Duke and Syracuse battle for ACC supremacy, more weekend action
Saturday, 10:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network
When SI.com asked four of its college basketball writers to complete a midseason crystal ball, two of us (Kelli Anderson and I) chose Cal as our second-half surprise team. Well, the Bears are surprising all right -- surprisingly bad. They have now lost three straight games, including Wednesday night in overtime to Arizona State, and they do not look like a team that is primed to hand the No. 1 team its first loss. Arizona's outside shooting (and especially its free throw shooting, which is ranked 280th nationally) worry me, but its defense should be good enough to lock down the Bears and escape the Bay Area unscathed.
Arizona 78, Cal 70
Saturday, 6:30 p.m., ESPN
The Blue Devils' second-half domination of Pitt Monday night was by far their best 20 minutes of the season. It also stood in contrast to the way Pitt played Syracuse to the wire in the Carrier Dome on Jan. 18 before losing. Duke guard Andre Dawkins was spectacular in scoring 20 points off the bench, while Syracuse marksman Trevor Cooney continues his midseason slump. (He was 0-for-5 from three-point range at Wake Forest Wednesday night.) Syracuse's zone, however, is engineered to lock down on three-point shooters, and it is awfully hard to get to the rim (and thus, the foul line) against it. Plus, Syracuse is at home. I'll go with the Orange primarily for that reason, but I can't say I feel confident.
Syracuse 76, Duke 75
Saturday, 4 p.m., ESPN
Oh. That Andrew Wiggins. The Jayhawks' freshman forward had his best game in a Kansas uniform Wednesday night when he scored a career-high 29 points (on 10-for-16 shooting) and grabbed seven rebounds in a win over Iowa State. His maturity is coming at a bad time for Texas, which has won five in a row but is one of the few teams in the country that is as young as Kansas.
Kansas 80, Texas 68
At Madison Square Garden, Saturday, 3 p.m., Fox Sports 1
The Spartans' overtime win at Iowa Tuesday was arguably the most impressive win any team has had all season. Michigan State was down two frontcourt starters, yet it prevailed over a team that had been playing as well as any in the country. Yes, it took a lot of heart and character, but it also took a sturdy next-man-up performance from 6-9 sophomore Matt Costello, who grabbed 12 rebounds (six offensive) in just 28 minutes. Georgetown, meanwhile, is also minus a frontcourt player (center Josh Smith, who is academically ineligible the rest of the season) but on a dizzying downwards spiral, having lost six of their last seven games. That's not the kind of momentum you want coming into a game like this.
Michigan State 72, Georgetown 57
Saturday, 4 p.m., CBS Sports Network
The Owls have been playing better lately, but they had nothing to show for it until Wednesday night, when they beat Rutgers 88-82 to notch their first AAC win. Temple has one of the best scoring guards in the country in 6-5 senior Dalton Pepper, but he just doesn't get enough help from his friends. Villanova has come back to earth recently, losing at home to Creighton and then scoring close wins at Marquette and Georgetown, but the Wildcats are still committed enough to defense and rebounding that they should prevail, even though it is their third straight road game.
Villanova 68, Temple 61
Saturday, 1 p.m., CBS
Now this is more like it. Instead of sitting back and jacking up jump shots, the Missouri Tigers attacked the basket repeatedly Tuesday night at Arkansas. The result was their best win of the season, a 75-71 victory in which they shot 22-for-27 from the foul line. That's the same Arkansas squad that beat Kentucky at home, which helped to expose the Wildcats' road woes. Kentucky only shot 13 free throws in its loss at LSU Tuesday night, a problem that is further exacerbated by Willie Cauley-Stein's odd defensive slump.
Missouri 76, Kentucky 70
Saturday, Noon, ESPN
Shall we call this the Swoon Bowl? Just a few weeks ago, both these teams were ranked in the top five. On Wednesday, they lost at home to Penn State and Northwestern, respectively. They have combined to lose 9 of their last 11 games, and frankly there's no indication of a turnaround. The good news is that there is a very good chance one of these teams will win this game. I'll go with the Badgers because they're at home, but unless these two can find a way to put the ball in the basket a little more often, they are headed for a very short-lived postseason -- if they make the NCAA tournament at all.
Wisconsin 66, Ohio State 63
Saturday, 4 p.m., Big 12 Network
The Cyclones have lost four of their last five games, but that is hardly indicative of how good (or bad) they are. Just for starters, consider that two of those losses came against Kansas. A lack of perimeter scoring beyond DeAndre Kane is a problem, and their overall team defense is not as good as it needs to be, but I think Iowa State will bounce back at home against Oklahoma. The Cyclones will need that Hilton Magic against a team that has won four straight, including an impressive 88-76 win at home Monday night against Oklahoma State.
Iowa State 78, Oklahoma 74
Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS
I decided to update my All-America first team this week, and after taking a closer look at the top shooting guards in the country, I went with Wolverines sophomore Nik Stauskas. He validated my choice Thursday night with another solid 16-point, three-assist effort in Michigan's win at Purdue. He even added three blocks. Meanwhile, it's looking more and more like Indiana will not make the NCAA tournament. Not only did the Hoosiers lose at Nebraska Thursday to fall to 3-5 in the Big Ten, but their best win of the season, a home victory over Wisconsin, is looking less impressive by the day.
Michigan 75, Indiana 68
Sunday, 12:20 p.m., ESPNU
I know Pitt fans are disappointed their team did not play better against Duke, but the Panthers didn't play badly, either. They just ran into a good team playing at its best. Virginia will come into town looking to play a slow, grinding tempo that fits better with what Pitt likes to do. The Cavaliers rank first nationally in scoring defense (56.0 ppg), but they still commit more than 11 turnovers per game. That should translate into enough transition opportunities for Pitt to prevail.
Pitt 64, Virginia 57
Last Week: 8-2
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