College basketball picks, odds, schedule: Predictions for Duke vs. UNC and the rest of Saturday’s big games
The blend of drama between regular season races wrapping and conference tournaments hitting stride ensures we’re in for quite a day in the realm of college basketball on Saturday.
League races in the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, SEC, and the Big East will be decided (either with ties or outright champs crowned), a conference tournament champion in the OVC will earn the first auto-bid to the NCAAs this season, and meanwhile, semifinals, quarterfinals and first round action across a large chunk of the landscape will be going on all day. It’s that time of year when you really need to move the TV from the guest room to the living room with the big screen. Call your cable provider immediately to set this up; dual monitors are a must. Your wife will thank you when “The Bachelor” comes on Monday night and she can watch Colton Underwood hopping fences on two separate screens.
So before you plop in front of the tube for a fully loaded slate of games, check out how myself and the rest of the college hoops experts forecast the day’s biggest games to unfold.
[Which college basketball teams should you back today? And who should you avoid like the plague? Visit SportsLine now to see projected scores and stats from 10,000 simulations, Vegas insider picks, and optimized March Madness brackets, and find out!]
Florida at No. 6 Kentucky (-12), 2 p.m. on CBS, CBSSports.com and streaming on fuboTV : Kentucky’s lost just once at home all season: Feb. 12 against LSU. And even that game ended under fluky circumstances that could have gone either way. I suspect UK’s hot streak at home will continue, but given all that is at stake for the Gators and their NCAA Tournament prospects, it will be a spirited effort by the Gators that comes up just short. Kyle Boone’s pick: — Florida +12
No. 4 Duke at No. 3 North Carolina (-3), 6 p.m. on ESPN: Mike Krzyzewski said after Tuesday’s win over Wake Forest that he does not expect Zion Williamson to play Saturday at North Carolina. If true, it’s understandable because Williamson is, you know, still recovering from a knee sprain. But it would also be too bad because it would mean the presumed No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft will have spent a total of just 36 regular-season seconds playing against UNC. That just seems wrong. Either way, with or without Williamson, this is still Duke- North Carolina — where a win for the Tar Heels will ensure at least a share of the ACC title. And though I do believe Duke, when healthy, is the nation’s best team, I can’t predict Duke, shorthanded, to win at UNC — if only because I don’t think I’d pick anybody to win at UNC with the way the Tar Heels have been playing. UNC is 13-1 in its past 14 games with lopsided victories over Virginia Tech, Florida State and, yes, Duke. So this game will be more competitive than the first meeting, I think. But the result will be the same. — Gary Parrish’s pick: North Carolina -3
Oklahoma at No. 18 Kansas State (-6), 6 p.m. on ESPN2: After driving home the stake in Kansas‘ incredible 14-year run of Big 12 regular season championships (in dominating and emphatic fashion, no less) it’s likely that the Sooners have already notched its biggest and most impressive win of the year. Asking this group to repeat that feat in the Octagon of Doom against a Kansas State team fighting for a Big 12 title is a little bit much. Given the pace and low-scoring tendencies of both teams, covering this single-digit spread will probably take a mostly dominant performance by the Wildcats. I just happen to think that’s just what Bruce Weber has in store. — Chip Patterson’s pick: Kansas State -6
Louisville at No. 2 Virginia (-12.5), 4 p.m. on ESPN: Louisville is comfortably in the NCAA Tournament field, but what a brutal way to end the regular season. The Cards are 3-6 in its past nine games and now have to play against Tony Bennett, a man who has one loss in his career vs. Louisville. The line here makes sense; UVA rates as the best team in college basketball per multiple advanced metrics. Virginia is 10-5 covering as a home favorite this season. It still has motivation to finish atop the league standings and chase a 1 seed. Louisville does not have the personnel to overcome that environment and that defense. — Matt Norlander’s pick: Virginia -12.5
No. 7 Michigan at No. 9 Michigan State (-4), 8 p.m. on ESPN: Michigan State has been playing quite shorthanded lately, but it seems that Kyle Ahrens is ready to return to action against the Wolverines. MSU dominated the first matchup in Ann Arbor, and I cannot imagine Michigan letting that happen again. Michigan’s offense was stagnant and defense was lost. Charles Matthews may still be out for Michigan, but the Wolverines managed to win at Maryland without him. This should be a tighter affair. Jerry Palm’s pick: Michigan +4