Alabama 42, Auburn 14

Trent Richardson and No. 2 Alabama have convinced Nick Saban that they’re worthy of competing for college football’s top prize. They’ll have to wait a while before for the final decision is rendered.

Alabama guard Herbert Jones (10) and Auburn guard Jared Harper (1) wait for an inbounds pass during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Alabama guard Herbert Jones (10) and Auburn guard Jared Harper (1) wait for an inbounds pass during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Alabama guard Herbert Jones (10) and Auburn guard Jared Harper (1) wait for an inbounds pass during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Auburn forward Anfernee McLemore (24) attempts to block a shot by Alabama forward Daniel Giddens (4) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Auburn forward Anfernee McLemore (24) attempts to block a shot by Alabama forward Daniel Giddens (4) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Auburn forward Anfernee McLemore (24) attempts to block a shot by Alabama forward Daniel Giddens (4) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Alabama coach Avery Johnson watches during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Auburn on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Alabama coach Avery Johnson watches during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Auburn on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Alabama coach Avery Johnson watches during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Auburn on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Alabama guard Avery Johnson Jr. (5) dribbles as Auburn guard Bryce Brown (2) defends during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Alabama guard Avery Johnson Jr. (5) dribbles as Auburn guard Bryce Brown (2) defends during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Alabama guard Avery Johnson Jr. (5) dribbles as Auburn guard Bryce Brown (2) defends during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Alabama coach Avery Johnson yells during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Auburn on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Alabama coach Avery Johnson yells during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Auburn on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Alabama coach Avery Johnson yells during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Auburn on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Alabama guard Dazon Ingram (12) plays during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Auburn on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Alabama guard Dazon Ingram (12) plays during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Auburn on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Alabama guard Dazon Ingram (12) plays during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Auburn on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Alabama forward Alex Reese (3) and Auburn forward Desean Murray (13) go after a rebound during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Alabama forward Alex Reese (3) and Auburn forward Desean Murray (13) go after a rebound during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Alabama forward Alex Reese (3) and Auburn forward Desean Murray (13) go after a rebound during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Auburn guard Jared Harper (1) brings the ball up court in the final seconds of an NCAA college basketball game against Alabama on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Auburn guard Jared Harper (1) brings the ball up court in the final seconds of an NCAA college basketball game against Alabama on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Auburn guard Jared Harper (1) brings the ball up court in the final seconds of an NCAA college basketball game against Alabama on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Auburn coach Bruce Pearl talks to his team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Alabama on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Auburn coach Bruce Pearl talks to his team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Alabama on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Auburn coach Bruce Pearl talks to his team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Alabama on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Auburn guard Jared Harper (1) dribbles during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Alabama on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Auburn guard Jared Harper (1) dribbles during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Alabama on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Auburn guard Jared Harper (1) dribbles during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Alabama