Another packed Saturday of college basketball is on tap, a day when you will hear at least one coach say, “It’s tough to win on the road in this conference.” That is especially true in the Big Ten, where road teams have won just six of 42 league games (14.3%) entering Friday night’s action, but not so much in the Big East, where the road teams are 9-15 (60.0%).
No. 13 Louisville at No. 3 Duke, 6 p.m., ESPN
These are two of the three teams at the top of the ACC, with Florida State also in that group. The Blue Devils (15-2, 5-1) were stunned Tuesday night at Clemson in a game in which they played very un-Duke-like: 15 turnovers, 10-for-20 on free throws, allowing the Tigers to shoot 56.6% from the floor.
The Cardinals (14-3, 5-1) also had a tough time Tuesday night but won in overtime at Pittsburgh. Graduate student Lamarr “Fresh” Kimble, a former St. Joseph’s and Neumann Goretti star, made his fourth straight start and passed out a season-high six assists. For the season, Kimble is averaging 4.8 points, 3.1 assists and 21.0 minutes.
No. 4 Auburn at Florida, 1:30 p.m., CBS3
The Tigers (15-1, 3-1 SEC) entered the week as one of the nation’s two remaining unbeatens, but coach Bruce Pearl knew his team was in for a tough week with games at Alabama and Florida. He told Andy Katz of NCAA.com, “Look, we’re going to get beat. I don’t want to lose. I want someone to beat us.”
On Wednesday, Auburn got beaten — hammered actually — by its intrastate rival, 83-64, trailing the entire game and shooting 31.7%, and now must go into Gainesville and certainly a wild environment at Exactech Arena.
The Gators (11-5, 3-1) followed a 16-point loss at Missouri with a 16-point victory at home over Mississippi. That continued their up-and-down season, but they have Virginia Tech transfer Kerry Blackshear (15.0 ppg., 8.6 rpg.), who is fifth in the nation in free throws made with 96, to help them make an NCAA run.
No. 21 Ohio State at Penn State, noon, ESPNU
After ranking as high as No. 20 in their four weeks in the Top 25, the Nittany Lions (12-5, 2-4 Big Ten) have dropped three straight games and find themselves in dire need of a win over the Buckeyes (12-5, 2-4), who snapped a four-game losing streak with a home win Tuesday night over Nebraska. The Lions will play three of their next four games after Saturday away from Happy Valley, and they want to get back on track to what they hope will be their first NCAA Tournament bid since 2011.
No. 18 Seton Hall at St. John’s, noon, Fox29
Only five games into an 18-game Big East season, the Pirates (13-4, 5-0) have established themselves as the early favorite for the regular-season championship after a truly impressive 78-70 win at No. 5 Butler behind All-American candidate Myles Powell and rapidly improving 7-foot-2 center Romaro Gill.
The Red Storm (13-6, 1-4) have shot poorly this season, but their pressing defense (18 forced turnovers per game, a plus-5.8 turnover margin) will give the Hall trouble in this Madison Square Garden contest.
No. 2 Baylor at Oklahoma State, noon, ESPN2
The Bears (14-1, 4-0 Big 12) came this close to taking over the No. 1 spot in the rankings and enter Saturday with a 13-game winning streak. The defense has been strong, allowing 57.9 points per game (sixth in Division I) and 38.0% shooting (23rd). The Cowboys (9-7, 0-4) have been dreadful offensively in conference play, averaging 48.8 points and shooting 32.6% from the field, 22.2% from three-point range and 60.7% on free throws.
Nevada at No. 7 San Diego State, 8 p.m., CBS Sports Network
And then there was one. Congratulations to the Aztecs (18-0, 7-0 Mountain West), the last of Division I’s 352 teams to reach this point in the season undefeated. Junior guard Malachi Flynn, in his first season at San Diego State after two years at Washington State, has been the catalyst, averaging 16.9 points and 4.9 assists and shooting better than 41% from three-point territory.
What else is happening?
No. 5 Butler (15-2, 3-1 Big East) will seek to recover from its loss to Seton Hall but will face a major test at DePaul (12-5, 0-4), which pushed Villanova to overtime Tuesday night and has lost its four league games by eight, one, seven and four points.
Gonzaga (18-1, 4-0 West Coast Conference) is clinging to the No. 1 spot in the AP Top 25, but made a statement of sorts with Thursday night’s 104-54 win over Santa Clara. The Bulldogs will take on BYU (14-5, 3-1), which likely will be without top scorer Yoeli Childs (dislocated finger).
Expatriate of the week