LOUISVILLE at No. 16 KENTUCKY (-5), Fri. 1:00 p.m.
To be frank, I really have no idea what to make of either one of these teams at this point in the season. Neither of these teams played all that demanding of a non-conference schedule, and both have undergone a ridiculous amount of turnover this offseason. Kentucky is essentially an entirely new team, with a team of freshmen led by “veterans” playing their second college season. Louisville, as we all know, lost Donovan Mitchell to the NBA, Brian Bowen to the FBI and Rick Pitino to a pink slip.
Kentucky’s only top 70 KenPom win came against Virginia Tech. Louisville’s only top 100 KenPom win came against Indiana. And one of these two programs will enter league play with three non-conference losses after Friday. Someone is going to have all the angst in the Bluegrass State come 3 p.m. ET on Friday.
- PREDICTION: Kentucky wins and Kentucky covers. Kentucky (-5)
No. 12 OKLAHOMA at No. 10 TCU (-2), Sat. 2:00 p.m.
There is so much to learn from this game. On the one hand, we get to see Trae Young playing his first road game in conference play. How will he handle the crowd (he did fine at Wichita State) and will TCU throw any new defenses at him to try and slow him down? He is the nation’s leading scorer and leader in assists.
TCU, on the other hand, is a team that I still think has something to prove. They’re still somewhat unknown at this point. Their win over SMU came on the same night as the Jimmy V Classic, and their win over Nevada tipped after 1 a.m. ET. Everyone will be watching them host Trae Young, however. What will they have in store?
- PREDICTION: TCU finds a way to get the job done at home while solidifying their presence in the state of Texas. TCU (-2)
No. 3 ARIZONA STATE at No. 17 ARIZONA (-5), Sat. 9:00 p.m.
What will win out on Saturday night in Arizona: The matchup or the home court?
Because on paper, Arizona State is precisely the kind of team that gives the Wildcats trouble. When they get spread out, when they are asked to guard a lot of ball-screens, they struggle defensively. Arizona State plays two point guards and, quite often, puts three ball-handlers on the floor together with sharpshooter Kodi Justice at the four. That should give Arizona some trouble.
But Arizona has the advantage of the McKale Center. And they have the advantage of Deandre Ayton. As difficult of a matchup as ASU will be, there are, what, a handful of people that matchup with Ayton in the sport? And Arizona State doesn’t have one of them.
- PREDICTION: In the end, I think that Ayton and company will be too much. But I do think that the game will be close and that Arizona State will have a chance to win. ASU (+5)
WHAT ELSE IS WORTH WATCHING?
- No. 7 WEST VIRGINIA (-3) at OKLAHOMA STATE, Fri. 7:00 p.m.: The Mountaineers are one of the hottest teams in college basketball at this point in the season, and I’m not convinced that OK State’s record isn’t fluky. Throw in the fact that the students are on break, and home court isn’t what Gallagher-Iba should be. PICK: WVU (-3)
- No. 18 BAYLOR at No. 22 TEXAS TECH (-6), Fri. 8:00 p.m.: Baylor’s zone is going to be tricky for the Red Raiders to deal with, but I do think that Chris Beard is going to find a way to get this win at home and cover. PICK: Texas Tech (-6)
- No. 11 KANSAS (-2) at TEXAS, Fri. 9:00 p.m.: As much as I would love to pick the Longhorns here, they have not been able to score effectively without Andrew Jones (they barely could with him) and the Jayhawks can put up big numbers in a hurry with the way that they can shoot. PICK: Kansas (-2)
- No. 19 TENNESSEE at ARKANSAS (-3), Sat. 1:00 p.m.: It is not easy to win in Fayetteville. As much as I like Tennessee this season, this is a bad matchup for them in a tough place to play. PICK: Arkansas (-3)
- No. 24 FLORIDA STATE at No. 4 DUKE (-10), Sat. 2:00 p.m.: Duke struggles to contain penetration and the Seminoles have some slashers at their disposal this season. Plus, Leonard Hamilton always has big bodies. PICK: FSU (+10)
- No. 1 VILLANOVA (-8) at BUTLER, Sat. 4:00 p.m.: I don’t think that Butler will beat Villanova at home again, but I do think that the Bulldogs will find a way to keep it close. PICK: Butler (+8)
- No. 5 TEXAS A&M (-5) at ALABAMA, Sat. 6:00 p.m.: Alabama has not looked right this season outside of the 13 minutes they played 3-on-5. Maybe Avery Johnson should look into doing that more often. PICK: A&M (-5)