on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Auburn guard Mustapha Heron (5) plays during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Alabama on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Auburn guard Mustapha Heron (5) plays during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Alabama on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Auburn guard Mustapha Heron (5) plays during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Alabama on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Alabama forward Galin Smith (30) gestures during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Auburn on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Alabama forward Galin Smith (30) gestures during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Auburn on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Alabama forward Galin Smith (30) gestures during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Auburn on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Auburn forward Horace Spencer (0) defends Alabama forward Galin Smith (30) as Alabama guard Avery Johnson Jr. (5) brings the ball up court during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Auburn forward Horace Spencer (0) defends Alabama forward Galin Smith (30) as Alabama guard Avery Johnson Jr. (5) brings the ball up court during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Auburn forward Horace Spencer (0) defends Alabama forward Galin Smith (30) as Alabama guard Avery Johnson Jr. (5) brings the ball up court during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Auburn forward Desean Murray (13) and Alabama guards Dazon Ingram, left, and Herbert Jones (10) go after a loose ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Auburn forward Desean Murray (13) and Alabama guards Dazon Ingram, left, and Herbert Jones (10) go after a loose ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Auburn forward Desean Murray (13) and Alabama guards Dazon Ingram, left, and Herbert Jones (10) go after a loose ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Auburn guard Mustapha Heron (5) shoots as Alabama guards Herbert Jones (10) and John Petty (23) play defense during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Auburn guard Mustapha Heron (5) shoots as Alabama guards Herbert Jones (10) and John Petty (23) play defense during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Auburn guard Mustapha Heron (5) shoots as Alabama guards Herbert Jones (10) and John Petty (23) play defense during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Auburn forward Desean Murray (13) tries to shoot over Alabama forward Braxton Key (25) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Auburn forward Desean Murray (13) tries to shoot over Alabama forward Braxton Key (25) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Auburn forward Desean Murray (13) tries to shoot over Alabama forward Braxton Key (25) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Auburn forward Desean Murray (13) brings the ball up court during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Alabama on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Auburn forward Desean Murray (13) brings the ball up court during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Alabama on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Auburn forward Desean Murray (13) brings the ball up court during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Alabama on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Auburn guard Bryce Brown (2) dribbles toward the basket during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Alabama on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Auburn guard Bryce Brown (2) dribbles toward the basket during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Alabama on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Auburn guard Bryce Brown (2) dribbles toward the basket during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Alabama on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Alabama guard Herbert Jones (10) tries to steal the ball from Auburn guard Jared Harper (1) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Alabama guard Herbert Jones (10) tries to steal the ball from Auburn guard Jared Harper (1) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Alabama guard Herbert Jones (10) tries to steal the ball from Auburn guard Jared Harper (1) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Auburn forward Desean Murray (13) and Alabama guards Dazon Ingram, left, and Herbert Jones (10) go after a loose ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Auburn forward Desean Murray (13) and Alabama guards Dazon Ingram, left, and Herbert Jones (10) go after a loose ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Auburn forward Desean Murray (13) and Alabama guards Dazon Ingram, left, and Herbert Jones (10) go after a loose ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Auburn forward Desean Murray (13) tries to shoot over Alabama forward Braxton Key (25) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Auburn forward Desean Murray (13) tries to shoot over Alabama forward Braxton Key (25) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Auburn forward Desean Murray (13) tries to shoot over Alabama forward Braxton Key (25) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
