This weekend in college basketball, the calendar will be a tale of two months. On Saturday: February. On Sunday: March! Of course, the latter is the month that college basketball fans crave as the conference tournaments and, of course, the NCAA Tournament draw near.
It's just about here, and below we've got picks for five of the most interesting and compelling games of the weekend involving ranked teams. It's our staple preview for you each and every weekend. But before we get to that, a heads-up that more than a third of the teams in college hoops will wrap up their regular seasons in the next three days.
This weekend will see these conferences put a bow on their schedules and determine conference bracket seeding: ASUN, Big South, the CAA, Horizon League, Missouri Valley, Mountain West, NEC, OVC, Patriot League, SoCon, Summit League, West Coast.
That's 13 leagues, with another 19 sorting stuff out over the next week. Best time of the year's just about here.
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All times ET
Providence at No. 12 Villanova (-7.5)
Noon (Fox and streaming free on fuboTV)
Providence has been one of the best teams in the Big East in the month of February, taking down Creighton, Seton Hall, Marquette and Butler since the first of the month. The Friars are well-positioned to get a good seed in the conference tournament and I think their recent form carries over with a strong effort against a Villanova team that only beat them by four earlier this season. Villanova will get the win, but Luwane Pipkins and Providence will keep this game close and get the cover. Pick: Providence +7.5 (Chip Patterson)
No. 1 Kansas (-11.5) at Kansas State
There is legitimate beef between these two ball clubs. The last time they met came back in January, when the Jayhawks smoked rival K-State 80-61. That game wasn't just ugly in the box score: it ended in an ugly, all-out brawl involving both benches, with numerous suspensions being divvied out. Since then, KU's extended its winning streak to 13, risen to No. 1 in the rankings and solidified its standing as the (current) No. 1 overall projected seed. The Wildcats, meanwhile, have gone the other way. They enter Saturday's game on an eight-game skid, having lost 10 of their last 11. Still, this rivalry almost always produces competitive games, and that melee from January should factor in here. I think Kansas State will extend its losing streak to nine but at the very least keep this one within the number, especially at home. Pick: Kansas State +11.5 (Kyle Boone)
No. 15 Auburn at No. 8 Kentucky (-5.5)
All four of Auburn's losses have come on the road in the SEC, and all of them were double-digit defeats. Now, Bruce Pearl's squad heads to Rupp Arena with the Wildcats playing for a championship and motivated by an earlier loss to the Tigers. That's not a recipe for success. Pick: Kentucky -5.5 (David Cobb)
No. 7 Duke (-3) at Virginia
6 p.m. (ESPN)
The Blue Devils are 1-2 in their past three games with a pair of double-digit losses on the road to unranked teams. That's not good. But Duke is still top 15 in both offensive efficiency and defensive efficiency. So things probably aren't as bad as they seem -- which is why I do believe the Blue Devils will win at John Paul Jones Arena on Saturday. That said, though, I'll still take Virginia plus the points in what should be a low-possession game. Pick: Duke -3 (Gary Parrish)
No. 24 Michigan State at No. 9 Maryland (-2)
8 p.m. (ESPN)
Only two weeks removed from GameDay going to the Breslin Center, now Maryland gets to host Michigan State in the return game and premier Saturday night tilt. The Spartans have been getting terrific play out of Xavier Tillman as of late -- shoutout to the father of two who just had a boy in the past 10 days -- and if Tillman can click with Cassius Winston, the Spartans get to avenge their loss to Maryland. That game saw Maryland close out on a 14-0 run; MSU was the better team. Maryland's playing for a clinch of the Big Ten regular-season title. The Terps have not finished atop a league ledger since the ACC in 2002. Michigan State is seventh at KenPom, Maryland ninth. Jalen Smith is a big challenge for Tillman, who just had success shutting down Iowa's Luka Garza on Tuesday. I think Maryland's defense has enough, and I think Smith goes for 22 and 12. The late-night tip should ensure Mark Turgeon's in his driveway by midnight. Pick: Maryland -2 (Matt Norlander)