SEC heavyweights Florida and Kentucky clash, more weekend action
Friday, ESPN, 9 p.m.
As I mentioned in my Fast Five column this week, I think Arizona has suffered a devastating blow in losing sophomore forward Brandon Ashley to a broken foot. The only question is whether that will be revealed in the Pac-12 or in the NCAA tournament. Arizona State has won five of its last six games to climb back into the bubble picture, but the Sun Devils know full well they have a golden opportunity to buttress their tourney case. Look for Jordan Jordan Bachynski, the 7-foot-2 senior center from Calgary who leads the nation in blocks (4.46 per game), to be the difference.
Arizona State 78, Arizona 75
Saturday, ESPN, 9 p.m.
Patric Young's loose ball rebound with 51.9 seconds remaining in Florida's win at Tennessee Wednesday night should be required viewing not just by basketball players, but all of humanity. That was a winning play, and it exemplifies why I think the Gators will win this game, even though Kentucky is in dire need of a confidence-boosting home win. The Gators can't match the Wildcats' frontcourt size, but if its guards can use their experience to throttle the Harrison twins, then the Gators will leave Rupp with their perfect league record intact.
Florida 76, Kentucky 73
Saturday, 2 p.m., ESPN2
Saint Louis has lost twice all season, on a neutral court to Wisconsin and at home to Wichita State. The latter happened way back on Dec. 1. The reason is defense. Saint Louis is ranked third nationally in defensive efficiency, third in three-point defense and 16th in field goal defense. So VCU's best hope is to force a lot of turnovers. That has been a problem for the Billikens at times, but not enough of a problem for them to lose their composure in a big game at home.
Saint Louis 69, VCU 62
Saturday, 8 p.m., Longhorn Network
It appears the Longhorns will get back Jonathan Holmes, their 6-8 junior forward who missed most of their loss at Kansas State and the entire win over Oklahoma State with a strained right knee. That's good news because West Virginia is one of the hottest teams in the Big 12, having won four of its last five games, including Monday's 25-point pasting of Iowa State in Morgantown.
Texas 74, West Virginia 69
Saturday, Noon, ESPN
Memphis put on a defensive clinic during the last four minutes Saturday night against Gonzaga, which is why the Tigers were able to finish with a 10-0 run and win. That is Memphis' specialty, which is why it plays so well on the road. Shabazz Napier is having an All-American season, but he is not getting enough help from his friends.
Memphis 80, UConn 72
Saturday, 1 p.m., CBS
The obvious question here is how well Pittsburgh is able to shake off the disappointment from that crushing loss at home to Syracuse. Given that this is the same Panthers team that needed overtime to beat Miami and Virginia Tech, they need to be primed and ready to play. On the other side, I'm unimpressed by North Carolina's recent winning stretch against lower-tier ACC teams, but I like that the Heels have had a week off thanks to the postponement of the Duke game.
North Carolina 64, Pittsburgh 60
Sunday, 5 p.m., Fox Sports 1
The first meeting between these teams was one of the most memorable of the season. Creighton set a Big East record by drilling 21 three-pointers and cruised to a 28-point win -- in Philly, no less. That means they should win in Omaha, right? I say no. Although Villanova has not defended the three-point line well all season, you know that will be a major point of emphasis the second time around. The Wildcats also need to do a better job of attacking the rim. When they lost to Creighton, they shot 16 free throws to 29 three-pointers.
Villanova 84, Creighton 78
Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS
To paraphrase what was said about the Incredible Hulk: Don't make John Beilein angry. You wouldn't like him when he's angry. After the Wolverines lost two out of three games, they were bound to bounce back with one of their best games of the season, coming back to win at Ohio State behind a combined 28 points from Nik Stauskas and Derrick Walton Jr. The Badgers, meanwhile, managed to halt their tailspin and win three straight, thanks largely to the emergence of freshman forward Nigel Hayes. But Michigan is a better team, and the Wolverines have the incentive of wanting to keep up with Michigan State atop the Big Ten standings.
Michigan 70, Wisconsin 60
Sunday, 4 p.m., ESPN2
Frank Haith's team might have won a game by a point Thursday night against Arkansas to snap a three-game losing streak, but he did not look happy as he walked off the court. Nothing has come easy for Haith's Tigers, which is why it is imperative they win this game to keep their NCAA tournament hopes alive. Meanwhile, Tennessee had a chance to help itself on Wednesday night, but it couldn't close out a win at home against Florida. Tennessee has the better frontcourt scorers and Missouri has the better perimeter scorers. Mizzou is at home, so that's the pick, but I can't say I have a ton of confidence.
Missouri 72, Tennessee 70
Sunday, 7 p.m., FS1
These two teams could do no right early this season, and now they can do no wrong. Georgetown broke a five-game losing streak by upsetting Michigan State at Madison Square Garden, and now the Hoyas have extended their win streak to four. St. John's lost its first five league games and has now won six of its last seven Big East games. The Red Storm now have four of their last six games at home, which bodes well for their chances -- amazingly -- to get into the NCAA tournament.
St. John's 70, Georgetown 65
Last Week: 8-2