<p>We reach the penultimate weekend of January with a number of teams at a crossroads. Just what is the ceiling for Wichita State? Will Kentucky and Michigan State get on the right track? Can Notre Dame survive the gauntlet of ACC play without two key rotation players, including team leader Bonzie Colson? Those questions will be answered in full only after the next two months play out, but we’ll get the next pieces to the puzzle in the coming days. The game of the weekend, however, is in the Big East, where Xavier and Seton Hall meet for the first time this season.</p><h3>No. 7 Wichita State at Houston</h3><p><strong>Saturday, noon ET, ESPNU</strong></p><p>This is a surprisingly huge game in the AAC. Put simply, Wichita State is not holding up its end of the bargain as a Final Four contender. It has lost to the two best teams it has played—Oklahoma and a full-strength Notre Dame—and it got upset earlier this week at home by SMU. On top of that, the Shockers have played with fire too many times against teams it should handle with ease. Houston, meanwhile, has played its way into the tournament discussion, but got beat by lowly Tulane on Wednesday, it second loss of the season to a team devoid of at-large hopes. A win over Wichita State would go a long way to offsetting that damage.</p><p><strong>Wichita State 72, Houston 68</strong></p><h3>No. 22 Ohio State vs. Minnesota (at Madison Square Garden)</h3><p><strong>Saturday, noon ET, Big Ten Network</strong></p><p>Why is this game at Madison Square Garden? This is the third annual Big Ten Super Saturday, a basketball/hockey doubleheader played at the Garden in the conference’s attempt to spread the Midwest to the country’s biggest city. (The hockey game features Minnesota and Michigan State, if you’re interested.) The Buckeyes are one of the hottest teams in the country, sitting at 7-0 in the Big Ten. Keita Bates-Diop is the favorite for conference player of the year in a league that includes two likely lottery picks. Minnesota remains in the early bubble picture, but let’s remember that its best win of the season was over Alabama. The Buckeyes have too much offense for the Gophers to be able to keep up.</p><p><strong>Ohio State 81, Minnesota 72</strong></p><h3>Texas at No. 6 West Virginia</h3><p><strong>Saturday, 2 p.m. ET, CBS</strong></p><p>The Mountaineers have lost their last two games, though there’s no shame in losing to Texas Tech and Kansas, even less so by a combined six points. Defense is the watchword in this game, with both teams ranked in the top 10 in kenpom.com’s adjusted defensive efficiency. The big difference, however, is that West Virginia forces a ton of turnovers and pressures teams to play at a pace faster than it can handle, while Texas clamps down in the half court with its defense anchored by elite rim protector Mo Bamba. West Virginia, however, has the offensive pieces to counteract such a defense, especially with Esa Ahmad back on the floor. That, plus the home court advantage, tilts the scales in favor of the Mountaineers.</p><p><strong>West Virginia 75, Texas 65</strong></p><h3>No. 11 Xavier at No. 19 Seton Hall</h3><p><strong>Saturday, 2:30 p.m. ET, Fox</strong></p><p>This is the only matchup of two ranked teams all weekend. This is sneakily an important game for Xavier. They’ve done all their heavy lifting at home, with their best win outside of Cincinnati coming at Marquette. The Musketeers are unquestionably one of the 20 best teams in the country, but they need to prove they can beat high-level competition away from home. Xavier is one of the few teams in the Big East with the size to handle Angel Delgado, but it’ll be the matchup between J.P. Macura and Trevon Bluiett on one side, and Khadeen Carrington and Desi Rodriguez on the other that gets top billing in this one.