Wake Forest (8) at Duke (9), 7:45 Sunday
The premier matchup of the weekend features two top-10 ACC teams that are actually on their way down instead of up. Duke has lost four its last six conferences games and knocked off Big East bottom dweller St. John's by only seven points Thursday night. Wake Forest had also lost four of six games, but has since grabbed victories against Florida State and Georgia Tech.
This game provides the Blue Devils with a chance to avenge their last second loss to the Demon Deacons a few weeks ago. In that game, Wake Forest led most of the way, but Duke made a late charge to tie the game with a few seconds left. Wake's L.D. Williams inbounded the ball to James Johnson who crept along the baseline to the basket for the easy layup.
The defense simply hasn't been there for Mike Krzyzewski's club since his first meeting with Wake this year. In three of Duke's last four losses, the Blue Devils have allowed more than a point per possession, something they had done only three times previously all year.
Wake Forest has had a similar problem. In all four of the Demon Deacons' losses, Dino Gaudio's squad has allowed more than a point per possession. Both clubs have made their marks this year playing defense, but have struggled recently. Sunday's game could turn into a more higher scoring affair than expected.
Gerald Henderson will have to take over the Blue Devils to give Coack K the best chance to win. He's the only Dookie who can match any of the Deacons' athleticism and must step up, guard Wake's James Johnson tightly, but also put points on the board.
The Cameron Crazies have already seen their team lose one top game on their home court this year, and won't let a repeat of the North Carolina game happen again. They will be loud, proud, very blue, and the deciding factor on Sunday.
My pick: Duke 78, Wake Forest 75
Villanova (14) at Syracuse (25), 1:00 Sunday on CBS
The 'Cuse and 'Nova play what seems like their yearly game on CBS in front of what should be another 30,000 plus crowd inside the Carrier Dome. This time around, the Orange hope its fans won't go nuts on any fans of the opposing team. SU also hopes its second game against Villanova won't end in another Wildcat 100-point outburst.
These two teams play twice in the regular season almost every year and in this budding rivalry, Villanova has had the upper hand winning eight of the past 10 meetings. The two schools have split the regular season series each of the past two years.
In the first meeting this year, center Arinze Onuaku's knee tendonitis killed the 'Cuse's ability to run an effect 2-3 zone, allowing Villanova's talented forward Dante Cunningham to drop 31 points. AO should be healthy this time around and could be the difference. 'Nova is undersized and could be pushed around if the Orange frontcourt combo of Rick Jackson and Onauku have productive games.
The 'Cuse might also finally have the guard play to matchup fairly evenly with 'Nova. Over the last five games, Jonny Flynn has averaged 24 points and Eric Devendorf has averaged 20.6.
Villanova must exploit the SU 2-3 zone with solid three-point shooting, but also find Cunningham in the holes of the zone inside the arc. If the Wildcats do both, they could hang 100 again on the 'Cuse, do one maybe pick up a victory. Do neither and Jay Wright's team might take a thumping on Jim Boehiem Court.
My pick: Syracuse 85, Villanova 79
Butler (22) at Davidson, Noon on ESPN
The most important bracketbuster game of the weekend will feature two mid-majors on serious slides. The Bulldogs have lost two straight in the Horizon League which means Brad Stevens' club is sliding straight down the NCAA Tournament bracket.
Butler needs to win this game at Davidson to ensure it makes the tournament. It's hard to believe the Bulldogs could miss the Big Dance, but with a tough game against Davidson and another date with a tough Cleveland State squad, Butler could be looking at having six losses entering its conference tournament. At this point, the Bulldogs don't look like the Horizon League favorite anymore. A six losses Horizon League team isn't a lock to make the tournament.
Davidson is facing a similar predicament. Even with Stephen Curry, the Wildcats don't look like locks to win the Southern Conference Tournament. A loss against Butler and a loss in the conference tournament and Davidson shouldn't be going dancing. The RPI won't be there, if Davidson loses twice, its RPI will sink to around 60. At that point, the best argument for having Davidson in the tournament is the entertainment value and ratings Stephen Curry will bring.
As for the game between the two squads, if Curry plays, Davidson should have the upper hand with its home court advantage and experience. Butler has a few young phenoms in sophomore Matt Howard, one of the nation's most improved players and freshman Gordon Hayward, the team's leading scorer.
My pick: Davidson 64, Butler 60
Missouri (10) at Colorado, 1:30 Saturday on ESPN360
The Buffaloes recently took Texas to overtime, but shouldn't really stand much of a chance against the Tigers. Missouri should continue its hot streak with another convincing victory.
My pick: Missouri 88, Colorado 61
South Florida at UConn (1), 2:00 Saturday on ESPN360
The Huskies definitely need a breather after their loss to Pitt on Monday. South Florida isn't a gimme after defeated Marquette, but it should be a chance for UConn to learn how to win without Jerome Dyson.
