NCAA Hoops Weekend Picks Feb 24th-26thNoah Williams
With teams across the country gearing up for conference championship play and the quickly ensuing March Madness national championship tournament, it’s time for another round of college basketball picks for this weekend’s games.
With that said, let’s get started with my trio of expert picks on three matchups that feature a whopping five, Top 25 national title contenders.
NCAA Basketball Weekend Picks Feb 24th-26th
No. 13 Florida at No. 11 Kentucky
When: Saturday, February 25 at 2:00 PM ET
Where: Rupp Arena, Lexington, Kentucky
Analysis: Kentucky has won five straight and wants revenge for their 88-66 smackdown loss against Florida on Feb. 4, but the Gators have won nine straight and don’t look like they plan on losing any time soon.
Florida out-rebounded Kentucky 54-29 in their previous meeting while harassing Kentucky star Malik Monk into a 4-for-14 shooting effort for a modest 11 points while limiting the Wildcats to just two double-digit scorers.
While Kentucky didn’t help themselves by shooting a putrid 23-of-61 from the field (37.7%) I don’t think that’s going to be the case this time around with the Wildcats playing much better basketball in winning five straight since their loss to their SEC rivals and looking to pay the Gators back in a big way.
Kentucky’s Monk has scored at least 18 points in the last six games and I believe he will lead the Wildcats to the huge home win likely as a slight favorite of approximately 3-5 points.
Pick: Kentucky 76 Florida 70
No. 5 UCLA at No. 4 Arizona
When: Saturday, February 25 at 8:15 PM ET
Where: McKale Memorial Center, Tucson, Arizona
Analysis: The UCLA Bruins have won five straight and want revenge for their 96-85 home loss to the Arizona Wildcats on Jan. 21, but Arizona has won four straight and nine of its last 10, so getting that revenge may be easier said than actually done, especially seeing as how the Wildcats are a perfect 14-0 at home this season and UCL has suffered two of their three losses this season on the road.
The high-quality matchup will be the first game between top-five teams in the AP Top 25 in nine years and just the seventh such pairing in Pac-12 conference history. For this matchup, I’m going to advise you to back the rock-steady Arizona Wildcats to hold down the fort at home.
While UCLA Freshmen Lonzo Ball and T.J. Leaf have helped to transform UCLA into a very legitimate national title contender, but Arizona just won consecutive games without point guard Kadeem Allen and center Dusan Ristic limited to one-half. More importantly, the Wildcats just wear their opponents down with their smothering, 20th-ranked (63.5 ppg) defense and I believe that’s just what they’ll do against the Bruins in a matchup that could turn out to be the best game of the year.
Pick: Arizona 82 UCLA 79
Syracuse at No. 6 Louisville
When: Sunday, February 26 at 1:00 PM ET
Where: KFC Yum! Center, Louisville, Kentucky
Analysis: On the surface, this matchup would seem like a lock for No. 6 Louisville – until you consider the fact that Syracuse is completely desperate and coming into this matchup off a huge win in their last contest.
Not only that, but Louisville will need to get their confidence back after getting smacked around by North Carolina on Wednesday night. Throw in the fact that Syracuse nearly beat Louisville in their heartbreaking 76-72 overtime loss on Feb. 13 and it’s easy to see why an upset is possible this time around.
Syracuse snapped a three-game skid in their much-needed 78-75 upset win over Duke to improve to 6-3 over their last nine games. Louisville’s loss snapped a three-game winning streak and dropped the Cardinals to 3-2 over their last five.
For this ACC showdown, I’m going to urge you to back Louisville to get its second ‘super-narrow’ win over Syracuse this season. The Cardinals are now more desperate than expected and Syracuse has been playing underachieving basketball despite its narrow win over Duke this week .
I like the Cardinals to get the win, even though I think it’s quite possible the Orangemen could cover if the spread tops five points.
Pick: Louisville 68 Syracuse 65