</p><p><strong>Seton Hall 84, Xavier 83</strong> </p><h3>Creighton at Providence</h3><p><strong>Saturday, 3 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network</strong></p><p>These teams met a little more than a month ago, with Creighton running Providence out of Omaha to the tune of an 83-64 victory. The Friars have reason to be more confident getting the Bluejays on their home floor, but the matchup issues that existed for them the first time around are still present. Creighton is one of the most adept pace-up teams in the country, playing at kenpom.com’s 18th-fastest adjusted tempo. They get teams to play their style and those that don’t have the offense to keep up, like Providence, have trouble slowing them down. The best way to do it is on the glass but Providence is an average rebounding team. In other words, it doesn’t look like it will matter where this game is played. This is simply a clash of styles that favors Creighton significantly.</p><p><strong>Creighton 81, Providence 73</strong></p><h3>No. 24 TCU at Kansas State</h3><p><strong>Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, ESPNU</strong></p><p>TCU is already in trouble at 2-4 in the loaded Big 12. Late Thursday, more bad news surfaced for the Horned Frogs: guard Jaylen Fisher had surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his right knee and <a href="http://www.star-telegram.com/sports/college/big-12/article195436679.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:will miss the remainder of the season" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">will miss the remainder of the season</a>. Kenrich Williams and Vlad Brodziansky might not be enough to keep this team afloat (and on track for an NCAA tournament bid) in the toughest conference in the country. Six of the Horned Frogs 13 remaining games are against West Virginia, Kansas, Texas Tech and Texas. It will be instructive to get a good look at them on the road against a Kansas State team that nearly upset Kansas in Lawrence and trounced Oklahoma in its last two games.</p><p><strong>Kansas State 78, TCU 72</strong></p><h3>Notre Dame at No. 20 Clemson</h3><p><strong>Saturday, 4 p.m., ESPN</strong></p><p>The wheels are threatening to fall off Notre Dame’s season. They’re already without Bonzie Colson until March and now talented freshman D.J. Harvey joins him on the shelf for the next four weeks with a knee injury. A season can get away from any team with a bad four weeks in a loaded conference like the ACC and the Irish have already lost three straight games to Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Louisville. Clemson, meanwhile, has lost two of its last three, but this is an opportunity to get on the right track before a huge game at Virginia next week. With Colson and Harvey out, the Irish are going to have a tough time coming up with an answer for Donte Grantham.</p><p><strong>Clemson 74, Notre Dame 63</strong></p><h3>Missouri at Texas A&#38;M</h3><p><strong>Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN2</strong></p><p>These are two teams headed in opposite directions. Texas A&#38;M entered SEC play as one of the hottest teams in the country, but injuries and suspensions contributed to a 0-5 start in conference play. Missouri, on the other hand, has knocked off Georgia and Tennessee in two of its last three games, doing the work necessary to offset an ugly non-conference loss to Illinois. This is a big game between two potential bubble teams, meaning it is absolutely critical that Missouri protects its home floor. That’ll be easier said than done with the Aggies back at full strength.</p><p><strong>Missouri 68, Texas A&#38;M 66</strong></p><h3>Georgia at No. 17 Auburn</h3><p><strong>Saturday, 6 p.m., SEC Network</strong></p><p>Auburn’s 14-game winning streak came to an end earlier this week when it fell at Alabama in the Iron Bowl, basketball edition, earlier this week. The Tigers should be able to get back on track against a Georgia team that, while intriguing, is going to have trouble getting this game to its desired pace. Georgia plays at one of the slowest tempos in the country, and has really struggled offensively since conference play began, ranking last in kenpom.com’s adjusted offensive efficiency in SEC games. Auburn, meanwhile, plays the quickest pace in the conference, draws a ton of fouls and is one of the best free-throw shooting teams in the country. Put another way, this is a truly terrible matchup for the Bulldogs.</p><p><strong>Auburn 79, Georgia 67</strong></p><h3>Baylor at No. 10 Kansas</h3><p><strong>Saturday, 6 p.m., ESPN</strong></p><p>If Kansas ends up making another deep tournament run, we may look back at the second half of its win at West Virginia earlier this week as the moment its season turned. That’s not to say the Jayhawks were playing poorly before that—they were 14-3 overall and 4-1 in the Big 12—but they didn’t quite show that next gear before outscoring the Mountaineers 43-25 in the second half—including a 29-15 spread over the last 10 minutes of the game—to pick up their biggest win of the season to date. It’s a down year for Baylor, but Kansas has to make sure it isn’t looking ahead to Tuesday’s showdown with Oklahoma in Norman.