KANSAS AT WEST VIRGINIA (Wednesday)
Bob Huggins was embarrassed last season when the Mountaineers won only 15 games and finished 4-14 in the Big 12. He’s back, and so is the “Press” Virginia defensive intensity. West Virginia ranks No. 2 in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency (Kenpom.com). It might be hard for some to believe, because Bill Self is not exactly Tony Bennett, but Kansas ranks No. 1 on the defensive end. The first meeting between these teams Jan. 4 was all about defense. The Jayhawks, 10-point home favorites, rallied to win 60-53 as the score never threatened the total of 141. Defense travels, which means both teams will be able to win away from home in March. I doubt the Jayhawks will win this one in Morgantown. With 7-footer Udoka Azubuike and point guard Devon Dotson leading the way, Kansas still tops my power rankings. But the Mountaineers, who have not lost at home in league play, will be my play in a pick-’em game.
IOWA AT INDIANA (Thursday)
It’s about time to put Archie Miller on a hot seat near the end of his third season. The Hoosiers (15-8) have lost four in a row and are in jeopardy of missing the NCAA tournament for the fourth straight year. Indiana’s offensive system is in disarray, and effort is lacking on defense. The Hoosiers just dropped their sixth straight to Purdue and flopped on the day former coach Bob Knight made an emotional return to Assembly Hall after a 20-year absence. With a tough schedule down the stretch, this is a must-win game against Iowa. The Hawkeyes are the Atlanta Hawks of the Big Ten — all offense and no defense. Iowa ranks third in offensive efficiency and 109th in defensive efficiency. The Hawkeyes, who were bombed 104-68 at Purdue a week ago, don’t play well on the road because they don’t defend. Junior center Luka Garza (23.1 points, 9.9 rebounds per game) will be tough for the Hoosiers to contain. I’ll probably bet a desperate Indiana team as a short home favorite — and might regret it.
SYRACUSE AT FLORIDA STATE (Saturday)
Like clockwork, the Orange are in NCAA bubble trouble with March around the corner. Syracuse (14-9) ranks 56th overall on Kenpom and needs a few key wins to strengthen its case, so this is a big opportunity in Tallahassee. Jim Boeheim’s team is 3-1 on the road in ACC play, with wins at Notre Dame, Virginia and Virginia Tech and a one-point loss at Clemson. Florida State is No. 8 in the AP poll, yet the metrics show this is an overrated team (No. 20 on Kenpom). The Seminoles (20-4) shot 3-for-18 on 3s and made 12 of 20 free throws Monday in a 70-65 loss at Duke. Syracuse will be about a seven-point road dog and could be worth a look due to its recent success on the road.
PURDUE AT OHIO STATE (Saturday)
The Boilermakers did not have a quality road win all season until upsetting Indiana 74-62 last weekend. Purdue does not have a go-to scorer, such as Carsen Edwards last season, but is getting it done with defense, offensive rebounding and hot 3-point shooting. Still, the Boilermakers’ shooting percentage is significantly worse on the road. The Buckeyes will hold their own in the paint behind 6-foot-9, 270-pound forward Kaleb Wesson (14.0 points, 9.6 rebounds). With two slow-paced offensive teams likely getting involved in a typical Big Ten grinder, look Under the total and lean to Ohio State.
WEST VIRGINIA AT BAYLOR (Saturday)
The Bears remain No. 1 in the AP poll, but they are wobbling after recent close calls against Texas, Oklahoma State and Kansas State — three teams nowhere near the top 25. Baylor’s only loss was to Washington, the last-place team in the Pac-12. The Bears are going down again soon, but will it happen here? It’s not a positive scheduling spot for the Mountaineers, who host Kansas on Wednesday, so this is a wait-and-see decision. It’s likely to be West Virginia or pass for me.
MARYLAND AT MICHIGAN STATE (Saturday)
From No. 1 in the preseason to out of the top 25, the Spartans carried the baggage of a three-game losing streak into Tuesday’s test at Illinois. The Terrapins sit on top of the Big Ten standings. We have seen this script before, and coach Tom Izzo almost always finds a way for Michigan State to click down the stretch and get rolling in March. Don’t stop believing.
ARIZONA AT STANFORD (Saturday)
Just when it seemed the Wildcats were about to make a big run in the Pac-12, the wheels fell off Saturday in a 65-52 loss to UCLA. The Bruins were 12½-point underdogs in Tucson, and the only sense you could make of that result is Arizona relies heavily on freshmen and young teams will look bad at times. So this becomes a much bigger game for Sean Miller. He has the talent edge against Stanford, which is 1-5 in its last six games.
SAN DIEGO STATE AT BOISE STATE (Sunday)
Expect sharp money to show against the Aztecs (24-0) as stubborn bettors continue to try to fade the nation’s only undefeated team. San Diego State had covered three straight going into Tuesday’s game against New Mexico. Wildly inconsistent for most of the season, Boise State has won five of six and will give the Aztecs their best shot.
NORTH CAROLINA AT NOTRE DAME (Monday)
Senior forward John Mooney (16.5 points, 13.0 rebounds) is a top-five player in the ACC, yet a loss to the Tar Heels could send Notre Dame to the NIT. Freshman point guard Cole Anthony is back, and eventually Carolina will move past its collapse against Duke. This should be a good spot for the home favorite, but I would not lay more than three points with the unreliable Irish.
DAYTON AT VCU (Tuesday)
Dayton, unbeaten in the Atlantic 10, is similar to San Diego State in the Mountain West. Sharp bettors are searching for spots to fade the Flyers when the line is inflated. The Flyers will probably get tripped up on the A-10 road soon. Take the points with the Rams.