An entertaining slate of college basketball games has arrived here on the first Saturday in February as we creep toward the stretch run of the regular season and get ready for March Madness. A total of 21 ranked teams are expected to be in action starting at noon ET and extending all the way until 10 p.m., when No. 2 Gonzaga tips off at BYU and No. 3 UCLA plays at Arizona State.
Among the day’s other highlights is the first of two scheduled Duke-North Carolina showdowns as Blue Devils’ coach Mike Krzyzewski makes his final trip to the Dean Dome to face the Tar Heels. Though unranked, UNC has won four in a row and can make a massive statement on the national stage about the status of its program under first-year coach Hubert Davis with a win.
That’s just one of several key conference clashes on the docket. In the SEC, Alabama plays host to No. 5 Kentucky. In the Pac-12, No. 7 Arizona hosts No. 19 USC as the Wildcats look to cement the hold on first-place in the league standings that was gained in a win over No. 3 UCLA on Thursday. Not to be overlooked, the Big 12’s top two contenders will square off as No. 8 Baylor travels to No. 10 Kansas in a battle of squads with national title aspirations.
It’s going to be a busy day, and we’ve got you covered here with predictions for the biggest games.
Odds via Caesars Sportsbook | All times Eastern
No. 8 Baylor at No. 10 Kansas
Featured Game | Kansas Jayhawks vs. Baylor Bears
4 p.m. | ESPN, fuboTV (Try for free) — Baylor has been hit with the injury bug as of late, especially in its back court. Leading scorer James Akinjo has been playing through a back injury, and fellow guards Adam Flagler and LJ Cryer are dealing with injuries as well. Because of those collective issues, Kansas should be able to handle business on its home floor and take a commanding two-game lead in the Big 12 standings. Prediction: Kansas 78, Baylor 67
No. 9 Duke at North Carolina
Featured Game | North Carolina Tar Heels vs. Duke Blue Devils
6 p.m. | ESPN, fuboTV (Try for free) — This is going to be a special scene as Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski patrols the sideline at the Dean Dome for the final time in a rivalry showdown between two teams on four-game winning streaks. The Blue Devils are fighting for first place in the ACC standings, while the Tar Heels are fighting for their NCAA Tournament chances. The Tar Heels are just a bit too shaky defensively to trust here. Prediction: Duke 79, North Carolina 75
No. 5 Kentucky at Alabama
Featured Game | Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Kentucky Wildcats
8 p.m. | ESPN, fuboTV (Try for free) — It’s another week and edition of the great mystery over which Alabama team will show up this time. The Crimson Tide knocked off Baylor last Saturday just four day after losing against a Georgia team that is perhaps that worst high-major team in college basketball. Unlike Baylor, however, Kentucky appears to be close to fully healthy, and these Wildcats are downright lethal when firing on all cylinders. Look for UK to pull away as big man Oscar Tshiebwe asserts his will on the interior. Prediction: Kentucky 81, Alabama 74
No. 1 Gonzaga at BYU
Featured Game | Brigham Young Cougars vs. Gonzaga Bulldogs
10 p.m. | ESPN, fuboTV (Try for free) — BYU has lost three straight since a 17-4 start, and that is not the way you want things to be trending when Gonzaga is coming to town. The Bulldogs thrashed BYU 110-84 on Jan. 13 and have continued to dominate the WCC since. With its elite front court tandem of Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren, Gonzaga is an impossible matchup for basically everyone and especially for a relatively undersized BYU team. Senior guard Alex Barcello continues to fill it up for the Cougars, but he’ll need a lot of help if his team is going to keep this one close. Prediction: Gonzaga 99, BYU 81
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Featured Game | Indiana Hoosiers vs. Illinois Fighting Illini
No. 18 Illinois at Indiana
12 p.m. | ESPN, fuboTV (Try for free) — Indiana won seven of eight games in the series between the 2014-15 season and the end of the 2018-19 season. But the series has flipped back in Illinois’ favor as the Illini have won three straight, including a 75-71 overtime thriller at Indiana last season. Illinois big man Kofi Cockburn has been unguardable in the Illini’s last two games — victories against Northwestern and Wisconsin — but the Hoosiers counter with Race Thompson and Trayce Jackson-Davis in the frontcourt. If Indiana can get a quality performance from at least one guard to compliment Thompson and Jackson-Davis, then it can squeak out a big home victory. Prediction: Indiana 73, Illinois 70
No. 22 Tennessee at South Carolina
1 p.m. | CBS, CBSSports.com, CBS Sports App (Free) — There have been some positive offensive signs from both these teams recently, but they remain defensive-oriented squads, and it’s hard to envision an offensive explosion here. South Carolina is 9-2 at home and will play Tennessee much closer than it did in a 66-46 road loss on Jan. 11. In the end, expect the Volunteers to narrowly win a low-scoring affair. Prediction: Tennessee 62, South Carolina 60