Picks: UCLA-Arizona, Florida-Kentucky headline a loaded weekend
No. 17 SMU (24–4) at UConn (14–13)
Saturday, Noon, CBS
The Huskies appeared to be surging while winning seven out of eight games, but those wins came against the bottom of the conference. They built a 10-point lead at SMU on the road Wednesday night but collapsed in the second half to lose by five. I don’t think UConn is a tournament team, but I do believe they have one marquee win in them, and this is the one.
UConn 76, SMU 73
No. 13 Florida (23–5) at No. 11 Kentucky (23–5)
Saturday, 2 p.m., CBS
The Gators walloped Kentucky in Gainesville by 22 points back on Feb. 4. Now it’s time for payback. I like the way the Cats have been force feeding Bam Adebayo in the post. He had 22 points and 15 rebounds to help UK ward off Missouri on Tuesday night. The Gators are not well-equipped to deal with Adebayo now that they are without their best rebounder and post defender, John Egbunu, who is lost for the season with a torn ACL.
Kentucky 74, Florida 68
No. 23 Creighton (22–6) at No. 2 Villanova (26–3)
Saturday, 3 p.m., Fox
To state the obvious, Creighton is just not the same team without Maurice Watson running the point. And they are coming in to face a Wildcats team that will be in a very unhappy mood following Wednesday’s home loss to Butler.
Villanova 79, Creighton 67
No. 10 Duke (22–6) at Miami (19–8)
Saturday, 4 p.m., CBS
The Hurricanes gave Duke all it wanted back on Jan. 21. They led by 11 at halftime, but Duke turned up the defensive intensity in the second half, forced Miami to commit 18 turnovers, and won by 12. You might think the change to Coral Gables would flip the result, especially with junior point guard Ja'Quan Newton returning from a three-game suspension. But that is not typically as big a homecourt advantage as many other places. Plus, Duke is coming off a disappointing loss at Syracuse, and Coach K’s teams usually don’t lose two in a row in late February.
Duke 75, Miami 70
Marquette (17–10) at Providence (17–11)
Saturday, 4 p.m., CBS Sports Network
Ed Cooley has decided to go old-school Big East with his team, coaching his Friars to be more physical on defense and put pressure on the officials. That has put them on a three-game win streak against the top teams in the conference, and it should allow them to win at the Dunk over a Marquette squad that makes a lot of threes but has been soft on defense all season.
Providence 69, Marquette 63
Northwestern (20–8) at Indiana (15–13)
Saturday, 8 p.m., BTN
This is quite the desperation game for both teams. After notching a huge win at Wisconsin two weeks ago, Northwestern has since lost two out of three, and darn near lost at home to Rutgers. Overall, the Wildcats have lost four of six. The Hoosiers have been reeling themselves and they might be playing for Tom Crean’s job the next few weeks. I’ll go with Northwestern because I think it’s the better team, and because its leading scorer, Scottie Lindsay, should be improving after two awful games following this four-game absence with mono. Buckle your seatbelts, kids, it’s gonna be a rough landing.
Northwestern 70, Indiana 68
No. 5 UCLA (25–3) at No. 4 Arizona (26–3)
Saturday, 8:15 p.m., ESPN
The last time these two titans clashed in Westwood on January 21 was the first game Wildcats sophomore guard Allonzo Trier had played all season. Coming off his lengthy suspension for testing positive for a PED, Trier had 12 points off the bench as Arizona won, 96–85. UCLA lost its next game as well at USC, but the Bruins haven’t lost since, thanks to a resurgent defense. It’s hard to go against Arizona at home, where they almost never lose, but something tells me Lonzo Ball and company are ready to bring their A game and make a statement.
UCLA 90, Arizona 88
Syracuse (17–12) at No. 7 Louisville (22–6)
Sunday, 2 p.m., CBS
Hopefully this game will be as wild as the first meeting two weeks ago in the Carrier Dome, which Louisville won, 76–72, in overtime. The Cardinals should have an easier time at home, although they need to shoot better than they did in a loss at North Carolina Wednesday, when they were lousy from three-point range (5-for-20) and atrocious from the foul line (4-for-13).
Louisville 77, Syracuse 66
No. 22 Butler (22–6) at Xavier (18–10)
Sunday, 3:30 p.m., FS1
Xavier has now played five games without injured point guard Edmond Sumner, and after beating DePaul at home they have lost the last four. Those last three losses came on the road, and two of them were without leading scorer Trevon Blueitt. Blueitt did return for their most recent game, a loss at Seton Hall. This is one battered and bruised team, but I like the Musketeers’ chances to summon their Cincinnati pride to grind it out with Butler and make a stand at home.
Xavier 68, Butler 65
No. 16 Wisconsin (22–6) at Michigan State (17–11)
Sunday, 4 p.m., CBS
Man, the bottom has fallen out quickly for Wisconsin. The Badgers were cruising along in the Big Ten, but they have now lost three of their last four, including Thursday night on the road against an Ohio State team that hasn’t done much of anything this season. Wisconsin has been the victim of lousy defense and not enough outside shooting to keep opponents from double teaming Ethan Happ. Meanwhile, Tom Izzo, robbed of his third-leading scorer, senior guard Eron Harris, really unleashed his four freshmen during Thursday night’s home win over Nebraska. I sense the Spartans are gathering their usual late-February mojo, and I don’t usually like to pick against them at the Breslin Center.
Michigan State 71, Wisconsin 67