UCLA AT ARIZONA STATE (Thursday)
A pair of hot-headed little coaches who constantly badger the refs are not the only reasons to watch this one. Mick Cronin has brought the Bruins out of their funk. After going 1-6 from mid-December to mid-January, UCLA is 4-1 in its last five games. Freshman point guard Tyger Campbell had 22 points and eight assists Sunday in a 73-57 victory over Utah. The Bruins are 5-4 in Pac-12 play. Bobby Hurley has guided the Sun Devils to wins in three of their last four, including upsets of Arizona and Washington. This is not a bounce-back spot for Hurley, but keep this trend in mind if Arizona State loses: ASU is 15-3 after a loss in the last two seasons.
MARYLAND AT ILLINOIS (Friday)
The Terrapins finally proved they can win on the Big Ten road with recent comeback victories at Indiana and Northwestern. Senior point guard Anthony Cowan Jr. (16.2 points per game) and NBA-bound forward Jalen Smith (15.3 ppg, 9.8 rebounds) have been consistent leaders. The Fighting Illini (16-6, 8-3) are tied with Maryland atop the conference standings, a half-game ahead of Michigan State.
SAINT LOUIS AT DAYTON (Saturday)
The Flyers (20-2, 9-0 Atlantic 10) continue their ascent and are a legit Final Four threat behind star forward Obi Toppin (19.7 ppg) and hot-shooting guards Jalen Crutcher, Ibi Watson and Trey Landers. Crutcher hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer in overtime as Dayton beat Saint Louis 78-76 on Jan. 17. The Flyers trailed 55-42 with 7½ minutes left. Dayton will be a double-digit favorite in the rematch.
PURDUE AT INDIANA (Saturday)
Twelve of the 14 teams in the Big Ten remain in NCAA tournament contention, but the Boilermakers (12-10, 5-6) are in serious bubble trouble. Purdue has only two true road wins (Northwestern and Ohio) this season. Matt Painter has dominated the Hoosiers the last few years, but his run of success in this rivalry will stop this weekend. Indiana is 4-1 at home in league play and should be a good bet if favored by five points or fewer. The Hoosiers have lost three in a row and had a full week off to prepare for this game.
SETON HALL AT VILLANOVA (Saturday)
Myles Powell is averaging 21.4 points for the Pirates, who lead the Big East at 8-1. Powell shot 3-for-14 Saturday in Seton Hall’s surprising home loss to Xavier. Villanova is 7-2 in league play and off a 76-61 home loss to Creighton. The Wildcats, who play Wednesday at Butler, are getting clutch shooting and great leadership from junior guard Collin Gillespie. This could be a good spot to support Villanova as a short home favorite.
TEXAS TECH AT TEXAS (Saturday)
Chris Beard is a bet-on coach, and Shaka Smart has become a coach to bet against. However, the Red Raiders are young and make you restless when on the road. Texas Tech dropped to 1-3 in Big 12 road games with a 78-75 loss at Kansas last weekend. Tech covered as an 8½-point underdog at Allen Fieldhouse as freshman guard Jahmi’us Ramsey scored 26 points. Texas was a 14-point dog Monday in a 69-58 loss at Kansas. This will probably be a play on the Red Raiders if they are favored by three points or fewer.
DUKE AT NORTH CAROLINA (Saturday)
Freshman guard Cole Anthony is back, but he and the Tar Heels have a long uphill climb. Carolina is 2-7 straight up since the calendar flipped to 2020. In his second game after returning from knee surgery, Anthony struggled Monday in a competitive loss at Florida State. He scored 16 points yet shot 5-for-22 and missed seven of his 10 3-point attempts. The Heels played well without senior guard Brandon Robinson, who sat with a sprained ankle. Robinson could return for this rivalry game, but Carolina will be a big home dog regardless. Duke was impressive Saturday while covering as a seven-point favorite in a 97-88 win at Syracuse.
SAN DIEGO STATE AT AIR FORCE (Saturday)
Will the Aztecs lose before the Mountain West tournament in March? Don’t bet on it. San Diego State (23-0) just survived its two toughest remaining tests by winning at UNLV and beating Utah State. The Aztecs’ comeback victory over the Aggies was especially irritating for underdog bettors as Utah State (+ 7) led by 10 early in the second half before suddenly falling apart in an 80-68 loss. Matt Mitchell got hot and poured in 24 of his season-high 28 points in the second half. Air Force has slipped into a funk, losing and failing to cover five straight. Still, tiny Clune Arena in Colorado Springs can be a tricky spot for visiting teams. The Falcons might be worth a look if getting more than 10 points.
BUTLER AT MARQUETTE (Sunday)
The Bulldogs were fortunate to win the first meeting Jan. 24. Kamar Baldwin woke up after halftime and finished with 31 points as Butler survived 89-85 in overtime. Baldwin scored the Bulldogs’ final nine points of regulation and added 10 more in OT. Butler was 2-4 in its last six going into Wednesday’s game against Villanova. The Bulldogs were recently projected as a No. 1 or 2 seed in the NCAA tournament but have slipped to the middle of the pack in the Big East. Marquette guard Markus Howard is averaging 27.9 points, and he’s likely to put on a show as the Golden Eagles get revenge.
WICHITA STATE AT HOUSTON (Sunday)
Wichita’s recent fall in the American standings is surprising but not a shocker. Tulsa beat the Shockers (17-4, 5-3) at the buzzer last weekend. Houston is 7-2 in league play, a half-game behind Tulsa. Gregg Marshall’s team will be out for revenge against Kelvin Sampson and the Cougars, who won the first meeting 65-54 on Jan. 18. Houston has a strong home-court advantage, yet Wichita might be worth a bet if getting three points or more.