College basketball picks, odds, schedule: Predictions for key top 25 games Saturday, including Duke vs. Florida State

The start of a new year signifies the rise of college basketball into the national spotlight, and Saturday it will take center stage. There will be 21 ranked teams in total taking courts across the country, and with conference play up and running, the stakes are juiced up more so than before the turn of the calendar.

From noon to 10 p.m. ET, games of importance will be played beginning with a Saturday opening slate that includes No. 4 Virginia, No. 12 North Carolina, No. 15 NC State, No. 19 Buffalo and No. 20 Iowa State. In the second wave of action will be must-watch television on CBS between in-state foes Ole Miss and No. 14 Mississippi State followed by No. 1 Duke facing its highest-ranked opponent since mid-December, and so much more.

There is no shortage of action from which to pick and choose from, but no matter if you're tuned in early, late, or heck, for all of the action, the CBS Sports college basketball experts have you covered with wall-to-wall coverage. Of course, we've also got picks for every game both straight up and against the spread if you're interested in getting in on some action.

Louisville at No. 12 North Carolina (-12) -- 12 p.m. on ESPN: North Carolina is on a five-game winning streak while Louisville has lost two of its past three -- including Wednesday night's game at Pitt. So these two teams are, on the surface, heading in different directions. The number on this game reflects it. But, remember, this is still a Louisville team that's beaten Michigan State and Seton Hall -- and only lost three times in regulation, once by just one point at Indiana. The Cardinals' largest margin of defeat so far this season is 13 points. So I'm happy to take the 12 points here with Chris Mack's team. Pick: Louisville +12 -- Gary Parrish

Ole Miss at No. 14 Mississippi State (-5.5) -- 1 p.m. on CBS, CBSSports.comCBS Sports App and streaming on fuboTV (try for free): Mississippi State has won 9 of 10 and is one of the hottest programs in the country. Then you have Ole Miss, which is perhaps even hotter coming into Saturday with nine consecutive wins, including a jewel of a victory Wednesday over Auburn by 15 points. So both teams are playing at a high level right now. But I like the Bulldogs to win for this reason: They just lost Tuesday in overtime for the first time since middle of November, and The Hump is going to be all sorts of bonkers with this in-state rivalry hoping it can will their team to a bounceback win. Give me Mississippi State straight up, but Ole Miss to cover the spread in a close one. Pick: Ole Miss +5.5 -- Kyle Boone

No. 1 Duke (-8) at No. 13 Florida State -- 2 p.m. on ESPN: The oddsmakers have yet to catch up to the dominance of this year's Duke team. The Blue Devils are a notorious public favorite and often there's value fading what can be inflated betting lines, but so far this year Duke is covering the spread 71 percent of the time (10-4) and doing so with huge numbers set by the oddsmakers. Florida State has cooled off since its fantastic start in November and while the resume deserves respect the quality of its recent play suggests Duke should win by double digits. Pick: Duke -8 -- Chip Patterson

[Who wins Duke vs. Florida State? And which side of the spread can you bank on in almost 70 percent of simulations? Visit SportsLine now to get the strong against-the-spread pick, all from the advanced model that is up more than $5,200 on its college basketball picks the past two years, and find out.]   

Vanderbilt at No. 18 Kentucky (-13) -- 8:30 p.m. on SEC Network: Vanderbilt has struggled to replace star freshman Darius Garland since he was injured five games into the season. The Commodores are only 1-4 against major conference opposition since than, although that win came at home over Arizona State. Otherwise, they have struggled to be competitive in those games. Having to face a talented Kentucky squad at Rupp Arena hardly seems like the cure for those blues. UK should win plenty comfortably. Pick: Kentucky -13 -- Jerry Palm

No. 5 Gonzaga (-10) at San Francisco -- 10 p.m. on ESPN2: If the line is Gonzaga -7 or -8 or maybe -- maybe -- at -9, then yeah, take the bigger and better team and chance it on the road. But here's the reality: San Francisco has defeated Gonzaga three times since 2010, doing that in its home gym. Gonzaga might not look beatable in the WCC, but you can bet for certain it's not going to cover every time. And if any team is going to come close to picking off GU this season in the WCC, it's San Francisco. Kyle Smith's Dons are 14-2, both losses reasonable. One came against Buffalo in Ireland, the other by two points at UC Santa Barbara, which rates as a top-two Big West team. San Francisco has a a healthy shot. This is a highly appealing late-night Saturday tip, just to see if USF's defense can contain Gonzaga. The key for San Francisco covering is to keep Gonzaga at 75 points or fewer. I'm going to say the Dons do it and keep it interesting. Pick: San Francisco +10 -- Matt Norlander

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