College basketball picks, odds, schedule: Predictions for key top 25 games Saturday, including Duke-Virginia
The college basketball slate is loaded with big game after big game, including a No. 1 vs. No. 4 matchup in the ACC
What a weekend we have on tap in college basketball. Consider that, all in one day, we have Kentucky taking on Auburn in a pivotal SEC showdown, on-the-rise UCLA squaring off with in-state foe USC and undefeated Michigan going on the road to face a stingy Wisconsin team. And that's not even mentioning the biggest game of the day.
That would be a rare No. 1 vs. No. 1 matchup with the top team in the AP Top 25 (Duke) facing the Coaches Poll's top team (Virginia) in an ACC battle that could go a long ways deciding how the conference race gets settled in the regular season. With Duke banged up and potentially without star frosh Tre Jones, Virginia has a chance to steal one in a tough road environment like Cameron Indoor Stadium -- something Syracuse did on Monday and Virginia did a year ago in double-digit fashion.
The rare 1 vs. 1 matchup features a game with an extremely efficient offense against an extremely efficient defense. Duke has the No. 4 offense coming into this game, with a stellar 120 offensive adjusted efficiency rating, meanwhile Virginia's second-ranked offense is only surrendering 85.4 per 100 possessions. What's more: UVA offensive efficiency is No. 3, ahead of Duke, and the Blue Devils' defense rates at a solid No. 4, which would rank as Mike Krzyzewski's best defensive unit since the 2004 season.
"I'm intrigued by what Duke is going to do from the 3-point line,", said. "Virginia, defensively, speaks for itself. They lead across the metrics as the best team in college basketball, and they're continually taking out ranked teams by double digit margins. I think it's going to be a close one."
No. 2 Michigan (-3) at Wisconsin -- 12 p.m. on ESPN: If this game were anywhere but the Kohl Center, which tends to bring out the worst in its visitors, you'd pick Michigan in a walkover. And I mean that with no disrespect to Wisconsin, which is a pretty good basketball team, albeit it one in a bit of a funk. Ethan Happ is a dominant force in the post, although Michigan's 7-foot-1 big man Jon Teske should give him a good battle. It's at the other four positions where Michigan can excel. You bring back reliable producers like Charles Matthews and Jordan Poole and add freshman Ignas Brazdeikas, the team's leading scorer, and you have problems all over the floor. Let's not forget Michigan's smothering defense as well. The Wolverines are only 1 point favorites. They won't go undefeated in the Big Ten, but this will not be the first loss. Pick: Michigan -3 -- Jerry Palm
No. 7 Kansas (-5.5) at West Virginia -- 2 p.m. on ESPN: A couple of teams here who have not fared well covering the spread this season. Kansas is 8-9, WVU is 5-11. The Jayhawks are looking to keep WVU in the winless column in conference play. The Jayhawks finally snapped a losing streak of four games at WVU last season, and in getting six points here, I like Kansas to cover. Quentin Grimes has worked his way back into fine form, and without Sagaba Konate for the 'Eers, Dedric Lawson should cruise to another double-double. Pick: Kansas -5.5 -- Matt Norlander
No. 12 Kentucky at No. 14 Auburn (-4.5) -- 4 p.m. on ESPN: After finally logging its first true road win of the season at Texas A&M on Wednesday night, Auburn has a chance to further solidify its status as the most likely contender to challenge Tennessee for the SEC crown with Kentucky coming to town. My pick leans towards the Wildcats not only covering but stealing the win, and the biggest reason has been the emergence of Ashton Hagans as arguably the team's most impactful two-way player. He's the special sauce that can help Kentucky reach its ceiling in 2019 and I think what many expect to be an affirmation of Auburn's title contention will instead be a coming out party for Wildcats rookie. Pick: Kentucky +4.5 -- Chip Patterson
No. 4 Virginia at No. 1 Duke (-1.5) -- 6 p.m. on ESPN Virginia is undefeated and coming off of a win over a top-10 team in which it shot 58.5 percent from the field, 54.2 percent from 3-point range and 100 percent from the free-throw line. Now the Cavaliers have a game against a team that just lost to Syracuse at home and will likely be without its starting point guard. So I completely understand why lots seem to think Tony Bennett's team is about to win inside Cameron Indoor Stadium for the second straight year. But, that said, how do you pick against a home team that, even if Tre Jones doesn't play, will still have three projected top-10 picks in the starting lineup? I can't do it. So I'll just lay the 2 points with the Blue Devils and live with the result. Pick: Duke -1.5 — Gary Parrish
UCLA at USC (-3) -- 4 p.m. on CBS, CBSSports.com, CBS Sports App and streaming on fuboTV Since the turn of the year, which coincides with the replacement of coach Steve Alford, Murry Bartow and UCLA are 3-1 with a win over Pac-12 favorite Oregon in overtime and averaging 85.8 points per game in league play -- a whopping 14 points more per game than the Bruins were putting up under Alford in the first 13 games. They're pushing the pace, getting out in transition and running up the score. Against USC, a team that rates in the bottom three of the league in adjusted defensive efficiency, the Bruins have a decided advantage to play to their strengths. Even on the road I like UCLA to cover the 2-point spread and win straight up. Pick: UCLA +3 -- Kyle Boone
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