The last weekend of college basketball’s regular season has already arrived. Hope you stretched those muscles, because March’s madness has already done some flexing and we’re sure to get more drama and thrills over the next two days. Saturday and Sunday will provide five automatic bids from these conferences: Mountain West, OVC, Missouri Valley, ASUN and Big South.
CBS will air the Mountain West title game Saturday at 5:30 p.m. ET. CBS will, as always, have the Valley championship the Sunday before Selection Sunday. Arch Madness will tip off Sunday at 2 p.m. ET.
Below, as always, expert picks for the five most intriguing/high-profile games of the weekend.
All times ET
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Kentucky was one of the hottest teams in the country until a humbling loss on Tuesday against Tennessee. The Wildcats have already secured the SEC regular season title, but coach John Calipari will demand urgency from his team so it does not enter the postseason with the foul stench of that loss to the Volunteers lingering overhead. That urgency should be enough to spur Kentucky to a straight up victory. Pick: Kentucky +3.5 (David Cobb)
No. 1 Kansas (-3.5) at Texas Tech
2 p.m. (ESPN)
Kansas has won 15-straight and risen to the top of the college basketball rankings. Texas Tech, on the other hand, has lost three-straight and desperately needs a win to feel comfortable as Selection Sunday looms. And yet: don’t discount KU’s motivations. The Jayhawks can clinch the Big 12 outright Saturday with a win over the Red Raiders — and add another feather in the cap of their already-great No. 1 seed resume. Even with Tech at home, I’m laying the points on the better team here with KU. Pick: Kansas -3.5 (Kyle Boone)
No. 8 Seton Hall at No. 11 Creighton (-4)
2:30 p.m. (Fox)
Did I expect, a few weeks back, that Seton Hall would need to win at Creighton on the final Saturday of the regular season to be outright Big East champ? No. Based on how things were going, I figured the Pirates would have things locked up by now. But they missed a chance to secure the outright title earlier in the week at home — so now here they are. And, yes, I’m very aware that Creighton is 15-1 at home. But Seton Hall has already won at Villanova, Butler, Marquette and Xavier. So put me down for the Pirates to add another massive win on the road and get their first outright league title since 1993. Pick: Seton Hall +4 (Gary Parrish)
No way I’m stepping in the way of the hottest team in America. Mick Cronin and the Bruins have leveled up in a major way since USC’s 11-point win in Pauley Pavilion more than a month ago. UCLA has gone 11-3 since that first meeting, including seven straight wins and regular season sweeps of Colorado and Arizona. Rivalry factor and revenge factor are on UCLA’s side and while I like them to win I love the play to cover the number. Pick: UCLA +4.5 (Chip Patterson)
North Carolina at No. 12 Duke (-12)
6 p.m. (ESPN)
Cole Anthony said earlier this week that he felt North Carolina was playing like a top-10 team as of late. Most will chuckle at that, but the Tar Heels have won three straight by an average of 9.7 points. It’s the first three-game win streak for Roy Williams’ team since Nov. 27. Since Feb. 18, Duke has been the 41st-best team in college basketball, according to BartTorvik.com’s calculations. This line is bloated. UNC should have defeated Duke at home a month ago. The Blue Devils are playing to keep their No. 2-seed hopes alive. Mike Krzyzewski’s team will get the win, but Carolina can and should have the game in single digits most of the night. Pick: North Carolina +12 (Matt Norlander)