College basketball picks, schedule: Predictions for Kentucky vs. Tennessee and more Top 25 games Saturday

The most anticipated weekend on the college basketball calendar is underway. Saturday features a whopping 18 teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 as part of a loaded schedule that could go down in history. 

The first of three top-10 matchups on the day starts in Lawrence, Kansas, when the No. 8 Jayhawks host No. 4 Houston. The Cougars are in their first season as a member of the Big 12, and this will be the first conference matchup between the schools. 

No. 7 Duke will then face a familiar opponent, No. 3 North Carolina, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. This will mark the 49th matchup when both programs are ranked inside the top 10. 

One of the final ranked games of the evening features a battle between SEC contenders as No. 10 Kentucky hosts No. 5 Tennessee inside Rupp Arena. Both teams are coming off losses to unranked opponents, so this game could have major conference championship implications. 

Reigning national champion UConn is also in action. The No. 1 Huskies face a tough road test at Madison Square Garden against coach Rick Pitino and St. John’s. UConn has won nine consecutive Big East games after falling to Seton Hall in the conference opener on Dec. 20.

Odds via SportsLine consensus | All times Eastern

6:30 p.m. | ESPN, fuboTV (Try for free) — North Carolina-Duke is considered one of the best rivalries in sports. With both teams ranked inside the top 10 in the polls, the stakes for this one couldn’t be higher. North Carolina suffered its first conference loss earlier this week to Georgia Tech, which means Duke can get right back into the thick of the ACC title race with a win on the road. The overall amount of star power makes it the best game on the weekend slate and means we are due for a close finish. Prediction: Duke +4

8:30 p.m. | ESPN, fuboTV (Try for free) — This could’ve been the game to watch before both teams suffered midweek losses to unranked opponents. Tennessee fell at home as a double-digit favorite to South Carolina, while Kentucky lost in overtime to Florida inside Rupp Arena. Regardless, this is still a big game with potential SEC championship implications. Kentucky’s defense has been its weakness, and now the Wildcats will have to stop Tennessee star guard Dalton Knecht from another huge scoring outburst to win. Another storyline to monitor is Kentucky’s health. Star freshman D.J. Wagner and guard Justin Edwards missed the Wildcats’ last game, and their status will be critical to knock off the Volunteers. Prediction: Tennessee -1.5

Noon | Fox, fuboTV (Try for free) — St. John’s has come oh-so-close to pulling off a signature win under first-year coach Rick Pitino. The Red Storm nearly beat UConn in the first matchup on Dec. 23 and have one-point losses to No. 22 Creighton and No. 17 Marquette. St. John’s is due for a big win, but standing in its way is the top-ranked team in the sport. UConn has been on a tear since losing to Seton Hall in the Big East opener, and it’s hard to see the Huskies slowing down anytime soon. Prediction: UConn -4.5

1 p.m. | CBS,, CBS Sports App (Free)   Memphis has gone from being ranked inside the top 10 of the polls to a team that could be in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament entirely unless it turns things around fast. The Tigers are coming off their fourth loss in a row to Rice and have a chance to get back on track at home against a Wichita State team tied for last place in the AAC. Memphis’ veteran experience should make for a bounce-back game. Prediction: Memphis -10.5

4 p.m. | ESPN, fuboTV (Try for free) — Kansas is in a tough spot because star guard Kevin McCullar Jr. is dealing with a bone bruise, which means freshman Elmarko Jackson is back in the starting lineup. McCullar’s status for this weekend appears to be TBD, and it would be a major loss if he can’t go. Houston is coming off a close win over Texas and looks like the favorite to win the Big 12 in its inaugural season in the conference. If Houston wants to accomplish that goal, it will have to win in one of the toughest environments in the country.  Home court will be enough of an advantage for the Jayhawks to at least cover the number. Prediction: Kansas +5

Who will win and cover in every college basketball game? Visit SportsLine to get picks from the model that simulates each game 10,000 times and is up more than $1,200 for $100 players on its top-rated spread picks the past six years. 

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