Saturday is sift-out day in college basketball. With conference regular season races coming down to the wire and contenders lining up for pivotal games, we may finally gain some clarity on a number of league races by the time the clock strikes midnight.
No. 4 Kentucky traveling to Knoxville to take on No. 7 Tennessee is the game most will have their eyes on. The Wildcats won the first matchup running away, when the Vols were ranked No. 1, but UK will be a difficult out regardless of venue. Since that game, it has won four straight by an average margin of 13, while Tennessee has gone 2-1 with an average scoring margin of just 2.6.
The winner of UK-UT may prove to be the favorite in the SEC, but 320 miles away, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, LSU would like a word. The Tigers are tied with the Wildcats and Vols atop the league standings, and a win against the Crimson Tide on the road may put them in the catbird seat along with whoever emerges in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Elsewhere, conference leaders in the ACC, Big Ten and Big 12 are all in action against unranked opponents.
Below is how each of our college hoops experts see the day unfolding with picks straight up and against the spread for every major game.
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No. 6 Michigan State (-7.5) at Indiana, 12 p.m. on Fox and streaming on fuboTV: Since getting embarrassed in a 21-point loss at Minnesota, IU has ratcheted up the intensity, especially on the defensive end. The Hoosiers have not trailed by more than six points in the three games since, all against ranked teams, but still has only won once. Michigan State will be looking to avenge an earlier loss in East Lansing, Michigan and stay in first place in the Big Ten. The Spartans are playing without Nick Ward, who has an injured hand, but if they can win at Michigan without him, they can win at Indiana. Jerry Palm's pick: Michigan State -7.5
No. 15 Kansas at Oklahoma State, 12 p.m. on CBS, CBSSports.com and streaming on fuboTV: Oklahoma State hasn't quit despite its struggles -- and despite having only seven scholarship players due to dismissals. But playing motivated won't be enough to overcome a KU team that has its own motivations, not the least of which is keeping its Big 12 title streak hopes alive. I think KU wins here but OSU covers. Kyle Boone's pick: Oklahoma State +6
No. 4 Kentucky at No. 7 Tennessee (-2.5), 2 p.m. on CBS, CBSSports.com and streaming on fuboTV: Tennessee was ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press poll and on a 19-game winning streak heading into this season's first game with Kentucky. As you probably heard, it didn't go well. UK shot 55 percent from the field and demolished UT — 86-69. Now the rematch has arrived. And it's not hyperbole to suggest this really could determine the SEC's regular-season title because Kentucky and Tennessee — along with LSU — are tied atop the league standings with 13-2 SEC records. So the winner of this one will be a game up on the loser with just two regular-season games remaining. In other words, this is a high-stakes showdown. And even though I do believe Tennessee will win and improve to 17-0 at home, I'll take the points with Kentucky and trust this is a close contest that's settled in the final minute. Gary Parrish's pick: Kentucky +2.5
Miami at No. 3 Duke (-17) , 4 p.m. on CBS, CBSSports.com and streaming on fuboTV: There's so much on the line for Duke right now after the loss at Virginia Tech and so little pressure on Miami, I think the Hurricanes will come into Cameron Indoor Stadium as the looser team, carrying a giant-killer mentality. That's not to say that Duke should be an upset alert, but this way too many points for a team, while 12-15 overall, that took North Carolina to overtime in a similar Saturday road situation. Miami's pace makes the under another great play here, as Jim Larranaga gets his one and only regular-season shot at this heralded -- but hurt -- Duke team. I say the Hurricanes come in motivated, well-prepared and cover the number. Chip Patterson's pick: Miami +17
No. 5 North Carolina (-5.5) at Clemson, 6 p.m. on ESPN: The Clemson Tigers have one of the toughest asks of any team this weekend: host a potential No. 1 seed, and oh by the way, if you want to stay on the better side of the bubble? Beat them. So Brad Brownell's 17-11 Tigers will try to do that and try to get to .500 in the ACC for the first time this season. If you're riding the trends, UNC covering is the play. The Tar Heels are 17-8-3 against the spread this season, while Clemson is a mediocre 12-16. UNC will try to trip Clemson out of rhythm. I expect it to happen, and I expect Cam Johnson to have another strong game. Matt Norlander's pick: UNC -5.5