My pick: UConn 78, South Florida 61
Marquette (11) at Georgetown, 2:00 Saturday on ESPN
The Hoyas MUST win this game against the Golden Eagles. A loss means GTOWN could be looking at 10 Big East losses and a trip to the NIT. Marquette was struggling a bit, but games against St. John's and Seton Hall have the Golden Eagles back on track.
My pick: Marquette 75, Georgetown 72
Louisville (7) at Cincinnati, 2:00 Saturday on ESPN360
The Cardinals lost to the Bearcats last year so Rick Pitino will be looking for revenge. Cincinnati desperately needs this so its bubble doesn't burst, but it's not looking good. Louisville's extremely efficient defense will prove to be too much for Cincinnati to handle.
My pick: Louisville 79, Cincinnati 65
Indiana at Purdue (21), 2:00 Saturday
The Boilermakers got a much marquee win against Michigan State last time out, but this game against Indiana can really only hurt Purdue. A win against the Hooisers doesn't mean much.
My pick: Purdue 56, Indiana 42
Washington State at UCLA (15), 3:00 Saturday
Although the Bruins have done absolutely, positively nothing to deserve that ranking, they will still take of business easily against a mediocre Cougar team.
My pick: UCLA 75, Washington State 62
North Carolina (3) at Maryland, 3:30 Saturday
The Tar Heels are rolling and have a two game lead in the ACC. UNC smell a number one ranking potentially in its near future which means the Terrapins are cruising for bruising.
My pick: North Carolina 96, Maryland 75
Memphis (6) at UTEP, 4:00 Saturday ESPN
The Tigers are going to lose a Conference USA game at some point this year and Saturday will be that day against the Miners. Stefon Jackson is one of the best-unknown players in the country and will give freshman point guard Tyreke Evans fits.
My pick: UTEP 78, Memphis 73
Nebraska at Kansas (18), 4:00 Saturday ESPN360
The Cornhuskers need this win because of bubble implications, but the Jayhawks aren't losing on their home court to an inferior team.
My pick: Kansas 82, Nebraska 68
Utah State (23) at Saint Mary's, 5:00 Saturday ESPN2
The Aggies and Gaels are both facing must win situations in this Bracketbuster game. If those two teams don't win their conferences, an at-large bid may be hard to come by especially for the Patty Mills-less Gaels.
My pick: Utah State 67, Saint Mary's 61
DePaul at Pittsburgh (4), 7:00 Saturday on ESPN360
How does Jerry Wainwright still have a job? Pitt could win this game by 40.
My pick: Pittsburgh 94, DePaul 68
Washington (19) at USC, 7:00 Saturday
A common theme of the day is bubble teams facing must win situations. The Trojans fall in the same category with a home against a hot ranked team.
My pick: Washington 77, USC 73
Auburn at LSU (24), 8:00 Saturday
If Auburn tipped-off against LSU at home, Auburn is hot enough it might be a favorite, but on the road in Baton Rouge, and things don't look good for Jeff Lebo's squad.
My pick: LSU 75, Auburn 68
Pepperdine at Gonzaga (20), 11:30 Saturday on ESPNU
The Waves are absolutely terrible. Like Pitt-DePaul, Gonzaga could win this game by at least 40 points.
My pick: Gonzaga 88, Pepperdine 54
(13) Clemson at Georgia Tech, 1:00 Sunday on ESPN360
The Tigers haven't been playing the best ball and matchup against the Yellow Jackets who have several future pros. G-Tech won't have any trouble breaking the Clemson press and will sneak away with an upset victory.
My pick: Georgia Tech 84, Clemson 83
George Washington at Xavier (17), 1:00 Sunday
The Musketeers are starting to free fall in the Atlantic 10, but a home game against GWU will get them back on track.
My pick: Xavier 74, George Washington 52
Illinois (16) at Ohio State, 1:00 Sunday on CBS
So the joke used to be first team to break 50 wins in the Big Ten, but after the Illini's 38-33 loss to Penn State, maybe the saying should be first to 35 wins?
My pick: Ohio State 57, Illinois 43
Wisconsin at Michigan State (5), 3:00 Sunday on ESPN
The Badgers are suddenly hot and may be one of the last one or two teams into the NCAA Tournament field right now. The Spartans will be too strong at home despite losses to Penn State and Northwestern for Wisconsin to continue its nice run.
My pick: Michigan State 61, Wisconsin 54
Arizona at Arizona State (11), 10:00 Sunday
The Wildcats should really be ranked, not UCLA when comparing the two teams' resumes. ASU already knocked of UCLA and should do the same at home against a very similar team in terms of quality on Sunday.
My pick: Arizona State 67, Arizona 63