans will do everything they can to send him out with a win.

No. 18 Iowa at No. 23 Illinois (Sun., 7 p.m., BTN)


Molly Geary picks Illinois: This is a rematch of a high-level early February game in Iowa City, which saw the Hawkeyes pull away at the end for a seven-point win, and it's for the final double bye in the Big Ten tournament. Iowa has lost four of its last five road games, and Champaign is yet another tough Big Ten environment. Look for the Illini to avenge their earlier loss and head into the postseason on a high note.