With no playoff football this weekend, college basketball steps into the spotlight with a schedule packed with Top-25 showdowns. Check out our betting news and notes for every game involving a ranked program Saturday.
Syracuse Orange at Villanova Wildcats (+7.5, 133)
No. 4 Syracuse takes its eight-game winning streak and 1.5-game Big East lead into Villanova on Saturday in search of its seventh consecutive conference victory. The Orange knocked off then-No. 1 Louisville 70-68 on Jan. 19 before coming back to edge No. 20 Cincinnati 57-55 two days later. Guards Brandon Triche and Michael Carter-Williams provided clutch late-game shots in both victories. Against the Bearcats, Triche made two mid-range jumpers before a Carter-Williams 3-pointer pulled the Orange even with Cincinnati 55-55 with 1:24 left. C.J. Fair’s tip-in 1:02 later won the game. Villanova snapped a three-game losing streak when it defeated the Cardinals 73-64 on Tuesday. Ryan Arcidiacono led five Wildcats players in double digits with 15 points and Achraf Yacoubou made a tie-breaking 3-pointer with 3:57 left as Villanova pulled away late. Syracuse beat the Wildcats 72-61 on Jan. 12 behind a 22-point effort from Fair.
Louisville Cardinals at Georgetown Hoyas (+4.5, 118)
No. 5 Louisville has had some trouble closing out games lately. The Cardinals will be looking to snap a modest two-game slide when they visit Georgetown on Saturday. Louisville was the No. 1 team in the country when it squandered a late lead and fell at home to Syracuse last Saturday. It was free throw shooting that helped doom the Cardinals late in a loss at Villanova on Tuesday. The Hoyas are coming off a strong performance at Notre Dame. Georgetown used a tight defensive effort to stifle the Fighting Irish and will look to slow the pace with Louisville as well. The Cardinals like to get out and run but have been held below 70 points in three of their last four games, including the two setbacks. Senior point guard Peyton Siva and All-American candidate Russ Smith tend to dominate the ball offensively for Louisville but have both been inconsistent with their shot in Big East play.
Ohio State Buckeyes at Penn State Nittany Lions (+13, 126)
No. 15 Ohio State travels to Penn State in search of its fourth Big Ten victory in five games. The Buckeyes are fresh off a 72-63 win over Iowa on Tuesday in which leading scorer Deshaun Thomas overcame a cut under his eye to score 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting and grab seven rebounds. Before beating the Hawkeyes, Ohio State lost to No. 11 Michigan State 59-56 on Jan. 19 and defeated No.3 Michigan 56-53 six days prior. The Nittany Lions are winless in conference play. They lost to No. 8 Indiana 72-49 on Wednesday, shooting just 2-of-15 from beyond the arc. Penn State has lost by at least nine points to six of its seven Big Ten opponents.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish at South Florida Bulls (+3, 119)
Notre Dame has lost three of its last four games after a 14-1 start, capped by a demoralizing 16-point loss at home to Georgetown on Monday. The Irish play three of the next four games on the road, beginning at struggling South Florida on Saturday afternoon. Notre Dame is still shooting almost 50 percent from the field and is second in the nation in assists. However, the Irish have not been good on the defensive end since league play began. Meeting South Florida might be the best medicine. The Bulls are averaging 51.7 points and shooting 37.8 percent from the field in Big East games – last in both categories – and have dropped seven straight to the Irish. South Florida could not build on its first conference victory over Georgetown, losing 55-47 at Seton Hall on Wednesday.
Maryland Terrapins at Duke Blue Devils (-13, 135)
Duke was the latest No. 1 team to fall in the week it ascended to the top of the rankings. The Blue Devils will try to shake off an embarrassing loss when they host Maryland on Saturday. Duke re-took the top spot Monday after Louisville fell on Saturday but the Blue Devils, who held the top spot for four weeks earlier in the season, were blasted 90-63 at Miami on Wednesday. The Terrapins have won two of three. Duke went more than eight minutes without a field goal in the first half against the Hurricanes and suffered the third-worst loss ever for a No. 1-ranked team. The Blue Devils, whose other loss came at North Carolina State, have yet to lose at home. Maryland has struggled on the road in ACC play, falling at Miami and North Carolina, and is averaging 55.2 points over its last five games. The battle between Terrapins center Alex Len and Duke big man Mason Plumlee could be a look at two future NBA draft picks.
Kansas State Wildcats at Iowa State Cyclones (-3.5, 134)
No. 13 Kansas State looks to rebound from a 59-55 loss to No. 2 Kansas when it travels to Iowa State on Saturday. The Wildcats had an eight-game winning streak snapped when their in-state rivals handed them their first Big 12 defeat on Tuesday. Leading scorer Rodney McGruder managed just 13 points on 3-of-9 shooting from deep in the loss. Iowa State had won three straight before falling to Texas Tech 56-51 on Wednesday. Will Clyburn logged his fourth double-double of the season with 12 points and 10 rebounds, but the Cyclones shot just 6-for-23 (26.1 percent) from 3-point range.