</p><p><strong>Kansas 78, Baylor 62</strong></p><h3>No. 21 Tennessee at South Carolina</h3><p><strong>Saturday, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN2</strong></p><p>South Carolina has put itself back on the fringes of the early NCAA tournament discussion with wins over Georgia and Kentucky in its last two contests. The Gamecocks don’t do anything particularly well on offense, but that was the case last year when they streaked their way to the Final Four. This version of the team, of course, does not have Sindarius Thornwell, which changes the equation. Tennessee lost an ugly game at Missouri on Wednesday, but they enter this matchup as clearly the better team. South Carolina has enough size to bother Grant Williams, but the Volunteers should find a way in this one.</p><p><strong>Tennessee 68, South Carolina 60</strong></p><h3>Middle Tennessee State at Western Kentucky</h3><p><strong>Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, Stadium</strong></p><p>Want to get a jump on scouting potential NCAA tournament Cinderellas? Then you won’t want to miss this battle between the two best teams in Conference USA. Both Middle Tennessee State and Western Kentucky have fringy at-large resumés, especially the Hilltoppers, who knocked off Purdue on a neutral floor. Still, this is likely to be a one-bid league. Western Kentucky has a good chance to strike first blood with this game on its home floor, though there is a return matchup in Murfreesboro in March, and, hopefully, a third matchup looming in the Conference USA tournament championship. Senior wing Darius Thompson leads Western Kentucky with 15.6 points per game, while fellow senior Justin Johnson checks in at 13.8 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. You already know about Giddy Potts from Middle Tennessee’s previous tournament runs, but fellow seniors Nick King (21.8 points per game) and Brandon Walters have stepped up this season.</p><p><strong>Western Kentucky 76, Middle Tennessee State 71</strong></p><h3>Florida at No. 18 Kentucky</h3><p><strong>Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN</strong></p><p>It’s entirely possible that neither Florida nor Kentucky is a top-two team in the SEC, but that’s another topic for another day. Florida’s best offense is the three-ball, with the Gators ranking 31st in the country in three-point percentage while getting 36% of its points this year from distance, a rate that ranks 71st according to kenpom.com. Only four teams have surrendered a lower three-point percentage than Kentucky’s 29%, a hallmark of John Calipari’s recruiting style that places an emphasis on athleticism and length. If you’re looking for a game-within-the-game matchup to watch, that’s it.</p><p><strong>Kentucky 74, Florida 67</strong></p><h3>Boise State at Nevada</h3><p><strong>Saturday, 10 p.m. ET, ESPNU</strong></p><p>This is another sneakily excellent game, and a great way to wrap up a full day of college hoops. Nevada is a legitimately dangerous team led by Caleb Martin, who’s averaging 19.3 points per game on 49.8% shooting, including 46.5% from behind the arc on 114 attempts. The Wolfpack are 12th in kenpom.com’s adjusted offensive efficiency, better than Oklahoma, Arizona and North Carolina, just to name three teams. Boise State is definitely in the at-large discussion, ranked 50th on kenpom.com, 42nd in Kevin Pauga’s rankings (kpisports.net, another smart, analytically driven site) and 31st in the RPI. Still, without a significant non-conference win to its name, its path to an at-large bid may have to include at least one win over Nevada. It’ll be much easier for the Broncos to get that win when the teams meet in Boise on Valentine’s Day.</p><p><strong>Nevada 76, Boise State 68</strong></p><h3>No. 25 Miami at North Carolina State</h3><p><strong>Sunday, noon ET, ACC Network</strong></p><p>It’s another tepid Sunday slate, which will remain true through the Super Bowl. The Wolfpack picked up wins over Duke and Clemson before getting rolled out of Charlottesville by Virginia last weekend. Still, the Duke and Clemson wins were just what the Wolfpack needed to start building a foundation for an at-large bid. A home win over Miami would only add to that effort. The Hurricanes lost to those same Blue Devil and Tiger teams in their last two games, suffering a particularly excruciating loss to the former. Miami led Duke by 13 points with eight minutes left in the game, then watched as the Blue Devils outscored them 30-9 the rest of the way. The Hurricanes can suffer through extended bouts of listless offense, evidenced by the Duke loss, but that may not rear its ugly head against a bad defensive team in Raleigh. The bet here is that Miami’s defense, ranked seventh in the country in kenpom.com’s adjusted efficiency, is the dominant force in this game.</p><p><strong>Miami 66, North Carolina State 64</strong></p>
Picks: Big East Showdown and a Handful of Sneaky-Good Matchups to Watch This Weekend

