Monday, March 20, 2023

College basketball picks, schedule: Predictions for Duke vs. Syracuse and other Top 25 games Saturday

Saturday’s slate of college basketball action is relatively light by January’s standards, as just 15 of the AP Top 25 are scheduled to be in action. But there will still be plenty to watch and wager on throughout the day, beginning with No. 6 Duke’s showdown against Syracuse at noon ET.

The Blue Devils will be looking to bounce back from Tuesday night’s loss at Florida State against an Orange squad capable of offensive explosions. But if that one turns into a blowout, the game of the day will tip off at 1 p.m. as No. 2 Auburn hosts No. 12 Kentucky on CBS.

It’s the only scheduled meeting this season between the SEC’s frontrunners and a pair of squads that have looked like national title contenders in recent weeks. A victory would give the Tigers ample ammunition to be No. 1 in the polls on Monday, while a road win for the Wildcats would easily stand out as their best victory of the season.

There are plenty of other interesting matchups dotting Saturday’s schedule as well, and our experts have predictions for the top games here as conference races begin to heat up and the NCAA Tournament field begins to form.

Odds via Caesars Sportsbook | All times Eastern

Syracuse at No. 6 Duke

Noon | ESPN,  fuboTV (Try for free) — Syracuse is entering off one of its best offensive games of the season, a 91-78 home win over Clemson on Tuesday. But the Orange are just 2-6 away from home. Duke is coming off an overtime loss at Florida State and should be inspired to rebound and protect the basketball after a failure to do those things cost it a victory against the Seminoles. Looming large is the status of Duke freshman guard Trevor Keels, who suffered a calf injury against FSU. If he is out or limited, the Orange have enough offensive firepower to make this one close. Prediction: Duke 78, Syracuse 75 

No. 12 Kentucky at No. 2 Auburn 

1 p.m. | CBS, CBSSports.comCBS Sports App (Free) — Auburn Arena should be completely unhinged for this game as the Tigers hunt for a victory that would get the attention of the AP voters who narrowly held them back from reaching No. 1 last week. The Kentucky offense has enjoyed impressive outings recently, but Auburn’s guards should be pesky enough to disrupt the Wildcats’ flow. On the interior, Walker Kessler’s length should keep Oscar Tshiebwe from dominating. In the end, home court advantage will make the difference in a close Auburn win. Prediction: Auburn 76, Kentucky 71 

No. 5 Baylor at Oklahoma

3 p.m. | ESPN+ (Try for free) — It’s the second meeting of the month for these two squads after Baylor won 84-74 on Jan. 4. The Sooners were within striking distance late in the first game and have home-court advantage this time. With Baylor point guard and leading scorer James Akinjo questionable after scoring 27 points in the first meeting, don’t be surprised if the Sooners spring an upset. First-year coach Porter Moser is getting great reviews for how the Sooners are looking, and Baylor has become surprisingly vulnerable since the last meeting. Prediction: Oklahoma 68, Baylor 66 

No. 13 LSU at No. 24 Tennessee

6 p.m. | ESPN,  fuboTV (Try for free) — It’s a rematch of a game that LSU won 79-67 two weeks ago, with the difference being that this one will be contested at Tennessee. The Tigers have dropped two of three since then, while the Volunteers have won two of three. Tennessee is shooting a horrendous 29.9% from 3-point range in conference play thus far, and LSU’s 3-point defense remains among the best in the nation. It should be closer this time around, but it’s hard to trust Tennessee’s offense right now. Prediction: LSU 67, Tennessee 62 

No. 9 UCLA at Colorado

9 p.m. | Pac-12 Network,  fuboTV (Try for free) — The Bruins and Buffaloes clash in a rematch of UCLA’s 73-61 win on Dec. 1 in Los Angeles. UCLA used a 23-9 edge in points off turnovers in that game to make the difference as CU was particularly shaky with the basketball in the first half. Those issues underscored the challenges of replacing McKinley Wright IV at point guard, but it would be surprising if the Buffs struggled and coughed it up as much during the rematch on their home floor. Neither team plays at a fast pace, and neither is particularly reliant on 3-pointers, which means this could be a low-scoring clash decided in the final minutes. Prediction: UCLA 66, Colorado 62 

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