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Saturday’s NCAA Hoops: Battles at the Top of the ACC, Big 12

It’s another action-packed Saturday for college hoops and two of the top games will both take place at 4 p.m. ET.

Set your DVRs.

First up is the former Big East rivalry between No. 2 Syracuse (17-0, 4-0) vs. No. 22 Pittsburgh (16-1, 4-0). These two teams may be in a new conference but neither has seen their production wane as they’re flourishing as the ACC’s top two teams.

This game promises to be a good one with Pitt bringing its talented Lamar Patterson and James Robinson to the loud Carrier Dome. Robinson has the nation’s best top assist-to-turnover ratio (5.33), which could be interesting given Syracuse’s knack for turnovers with its No. 4 ranking for defensive turnover rate.

Unfortunately Pitt will be without Durand Johnson, one of its top shooters. Lamar Patterson will be asked to step up with his 2.4 TPG. Last week against Georgia Tech he had seven turnovers. Can Patterson leave that behind and hit some 3-pointers?

Tyler Ennis and coach Jim  Boeheim

Tyler Ennis and coach Jim Boeheim

And then there’s Syracuse with its freshman phenom Tyler Ennis, who has been dominating headlines in his rookie NCAA season. He already has 96 assists versus 23 turnovers–a 4.2/1 ratio that has him at No. 14 nationally. He has 2.8 steals per game (No. 7 nationally) and 5.3 percent of opponent possessions (No.9).

His teammates aren’t too shabby either: Jerami Grant, C.J. Fair, Trevor Cooney, Rakeem Christmas–just to name a few.

Under Jamie Dixon, Pitt is 10-4 against Syracuse; they have won their last six of eight matchups in New York. But this time, it won’t be lucky win No. 7 as Syracuse gets yet another victory (-4.5). The Orange sit at 9/1 to win the 2014 NCAA Championship.

No. 9 Oklahoma State at No. 15 Kansas

Just as the ACC will showcase its top talent on Saturday so will the Big 12 in its Oklahoma State (12-4, 3-0) and Kansas (12-4, 3-0) game. All eyes will be on Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart vs. Kansas’ talented freshman Andrew Wiggins. Smart has been critical of the NCAA’s freshman class. Factor in Kansas coach Bill Self’s Oklahoma State connection–an alum–and you have a few interesting storylines.

Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid

In addition to trying to stop Wiggins, the Cowboys will need to keep an eye on Joel Embiid. He entered the season in Wiggins’ shadow and has emerged as one of the team’s stars. In Monday’s 77-70 win over Iowa State, he amassed 16 points, nine rebounds, five blocks and two steals (seven turnovers, too) in only 28 minutes.

If he hadn’t found himself in foul trouble, who knows how his stat line would have read.

Good luck Oklahoma State. There can only be one winner and on Saturday, this will be Kansas (-6). The Jayhawks sit at 15/2 to win the 2014 Big Dance.

Other interesting Saturday games…

Big Ten

Michigan at No. 3 Wisconsin (6:00 p.m.): Wisconsin got knocked off its throne this week against Indiana and Iowa recently held tough against them. Are they overrated? Michigan wears the underdog badge and will continue as the Badgers get the win (-8.5).

No. 4 Michigan State at Illinois (8:00 p.m.): Sparty has been hit by the injury bug and could enable Illinois’ defense and guards to wreak some havoc. But Michigan State will win (-5).

Big 12

No. 8 Iowa State at Texas (4:00 p.m. ET): Iowa State has also recently suffered some setbacks and playing on the road isn’t their forte. Texas seems like the underdog but gets the win (-2).

No. 25 Oklahoma at No. 12 Baylor (2:00 p.m. ET): In this battle of two strong offenses/weak defenses, Baylor gets the win (-6).


N.C. State at No. 23 Duke (2:00 p.m. ET): Duke has been struggling and going against N.C. State’s Cat Barber, Tyler Lewis and one of the nation’s top scorers, T.J. Warren. could pose problems. But the Blue Devils will persevere (-13).


No. 18 Louisville at UConn (9:00 p.m. ET): In a battle of two similar, former Big East teams, the Shabazz Napier vs. Russ Smith matchup is worth watching. Louisville is a winner (-1.5).


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