We reach the penultimate weekend of January with a number of teams at a crossroads. Just what is the ceiling for Wichita State? Will Kentucky and Michigan State get on the right track? Can Notre Dame survive the gauntlet of ACC play without two key rotation players, including team leader Bonzie Colson? Those questions will be answered in full only after the next two months play out, but we’ll get the next pieces to the puzzle in the coming days. The game of the weekend, however, is in the Big East, where Xavier and Seton Hall meet for the first time this season.

No. 7 Wichita State at Houston

Saturday, noon ET, ESPNU

This is a surprisingly huge game in the AAC. Put simply, Wichita State is not holding up its end of the bargain as a Final Four contender. It has lost to the two best teams it has played—Oklahoma and a full-strength Notre Dame—and it got upset earlier this week at home by SMU. On top of that, the Shockers have played with fire too many times against teams it should handle with ease. Houston, meanwhile, has played its way into the tournament discussion, but got beat by lowly Tulane on Wednesday, it second loss of the season to a team devoid of at-large hopes. A win over Wichita State would go a long way to offsetting that damage.

Wichita State 72, Houston 68

No. 22 Ohio State vs. Minnesota (at Madison Square Garden)

Saturday, noon ET, Big Ten Network

Why is this game at Madison Square Garden? This is the third annual Big Ten Super Saturday, a basketball/hockey doubleheader played at the Garden in the conference’s attempt to spread the Midwest to the country’s biggest city. (The hockey game features Minnesota and Michigan State, if you’re interested.) The Buckeyes are one of the hottest teams in the country, sitting at 7-0 in the Big Ten. Keita Bates-Diop is the favorite for conference player of the year in a league that includes two likely lottery picks. Minnesota remains in the early bubble picture, but let’s remember that its best win of the season was over Alabama. The Buckeyes have too much offense for the Gophers to be able to keep up.

Ohio State 81, Minnesota 72

Texas at No. 6 West Virginia

Saturday, 2 p.m. ET, CBS

The Mountaineers have lost their last two games, though there’s no shame in losing to Texas Tech and Kansas, even less so by a combined six points. Defense is the watchword in this game, with both teams ranked in the top 10 in kenpom.com’s adjusted defensive efficiency. The big difference, however, is that West Virginia forces a ton of turnovers and pressures teams to play at a pace faster than it can handle, while Texas clamps down in the half court with its defense anchored by elite rim protector Mo Bamba. West Virginia, however, has the offensive pieces to counteract such a defense, especially with Esa Ahmad back on the floor. That, plus the home court advantage, tilts the scales in favor of the Mountaineers.

West Virginia 75, Texas 65

No. 11 Xavier at No. 19 Seton Hall

Saturday, 2:30 p.m. ET, Fox

This is the only matchup of two ranked teams all weekend. This is sneakily an important game for Xavier. They’ve done all their heavy lifting at home, with their best win outside of Cincinnati coming at Marquette. The Musketeers are unquestionably one of the 20 best teams in the country, but they need to prove they can beat high-level competition away from home. Xavier is one of the few teams in the Big East with the size to handle Angel Delgado, but it’ll be the matchup between J.P. Macura and Trevon Bluiett on one side, and Khadeen Carrington and Desi Rodriguez on the other that gets top billing in this one.

Seton Hall 84, Xavier 83

Creighton at Providence

Saturday, 3 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network

These teams met a little more than a month ago, with Creighton running Providence out of Omaha to the tune of an 83-64 victory. The Friars have reason to be more confident getting the Bluejays on their home floor, but the matchup issues that existed for them the first time around are still present. Creighton is one of the most adept pace-up teams in the country, playing at kenpom.com’s 18th-fastest adjusted tempo. They get teams to play their style and those that don’t have the offense to keep up, like Providence, have trouble slowing them down. The best way to do it is on the glass but Providence is an average rebounding team. In other words, it doesn’t look like it will matter where this game is played. This is simply a clash of styles that favors Creighton significantly.

Creighton 81, Providence 73

No. 24 TCU at Kansas State

Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, ESPNU

TCU is already in trouble at 2-4 in the loaded Big 12. Late Thursday, more bad news surfaced for the Horned Frogs: guard Jaylen Fisher had surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his right knee and will miss the remainder of the season. Kenrich Williams and Vlad Brodziansky might not be enough to keep this team afloat (and on track for an NCAA tournament bid) in the toughest conference in the country. Six of the Horned Frogs 13 remaining games are against West Virginia, Kansas, Texas Tech and Texas. It will be instructive to get a good look at them on the road against a Kansas State team that nearly upset Kansas in Lawrence and trounced Oklahoma in its last two games.

