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Every Saturday between now and the start of the conference tournaments in a few weeks features high-stakes games for the top college basketball teams in the country, and this weekend is no exception.

With North Carolina sports betting set to become legal at a perfect time for fans of college hoops, March can’t get here soon enough for fans of Duke, North Carolina, and the rest of the ACC.

Speaking of the Blue Devils and the Tar Heels, those are just two of the teams playing in big games on Saturday that we’ll break down below:

  • Texas at No. 3 Houston — 1 p.m. (CBS)
  • Virginia Tech at No. 7 North Carolina — 2 p.m. (ACC Network)
  • No. 9 Duke at Florida State — 2 p.m. (ESPN)
  • No. 4 Marquette at No. 1 UConn — 3 p.m. (FOX)
  • No. 22 Kentucky at No. 13 Auburn — 6 p.m. (ESPN)

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Texas at (3) Houston


The Longhorns need an outstanding finish in Big 12 play and probably a run in the conference tournament to return to the Big Dance after reaching the Elite Eight in 2023. They face one of the toughest teams in the country on Saturday on the road. But the good news is that a win would give a massive boost to their chances of making the tournament.

Houston (21-3, 8-3 Big 12) is the clear favorite to win the conference thanks to its elite defense. The Cougars are among the top teams in the country in a number of defensive statistics, including points allowed per game (54.7) and opponent FG shooting percentage (37.1%).

These two teams met on Jan. 29 in an overtime showdown at the Moody Center in Austin, but I expect Houston to not only win but do so comfortably at home against a team that is just 5-6 in the Big 12. That being said, Texas more than kept it close just a few weeks ago, which makes the best play the Over in a contest that should be back-and-forth most of the way.

Prediction: Over (131 at time of publishing)

Virginia Tech at (7) North Carolina


On paper, this might look like a cakewalk for the Tar Heels (19-6, 11-3 ACC), but UNC has looked vulnerable in recent weeks. North Carolina has suffered three upset losses in the last couple of weeks to 15th-place Georgia Tech on Jan. 30, fifth-place Clemson on Feb. 6, and ninth-place Syracuse on Feb. 13.

Still, coach Hubert Davis and Co. are heavily favored against Virginia Tech (14-10, 6-7 ACC) at home. This is a tricky matchup given the spot on the schedule (Carolina’s next game, a trip to Virginia on Feb. 24, could decide the regular season conference title), which makes the Hokies intriguing underdogs.

Prediction: Virginia Tech (+11.5 at time of publishing)

(9) Duke at Florida State


Duke is a big favorite on Saturday against a middle-of-the-pack conference opponent like its rival. The Devils do have to travel to Tallahassee for this one, which is why they’re only favored by 5 points.

Duke should win this one comfortably if the Blue Devils play up to their potential. FSU has several ugly losses on the season, both inside and outside of conference play, including a 101-92 loss to Louisville earlier this month.

Prediction: Duke (-5 at time of publishing)

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(4) Marquette at (1) UConn


This one is easily the most intriguing game of the weekend, and it has major implications for both the Big East conference championship race and the battle for top seeding in the NCAA Tournament.

Both reigning national champ Connecticut and Marquette (19-5, 10-3 Big East) entered this season with high expectations after returning some of the top players in the league, and neither have disappointed. Marquette stumbled early, including a 2-3 start to conference play, but the Golden Eagles have been on a tear over the last month. Shaka Smart has led his veteran roster to eight straight wins, including five by double-digits.

Taking on Connecticut on the road is a near-impossible task, but Marquette is tempting here getting 7 points.

Prediction: Marquette (+7.5 at time of publishing)

(22) Kentucky at (13) Auburn


This matchup between ranked SEC foes features two of the highest-scoring teams in their conference and the entire country.

Auburn showed against South Carolina earlier this week that it can shut down a quality opponent as effectively as it can outscore one, drubbing the Gamecocks 101-61. That should concern Kentucky, which has tons of talent but has struggled all year to get stops. It’s hard to see the Wildcats pulling the upset on the road, but this team has enough weapons to hang with the Tigers, especially getting this many points.

Prediction: Kentucky (+10 at time of publishing)


About the Author
Tyler Everett

Tyler Everett

Tyler Everett has been a sports writer since joining the student newspaper at his alma mater, NC State, back in 2008. He's covered sports and sports business for a number of newspapers and websites, including the Denver Broncos, Charlotte Observer, High Press Soccer, and Sports Business Journal, where he currently works full-time.

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