Weekend Preview: Saturday will be the best day of hoops to date

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SATURDAY’S SHOWDOWNS

*(NOTE: Lines are not posted for Saturday or Sunday games as of publication. Spreads referenced are via Kenpom.com)

No. 3 PURDUE at No. 4 MICHIGAN STATE (-1), Sat. 4:00 p.m. (ESPN)

The game of the weekend, and one of the games that I have been looking forward to the most this season. Coming off of a home loss to Ohio State on Wednesday night, one where the Boilermakers blew a 14-point second half lead, Purdue will have to turn around and make the trip to the Breslin Center to take on a Michigan State team that could very well have the size inside needed to slow down Isaac Haas. And if you can slow down Isaac Haas without having to double-team him, then you can slow down what has become an uber-efficient offensive machine for Purdue. The key for Michigan State might simply be avoiding foul trouble and turnover, although with this group that is easier said than done.

  • PREDICTION: I think Michigan State gets it done at home. Michigan State (-1)

No. 5 XAVIER at CREIGHTON (-2), Sat. 2:30 p.m. (FOX)

The Musketeers have been really good this season, but they have also had a couple of games where they struggled to put away teams that they probably should not struggle with. Creighton has been up and down after losing their starting center, but they do have the two most underrated players in the league in Marcus Foster and Khyri Thomas. This game might come down to whether or not Thomas can slow down Trevon Bluiett in front of 18,000 people in Omaha.

  • PREDICTION: Like Michigan State, I think that Creighton gets this done at home. The Bluejays are not an easy team to beat in that building. Creighton (-2)

BUTLER at No. 1 VILLANOVA (-11), Sat. 12:00 p.m. (FOX)

Butler has beaten Villanova the last three times that they have played with Villanova, who is expected to be without Phil Booth and Eric Paschall on Saturday, is coming off of a home loss to St. John’s. Frankly, I think that the Wildcats will get this thing done — betting against Jalen Brunson to win a game coming off of a loss is silly, and the Wildcats had an outlier shooting performance on Wednesday — but 11 is a lot of points for a team that is missing a third of its six-man rotation.

  • PREDICTION: I don’t think the line will be 11. But if it is, this is easy. Butler (+11)

No. 24 KENTUCKY at TEXAS A&M (-4), Sat. 8:15 p.m. (ESPN)

Is Texas A&M actually back? I think that they are after winning at Auburn. I also do not think all that much of Kentucky this season, not when they are playing an Aggie team that excels at all of the things that Kentucky, in theory, should excel at.

  • PREDICTION: I think that A&M has a point to prove in this game and that they will prove it. Texas A&M (-4)

No. 12 GONZAGA at No. 11 SAINT MARY’S (-2), Sat. 10:00 p.m. (ESPN2)

If Gonzaga wins, the safe bet is probably that the WCC is going to end up being a tie for first place. If the Gaels win, they will win the regular season title outright for the first time since 2011. There is nothing better than capping off a wild Saturday with a late-night battle between these two rivals.

  • PREDICTION: Until you can prove to me that Gonzaga can slow down Jock Landale, I am riding with Saint Mary’s. Saint Mary’s (-2)

WHAT ELSE IS THERE TO WATCH?

So much.

Saturday might be the best day of basketball we get this season. Not only are there the big games, but EIGHT ranked teams play on the road against unranked teams. It is going to get wild. Here are the games you need to know about:

  • No. 10 KANSAS (-1) at BAYLOR, Sat. 2:00 p.m. (CBS): Kansas seems to play better away from home, but Baylor always gives them a fight. Kansas (-1)
  • No. 17 OKLAHOMA (-5) at IOWA STATE, Sat. 2:00 p.m. (ESPN): Who on Iowa State can slow down Trae Young? Oklahoma (-5)
  • No. 21 NORTH CAROLINA (-4) at N.C. STATE, Sat. 2:00 p.m. (ACC Net): North Carolina has already lost to N.C. State, they will be 42 hours removed from a win over Duke at tip-off and Joel Berry II riled everyone up by saying this isn’t a rivalry. N.C. State (+4)
  • No. 8 AUBURN at GEORGIA, Sat. 3:30 p.m. (SEC Net): Georgia badly needs this win, and Auburn will be without leading scorer Bryce Brown, but I like the Tigers to bounce back after losing to A&M midweek. Auburn (-5)
  • No. 15 TENNESSEE (-4) at ALABAMA, Sat. 6:00 p.m. (SEC Net): This is a tough line, and when it’s a tough line, go with the home team. Alabama (+4)
  • No. 7 TEXAS TECH (-2) at KANSAS STATE, Sat. 8:00 p.m. (ESPNU): I think that the Red Raiders have found their groove and figured out how to play without Zach Smith. Texas Tech (-2)
  • USC at No. 13 ARIZONA (-6), Sat. 10:15 p.m.: First place in the Pac-12 will be on the line on Saturday. USC gives the Wildcats a fight. USC (+6)
  • No. 6 CINCINNATI (-5) at SMU, Sun. 4:00 p.m. (ESPN): Will Shake Milton be back? If he is, I like SMU plus the points. If not, good luck breaking 50 points against this Cincinnati defense.