NO. 6 BAYLOR (8-0) AT BYU (8-2)
Time/TV: 2 p.m., BYU Network
Line: BYU -3.
Storylines: Baylor looked good through five games without Perry Jones III. It has looked even better in the three games since he returned, including a trouncing of Northwestern in Evanston a week ago. At 8-2, BYU appears to have transitioned out of the Jimmer Era smoothly.
Key Matchup: The Pace. Baylor wants to use its unequaled athleticism to get up and down the floor, while the Cougars would like to keep it a half-court game.
The Bottom Line: Noah Hartsock the BYU frontcourt has been outstanding this season, but they haven’t seen anything like Baylor’s bigs. At 17.3 points and 6.9 rebounds per game, Hartsock has been outstanding for the Cougars, but he hasn’t seen a frontline like the Bears. Jones, Quincy Acy and freshman Quincy Miller are all long and athletic and averaging at least 12 points per game. Even in Provo, the Bears will be too much for BYU.
The Pick: Baylor 80, BYU 61
ALABAMA (8-2) VS. KANSAS STATE (6-1)
at Kansas City
Time/TV: 10 p.m. (ESPNU)
Line: Alabama -1.
Storylines: There’s no doubt Alabama is one of the more talented teams in the country. The question is: how will the Tide respond to adversity. They’ve struggled in their past three games, two of which were losses. At 6-1, Kansas State is better than expected and that’s largely because of freshman forward Thomas Gipson, who is averaging 14 points and eight boards.
Key Matchup: Gipson vs. Tony Mitchell. Gipson will get his best test to date against the ultra-athletic Mitchell.
The Bottom Line: It will be interesting to see how Anthony Grant’s squad responds against a good team in what is essentially a road game (in Kansas City) after losses to Georgetown and Dayton. It really could go either way.
The Pick: Alabama 68, Kansas State 64.
HOUSTON (4-4) VS. OKLAHOMA (7-1)
at Oklahoma City
Time/TV: 8 p.m., ESPNU
Line: Oklahoma -9.5.
Storylines: Although the Sooners haven’t played a true road game, fans in Norman have to be thrilled by a 7-1 start. Lon Kruger appears to be have his veteran squad headed in the right direction. Houston is a team to keep an eye on for the future.
Key Matchup: Houston’s Alandise Harris vs. Romero Osby. Osby, a Mississippi State transfer, has given Oklahoma toughness under the basket. Harris is averaging 16 points and 6.5 rebounds – while shooting 57 percent from the field – and is a significant reason fans in Houston are excited about the Cougars’ future.
The Bottom Line: Next year, this rivalry will tilt toward the Cougars. For now, Oklahoma should take the All-College Classic victory.
The Pick: Oklahoma 83, Houston 76.
NEW MEXICO (7-2) VS. OKLAHOMA STATE (6-3)
at Oklahoma City
Time/TV: 10:30 p.m., ESPN2
Line: New Mexico -3.
Storylines: New Mexico is coming off a 44-41 win at USC for its fifth-straight win. Oklahoma State continues to struggle against good teams. The Cowboys have losses to Stanford, Virginia Tech and Pitt on their resume.
Key Matchup: Oklahoma State’s Le’Bryan Nash vs. New Mexico’s Drew Gordon. Nash has the advantage in athleticism, but Gordon has it in experience.
The Bottom Line: Until State beats a quality team, it’s hard to pick them against a quality team on a neutral floor.
The Pick: New Mexico 66, Oklahoma State 59.
TEMPLE (6-2) AT TEXAS (8-2)
Time/TV: 2:30 p.m., ESPN2
Line: Texas -4.
Storylines: Even without big game Michael Eric, Temple found a way to beat Villanova, 78-67, for its most impressive win of the season in its last outing. Texas seems to have turned a corner since coming from behind in the second half to beat UCLA on Dec. 3. The Longhorns have won six straight since a 2-2 start.
Key Matchup: The backcourts. These are two of the most talented backcourts in the country. Whichever team’s guard tandem has the better game probably wins.
The Bottom Line: Temple is flying under the radar but with Ramone Moore establishing himself as one of the nation’s best go-to players, the Owls are a serious contender in the Atlantic 10. The young, rebuilding Longhorns are still looking for a marquee win.
The Pick: Temple 74, Texas 70.
NO. 22 TEXAS A&M (8-1) AT NO. 13 FLORIDA (7-2)
at Sunrise, FL
Time/TV: 2:30 p.m., Fox Sports Regional
Line: Florida -10.5.
Storylines: Besides North Carolina, Florida is probably the best two-loss team in the country. The Gators’ two losses are against No. 1 Syracuse and No. 2 Ohio State – both on the road. Texas A&M survived a long stretch without star Khris Middleton to start 8-1.
Key Matchup: Middleton vs. Will Yeguete. If Yeguete can neutralize Middleton, Florida should run away with the home victory.
The Bottom Line: At No. 13, Florida is underrated. At 22, the Aggies are a bit overrated.
The Pick: Florida 85, Texas A&M 72.