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College Basketball Weekend Preview: Top 10 Games and Predictions

Justin Anderson

Justin Anderson

One perk of the Super Bowl taking over the airwaves all day Sunday is a mega-Saturday of college basketball.

Nearly every key game of the weekend — with the exception of Michigan-Michigan State — will be crammed into one day Saturday.

No conference will be more in the spotlight than the ACC as four of the top five teams face each other, starting with North Carolina-Louisville in the afternoon followed by the game of the week when Duke visits Virginia.

Jan. 31-Feb. 1 College Basketball Weekend Preview

All times Eastern

Providence at St. John’s

Saturday, noon, FOX

St. John’s looked to be trending upward at the end of December with an 11-1 start that included wins over Minnesota and at Syracuse. Since then, St. John’s is 2-5 in the Big East, the latest loss a 77-74 loss to a Creighton team that had started 0-8 in the league play. St. John’s needs to get its act together and fast, particularly on the defensive end. That’s going to be tough against a hot Providence team that features guard Kris Dunn, who recorded a triple double (27 points, 13 rebounds, 11 assists) on Thursday against DePaul.

Pick: Providence 77-68

Wisconsin at Iowa

Saturday, noon, ESPN

Iowa has lost two in a row and three of five in Big Ten play. To turn their fortunes, the Hawkeyes must beat a team that defeated them 82-50 on Jan. 20. And they might have to do it without big man Aaron White, who is questionable with a stinger in his shoulder and neck. Wisconsin, since a loss to Rutgers with a depleted roster, has regrouped with Bronson Koenig filling in at point guard for Traevon Jackson. Koenig has averaged 12.3 points with seven assists and two turnovers in his last three games as the starter.

Pick: Wisconsin 72-51

Arkansas at Florida 

Saturday, 1 p.m., CBS

Arkansas continues to be an inconsistent team on the road. The Razorbacks engineered a comeback against Georgia in Athens earlier this season, but the Hogs have also lost to Tennessee and Clemson on the road and needed free throws to escape Missouri. Florida is an 11-9 team and even has Billy Donovan doubting if the Gators are NCAA Tournament material. Still, the Gators ended a three-game losing streak by beating Alabama and former Florida assistant Anthony Grant 52-50 on the road on Tuesday. If things are turning around for Florida, a good showing against Arkansas would be a good place to start. The last time the Gators played in Gainesville, they lost by 18 to LSU.

Pick: Florida 63-58

North Carolina at Louisville

Saturday, 4 p.m., ESPN

The last time these two teams faced each other Jan. 10, North Carolina engineered a comeback from down 13 in the second half to beat the Cardinals 72-71. Things will be tougher this time around for the Tar Heels, whose depth has taken a hit due to injuries to guard Joel Berry and forward Theo Pinson. That might not yield for a great matchup on the road against Terry Rozier, 24.5 points per game last week, and Chris Jones, 22.5 points per game last week.

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Pick: Louisville 75-68

Wichita State at Northern Iowa

Saturday, 4 p.m., ESPN2

Wichita State hasn’t lost to a current Missouri Valley team since a 59-56 defeat to Evansville on Feb. 27, 2013. Northern Iowa, though, may be the first legitimate threat to the Shockers’ Valley dominance since Doug McDermott and Creighton left the league. The Panthers are 8-1 in the league and haven’t lost since Jan. 1. Northern Iowa is second in the MVC in offensive and defensive efficiency — second only to Wichita State in both categories.

Pick: Wichita State 65-60

Texas at Baylor

Saturday, 6 p.m., ESPN2

At one point, Texas looked like it could be a Big 12 contender, especially with a healthy Isaiah Taylor at point guard. The Longhorns, though, have come unraveled with four losses in the last six in the Big 12. Texas has been a mess in the defensive end, allowing three Big 12 teams to average more than a point per possession. On Tuesday, Iowa State averaged 1.27 points per possession and shot nearly 55 percent from the field in an 89-86 win over the Longhorns. Baylor’s not that much better a defensive team, ranking ninth league games in effective field goal rate on defense.

Pick: Baylor 76-70

Duke at Virginia

Saturday, 7 p.m., ESPN

This is the game of the year in the ACC and the only matchup between the Blue Devils and Cavaliers at least until the ACC tournament. All the celebration surrounding Mike Krzyzewski’s 1,000th win has obscured that his team is 3-3 since starting 14-0. Moreover, Duke dismissed veteran Rasheed Sulaimon on Thursday. His conduct may have been a detriment, but his presence as a defender will be missed for a team that has given up an average of 84.7 points per game in its losses. Virginia, of course, doesn’t have to approach 90 points to beat even a team like Duke. The Cavaliers have been tested in recent weeks against Notre Dame, Boston College and Virginia Tech on the road, but Virginia has been able to stay undefeated with efficient play in both ends of the court in the final minutes.

Pick: Virginia 64-59

Oklahoma at Oklahoma State

Saturday, 8 p.m., ESPN2

For some reason, the AP poll and KenPom rankings hold Oklahoma in high regard. The Sooners needed a home date with Texas Tech to stop a 1-4 skid in the league. The 81-36 win over the Red Raiders was impressive, even if they are the worst team in the league. If Oklahoma can defeat Oklahoma State on the road, maybe there will be more reason for confidence in the Sooners. The Cowboys — a two-player team for most of the season — is coming off a win over Baylor in which the Pokes showed impressive balanced. Four players scored in double figures, taking some of the heat off Phil Forte and Le’Bryan Nash.

Pick: Oklahoma 64-60

Memphis at Gonzaga

Saturday, 10 p.m., ESPN2

This game might not be all that competitive as one of the most balanced offensive teams in the country faces one of the most flawed. Still, Gonzaga doesn’t get face many name teams once it gets into its West Coast Conference schedule. A road trip to Saint Mary’s and a home date with BYU may be tougher games for Gonzaga than Memphis, but it’s still worth keeping an eye on the Bulldogs facing a top 100 RPI team at this stage of the season.

Pick: Gonzaga 80-61

Michigan at Michigan State

Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS

It’s too early to start thinking of Michigan as an NCAA Tournament team. Caris LeVert isn’t coming back, and those losses to NJIT and Eastern Michigan will be anchors for their resume. Still, the Wolverines took Wisconsin to overtime and beat Nebraska 58-44. The next two weeks for the Wolverines will be brutal, starting with a road trip to East Lansing. The Spartans are stumbling, too, and need a nice showing against Michigan to build confidence.

Pick: Michigan State 68-64