Minnesota Golden Gophers at Wisconsin Badgers (-2, 125)
Wisconsin is in the midst of a brutal stretch that has the team facing eight ranked opponents in a span of 11 games. That includes a pair of contests against No. 14 Minnesota, the first of which will be played at Wisconsin on Saturday afternoon. The Badgers hit their high point of the season with a two-point upset at then-No. 2 Indiana on Jan. 15 but have dropped their last two games, including a 49-47 loss to 11th-ranked Michigan State on Tuesday night. Minnesota could tumble out of the rankings next week following a three-game losing streak. The Golden Gophers opened the season 15-1 and were riding an 11-game losing streak before back-to-back losses to Big Ten Conference heavyweights Indiana and Michigan. The skid reached three in Wednesday's 55-48 loss at Northwestern, a game in which Minnesota was held to its lowest point total of the season. Wisconsin has won the last three meetings.
Oklahoma Sooners at Kansas Jayhawks (-14, 132)
Kansas is poised to take over the No. 1 ranking in the USA Today Coaches
poll, but first the second-ranked Jayhawks have to get past visiting
Oklahoma on Saturday in a battle for first place in the Big 12
Conference. Kansas has ripped off 16 consecutive victories - the longest
active winning streak in the nation - and is coming off a pair of
hard-fought road wins at Texas and bitter rival Kansas State. The
Jayhawks have dominated the series with Oklahoma in recent seasons,
winning the last nine meetings. The Sooners have bounced back
from an ugly home loss to Stephen F. Austin on Dec. 18 with victories in
six of their last seven games. The only loss in that stretch was a
nine-point defeat at Kansas State a week ago. Oklahoma had dropped six
straight games to Texas before squeezing out a 73-67 victory Monday
behind a career-high 29 points from Romero Osby. The 6-8 Osby leads the
Sooners in scoring (14.5 points) and rebounding (6.5) and is averaging
19.2 points in conference play.
New Mexico Lobos at San Diego State Aztecs (-4, 127)
New Mexico is the only undefeated team in Mountain West Conference play and the No. 17 Lobos can turn their unblemished mark into a commanding lead if they can win at No. 25 San Diego State on Saturday. New Mexico was forecasted to battle the Aztecs and Nevada-Las Vegas for the regular-season crown and both San Diego State and UNLV already have two league losses. “We want to stay undefeated for as long as possible in conference,” senior guard Chad Adams said after Wednesday’s victory over Colorado State. “If we could go all year, that would be great. We’re all trying to get some rings.” The Aztecs defeated Nevada on Wednesday to snap a two-game losing skid. San Diego State won its first eight home games before losing to UNLV on Jan. 16.
Vanderbilt Commodores at Missouri Tigers (-14, 128)
Missouri will try to notch consecutive conference wins for the first time in its tenure in the Southeastern Conference when the 22nd-ranked Tigers host Vanderbilt on Saturday afternoon. The Tigers have gotten off to a bumpy start in their first season of Southeastern Conference play with losses at Mississippi and Florida, but they're 3-0 at home in league play and 11-0 overall at Mizzou Arena. They survived a scare Tuesday, overcoming a 13-point deficit for a 71-65 home win over South Carolina. The Commodores have won two straight after losing their first three conference games, and they're coming off a 73-61 win against Auburn on Wednesday. The teams are meeting for the sixth time with Vanderbilt holding a 3-2 advantage. They split a home-and-home series in 2009 and 2010 with the host team winning each game.
Temple Owls at Butler Bulldogs (-8.5, 127)
Butler is expected to have shooting guard Rotnei Clarke back in the lineup when the Bulldogs host Temple, which has won three of its last four games. The ninth-ranked Bulldogs have gone 1-2 without their leading scorer, who missed three games with a sprained neck after crashing into a padded basket support on Jan. 12 at Dayton. Clarke ranks fifth in the Atlantic 10 in scoring at 16.3 points per game, and he was clearly missed when La Salle snapped Butler’s 13-game winning streak with a 54-53 victory on Wednesday. The Bulldogs are 33-10 following a loss under coach Brad Stevens and 9-0 this season at Hinkle Fieldhouse, but the Owls showed they’re capable of an upset when they beat then-No. 3 Syracuse last month.
Washington Huskies at Oregon Ducks (-9, 138)
Last week it appeared Washington and No. 19 Oregon had a chance to bring unbeaten Pac-12 records into their game Saturday afternoon in Eugene, Ore., but then the Huskies were beaten by Utah and Oregon State, two teams that were previously winless in conference play. Washington got off to a slow start in both games and never led. The Huskies must answer the bell against an Oregon team that’s off to its best start in conference play since 1925-26. The Ducks feature five players who average double figures in scoring, plus 6-7 senior forward Arsalan Kazemi, who averages 8.8 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.2 steals. Kazemi made his first Pac-12 start Wednesday against visiting Washington State and produced 16 points, seven rebounds and four steals in the 68-61 victory. Kazemi will have to battle for rebounds with Aziz N’Diaye, the 7-foot senior center for Washington who averages 10.7 points and 9.5 boards.
