Saturday Morning Block: 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM
A Good One: (12) Louisville vs. Miami | 1:00 PM, ESPN
The Cardinals are reeling, losing three of their last four games, but thankfully the suspension that was going to sideline starting guard Chris Jones indefinitely has been lifted by Rick Pitino. On the flip side, the Hurricanes are winners of three of four, the lone loss by two at upstart Wake Forest. Miami doesn’t match up particularly well here but — even as difficult as it is to win at the Yum — they may be getting Louisville at a decent time. If you’re a betting person, bet on some kind of Angel Rodriguez heroics.
A Better One: (22) Oklahoma State vs. (23) West Virginia | 1:00 PM, ESPN News
Better late than never! The season’s first tilt between the Cowboys and Mountaineers tips off Saturday, one that Oklahoma State needs badly. After knocking off Kansas and then Baylor on a day’s rest, OSU dropped consecutive games to TCU and Iowa State. Thanks in large part to the worst layup of granddad Perry Ellis’ career, West Virginia is flying high into Stillwater. The key stat in this matchup (per KenPom): WVU is 290th nationally in eFG%; OSU’s defensive eFG%: 47th.
Pick: Oklahoma State.
The Best One: Texas vs. (14) Iowa State | 1:00 PM, ESPN2
There’s a difference, I think, between important and critical. Every game is important. For Iowa State, this one is absolutely critical. The suddenly attainable Big 12 crown is a two-step process from here on in: shake Oklahoma and catch Kansas. And it starts in Austin. Here’s the thing with this Texas team: they don’t win the big ones. January 17 was the last time the Longhorns notched a victory against a team outside bottom three in the Big 12 standings. We know the Cyclones match up well. We saw it in Ames. Control the glass and the rest should follow. Jameel McKay will be the most important person in the building on Saturday.
Pick: the good guys.
Saturday Afternoon Block: 2:00 PM – 6:00 PM
A Good One: (8) Kansas vs. TCU | 3:00 PM, ESPN2
Kirk Haaland said it Wednesday night as TCU cruised past Kansas State: the Horned Frogs have been hurt tremendously by perception over the last two years. This is a good team that scheduled its non-con poorly this season, leaving them relatively ill-prepared to handle the Big 12 gauntlet. But they’ve shown they can hold their own, especially of late. Kansas will be slowed down and frustrated for a good chunk of this game. Only Frank Mason cracked double-digits in the first matchup in Fort Worth, a three-point KU victory. Kyan Anderson will look to duplicate his game-high 17-point performance.
Pick: Don’t tempt me. Kansas.
A Better One: Mississippi State vs. (18) Arkansas | 3:00 PM, FSN
Much like the Big Ten, I try to subject myself to as little SEC basketball as possible on any given day, but the afternoon block is pretty sparse on Saturday. The thought of Arkansas sneaking back into the AP Top 25 was laughable about a month ago, but they’ve rattled off eight of nine since getting blown out by Ole Miss. Mississippi State is bad, and they turn the ball over at an astronomical rate, but the Bulldogs always seem to be in games late. Junior guard Craig Sword is averaging 18 points per game over his last seven.
The Best One: Boston College vs. (10) Notre Dame | 3:00 PM, ESPN Full Court
Notre Dame is like Iowa State in a lot of ways. It’s their potent offense that keeps them in games and an occasionally suspect defensive effort that does them in. Even still, the Irish are 23-4 and a game ahead of Duke in the win column. Much like TCU, Boston College is pesky by nature. While losers of seven straight and sitting last in the ACC standings, the Eagles haven’t lost a game all year by more than 15 (other than their conference-opening blowout at Cameron Indoor). BC is big, experienced and hosts a Goliath with nothing to lose. Junior swingman Olivier Hanlan has posted 32, 32, 16, 30 and 28 points (!) in his last five outings.
Pick: Boston College
Saturday Evening Block: 6:00 PM – 10:00 PM
A Good One: Alabama vs. Georgia | 7:00 PM, ESPN2
Just as quickly as Georgia busted down the bracketlogy door, it got kicked back out to the front stoop. The Bulldogs have lost two straight, with rough waters ahead visiting Alabama, Ole Miss and then hosting Kentucky over their next four contests. On the flip side, Alabama is fresh off a win at Auburn and primed to make a last-ditch effort for a tournament bid. The Crimson Tide tend to foul at a higher rate, which is a game UGA likes to play. The Dawgs get to the line often and will need every point against an in-your-face defense coach Anthony Grant prides himself on.
A Better One: (7) Arizona vs. UCLA | 8:00 PM, ESPN
Steve Alford’s seat has to be a little warm, right? The Bruins are a very un-UCLA-like 16-11 this season and haven’t managed to beat an NCAA tournament worthy opponent outside of Utah. They’ll travel to Tucson, where Arizona hasn’t lost since Feb. 10, 2013. First Team All-American candidate Stanley Johnson has a definitive size and talent advantage over his counterpart Isaac Hamilton. Look for a big game for the freshman.
Pick: Not Steve Alford.
The Best One: St Mary’s vs. (3) Gonzaga | 9:00 PM, ESPN2
The Zags are equipped to run the WCC table yet again, and the debates are resurfacing: is Gonzaga a 1-seed or not? Most subscribe to the notion that you have to do right by a team that’s 27-1, and that may be true. But it always seem as though St. Mary’s is the “second fiddle” in the WCC most capable of throwing a wrench into the plan each year. The Gaels were run out of the gym in Spokane earlier this year but have gone 5-2 since. Senior forward Brad Waldow has been terrific but will have his hands full with 6-10 Kentucky transfer Kyle Wiltjer and a couple 7-footers with names I could probably spell correctly by just mashing my keyboard.
Your Sunday Best
1. Oregon vs. (9) Utah | 2:00 PM, FS1
2. Illinois vs. Michigan State | 6:30 PM, BTN
3. Tulsa vs. Temple| 5:00 PM, CBS Sports