I've really been slacking this basketball season with my weekend picks and predictions. But this weekend with a slew of great basketball, I've decided I'm going to try and redeem myself as the back half of league play begins.
Twenty-two of the top 25 teams in the land are in action Saturday, so there are sure to be a lot of terrific games that keep us glued to the TV. Four games feature a pair of ranked teams going head-to-head, including a Duke-Notre Dame rematch. This weekend is going to be a fun one.
Also, Arkansas great Sidney Moncrief is going to be honored with a banner of his No. 32 jersey at halftime of Saturday's matchup with Mississippi State. It's long overdue, and great to see Arkansas really honoring its history. Wouldn't it be great if Arkansas decided to name the court after Nolan Richardson when he's honored soon? We can all hope. And there's no way the Razorbacks fall on their faces in this one.
It's absurd to me that a 6-foot-4 guard is STILL the program's all-time leading rebounder. I can remember the first time my dad told me that. They just don't make them like Sidney anymore.
Anyway, here are my picks and predictions for this weekend. Feel free to agree or disagree in the comments section:
No. 1 Kentucky at Florida – 8 p.m. on ESPN
College Gameday will be in the O'Dome as Kentucky tries to remain perfect. I don't fully get why Gainesville is the location for the show this week with so many other great matchups, but it just shows how enfatuated ESPN is with the Wildcats. Arkansas should have won at Florida, so I'm going with Kentucky big in this one. Should have gone to Louisville-Virginia, ESPN.
No. 9 Louisville at No. 3 Virgina – 6 p.m. on ESPN
If I had a say in where Gameday should have gone, I would have went with Virginia. The Cavaliers are the team I'm keeping a close eye on. I'm on the bandwagon and have been for a while. They will lock you up on defense, and then Justin Anderson will put it on your head on offense. Louisville may not score 40 points Saturday. I like Virginia in this one.
No. 10 Notre Dame at No. 4 Duke – Noon on CBS
Coach K and Duke will be looking for revenge after falling to the Irish in South Bend early in conference play. Jerian Grant put up 23 points, 12 assists and six rebounds in the first matchup. Duke's key will be to limit him and I think they do just enough to win in Cameron. The Blue Devils have been somewhat shaky at home, however. I'm taking Duke.
No. 24 Georgetown at No. 7 Villanova – 1 p.m. on FOX
After falling to Georgetown on the road Jan. 19, Villanova will look to maintain its current half-game lead atop the Big East standings. The Wildcats share the basketball well (top 25 in the nation in assists) and shoot the 3-ball well. Georgetown has been inconsistent this season and I expect that to continue at Villanova. Jay Wright's club takes care of the Hoyas by 10+.
No. 19 Baylor at No. 15 West Virginia – 11 a.m. on ESPNU
I'm still trying to wrap my mind around LSU winning at WVU. It's even more of a headscratcher now that the Tigers lost at home to AUBURN. West Virginia won't lose at home this weekend. As Myron Medcalf would say, "Baylor be Baylor." Bob Huggins' team will be ready to go, and should play well in front of a big crowd. West Virginia is an interesting team and one that could give Kansas and Iowa State fits as the Big 12 schedule begins to wind down. I've got West Virginia.
Mississippi State at Arkansas – 3 p.m. on SEC Network
As I said before, there is no way the Razorbacks lose to the Bulldogs this weekend. Rick Ray's club is coming off a tough road win at Tennessee behind 26 points from Craig Sword, but they won't be ready for 19,000 in Bud Walton Arena Saturday. If you add the attendance of four MSU home games together, you get the crowd they'll face as Arkansas honors Sidney Moncrief tomorrow. I think the Razorbacks show out for Sidney, much like they did for the Final Four teams and Bill Clinton last season vs. LSU.
No. 17 Maryland at Iowa – 2:15 p.m. on Big Ten Network
So far, this weekend's picks have been chalk. But I really like this Maryland team with Melo Trimble and Dez Wells. Trimble, a freshman, has gone for 24+ points in two of his last three games. The key for Maryland to go into Iowa and win is containing Aaron White and Mike Gesell. Let these guys get loose and the Terps could be in for a long day. But I think Jake Layman can matchup well with White and give him fits. I'm taking Maryland on the road.