North Carolina Tar Heels at North Carolina State Wolfpack (-6, 153)
With surprising Miami (Fla) undefeated in Atlantic Coast Conference play, the pressure is already on No. 18 North Carolina State to go on a long winning streak in order to fulfill its preseason expectations of winning the conference. After losses in two of their last three, a rare win by the Wolfpack over North Carolina on Saturday would be a step in the right direction. Following a win against then-No. 1 Duke on Jan. 12, North Carolina State has since sandwiched a pair of road losses against Maryland and Wake Forest by a total of three points around a home win against Clemson. In order to keep pace with the league-leading Hurricanes, the Wolfpack need to end their 13-game slide against the Tar Heels. North Carolina is on a three-game winning streak after beginning ACC play 0-2. The Tar Heels defeated Georgia Tech 79-63 on Wednesday.
USC Trojans at Arizona Wildcats (-16, 137)
Arizona’s strong start has given way to two losses in four games and the No. 6 Wildcats strive to relocate their groove when they host Southern California on Saturday. Arizona won its first 14 games and Thursday’s 84-73 home loss to unranked UCLA was easily its worst performance of the season. The Wildcats dug themselves a 21-5 hole and were just 5-of-24 from 3-point range. “When you get down like that, it’s hard to fight back,” senior forward Solomon Hill said afterwards. Arizona is now two full games behind Pac-12 leader Oregon, which handed the Wildcats their first loss. The Trojans lost 98-93 in overtime to Arizona State on Thursday to drop to 1-2 under interim coach Bob Cantu, who replaced Kevin O’Neill on Jan. 14. USC’s offense has emerged to average 78 points over the last four contests.
Mississippi Rebels at Auburn Tigers (+7.5, 141)
Riding an SEC-best eight-game win streak, No. 24 Ole Miss tries to stay atop the conference when it visits struggling Auburn on Saturday night. The Rebels rallied for a 62-56 win over Tennessee on Thursday as Marshall Henderson scored 24 of his 28 points after halftime. The JUCO transfer leads the SEC in scoring (18.9), and the Rebels rank fifth nationally in scoring (81.3). The Tigers have dropped three straight, most recently falling 73-61 at Vanderbilt on Wednesday.
La Salle Explorers at VCU Rams (-12, 139)
The Explorers look to follow up their upset of Butler with another toppling of a ranked opponent when they travel to face the No. 16 Rams on Saturday. La Salle is coming off a last-second win over the No. 9 Bulldogs while VCU is trying to bounce back from an overtime loss on Thursday to Richmond that snapped the Rams' 13-game winning streak. This game could be an up-and-down affair, featuring the top two teams in the conference in steals per game and turnover margin. Both squads average in the 70s in scoring, with VCU ranking 10th in the country with its 79.0-ppg average. A close game could come down to free-throw shooting, and the Explorers have the edge there, hitting 72.2 percent from the charity stripe.
Florida Gators at Mississippi State Bulldogs (+21, 125)
No. 7 Florida faced its first halftime deficit in Southeastern Conference play this season in its last game and still won by 17 points. Given their recent dominance, the Gators appeared poised for their third 6-0 start in league play on Saturday when they travel to Mississippi State. Florida has been excelling against SEC opponents, winning by an average of 24.8 points and allowing 48.4 points per contest while also shooting 50.4 percent from the field. Just as impressively, three of the last four Gators’ victories have been on the road, including Wednesday’s 64-47 triumph against Georgia. Conversely, the Bulldogs lost 96-70 to Arkansas on Wednesday – the team’s third straight setback of at least 15 points following a 2-0 start in league action.
San Francisco Dons at Gonzaga Bulldogs (-20, 147)
Defending the 3-point line should be the primary goal Saturday evening
when No. 10 Gonzaga hosts San Francisco in a West Coast Conference game.
The Dons have made at least nine 3-pointers in a game seven times this
season and De’End Parker, a 6-6 junior guard who played two games at
UCLA last season, is shooting 47.7 percent from beyond the arc. San
Francisco may have trouble handling Gonzaga’s size, however. Without a
player taller than 6-9, the Dons have been outrebounded in all seven
conference games this season and 13 of the last 15 overall. The
Bulldogs, meanwhile, are led by 7-foot junior forward Kelly Olynyk,
who's averaging 18.5 points and 6.9 rebounds. He made all nine
field-goal attempts in a victory Thursday night against BYU, bumping his
field-goal percentage to 67.4. The second option is 6-8 senior forward
Elias Harris, who averages 15.5 points and 7.1 rebounds. He scored a
season-high 25 against BYU.
Bradley Braves at Wichita State Shockers (-16, 129)
When No. 21 Wichita State plays host to Bradley in a Missouri Valley Conference game Saturday night, the Shockers will attempt to beat the Braves for the second time this season. Wichita State won 69-63 when the teams met Jan. 6 in Peoria, Ill. The Shockers have a three-game winning streak and are coming off a 62-52 victory at Missouri State on Wednesday. Bradley, which is coming off a 66-56 loss at Evansville on Wednesday, is 2-20 in MVC road games since the start of the 2010-11 season. Although Bradley is 71-61 in the series against Wichita State, the Shockers are 41-20 all-time at home against the Braves and have won six straight in the series.