Kansas State 78, TCU 72

Notre Dame at No. 20 Clemson

Saturday, 4 p.m., ESPN

The wheels are threatening to fall off Notre Dame’s season. They’re already without Bonzie Colson until March and now talented freshman D.J. Harvey joins him on the shelf for the next four weeks with a knee injury. A season can get away from any team with a bad four weeks in a loaded conference like the ACC and the Irish have already lost three straight games to Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Louisville. Clemson, meanwhile, has lost two of its last three, but this is an opportunity to get on the right track before a huge game at Virginia next week. With Colson and Harvey out, the Irish are going to have a tough time coming up with an answer for Donte Grantham.

Clemson 74, Notre Dame 63

Missouri at Texas A&M

Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN2

These are two teams headed in opposite directions. Texas A&M entered SEC play as one of the hottest teams in the country, but injuries and suspensions contributed to a 0-5 start in conference play. Missouri, on the other hand, has knocked off Georgia and Tennessee in two of its last three games, doing the work necessary to offset an ugly non-conference loss to Illinois. This is a big game between two potential bubble teams, meaning it is absolutely critical that Missouri protects its home floor. That’ll be easier said than done with the Aggies back at full strength.

Missouri 68, Texas A&M 66

Georgia at No. 17 Auburn

Saturday, 6 p.m., SEC Network

Auburn’s 14-game winning streak came to an end earlier this week when it fell at Alabama in the Iron Bowl, basketball edition, earlier this week. The Tigers should be able to get back on track against a Georgia team that, while intriguing, is going to have trouble getting this game to its desired pace. Georgia plays at one of the slowest tempos in the country, and has really struggled offensively since conference play began, ranking last in kenpom.com’s adjusted offensive efficiency in SEC games. Auburn, meanwhile, plays the quickest pace in the conference, draws a ton of fouls and is one of the best free-throw shooting teams in the country. Put another way, this is a truly terrible matchup for the Bulldogs.

Auburn 79, Georgia 67

Baylor at No. 10 Kansas

Saturday, 6 p.m., ESPN

If Kansas ends up making another deep tournament run, we may look back at the second half of its win at West Virginia earlier this week as the moment its season turned. That’s not to say the Jayhawks were playing poorly before that—they were 14-3 overall and 4-1 in the Big 12—but they didn’t quite show that next gear before outscoring the Mountaineers 43-25 in the second half—including a 29-15 spread over the last 10 minutes of the game—to pick up their biggest win of the season to date. It’s a down year for Baylor, but Kansas has to make sure it isn’t looking ahead to Tuesday’s showdown with Oklahoma in Norman.

Kansas 78, Baylor 62

No. 21 Tennessee at South Carolina

Saturday, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN2

South Carolina has put itself back on the fringes of the early NCAA tournament discussion with wins over Georgia and Kentucky in its last two contests. The Gamecocks don’t do anything particularly well on offense, but that was the case last year when they streaked their way to the Final Four. This version of the team, of course, does not have Sindarius Thornwell, which changes the equation. Tennessee lost an ugly game at Missouri on Wednesday, but they enter this matchup as clearly the better team. South Carolina has enough size to bother Grant Williams, but the Volunteers should find a way in this one.

Tennessee 68, South Carolina 60

Middle Tennessee State at Western Kentucky

Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, Stadium

Want to get a jump on scouting potential NCAA tournament Cinderellas? Then you won’t want to miss this battle between the two best teams in Conference USA. Both Middle Tennessee State and Western Kentucky have fringy at-large resumés, especially the Hilltoppers, who knocked off Purdue on a neutral floor. Still, this is likely to be a one-bid league. Western Kentucky has a good chance to strike first blood with this game on its home floor, though there is a return matchup in Murfreesboro in March, and, hopefully, a third matchup looming in the Conference USA tournament championship. Senior wing Darius Thompson leads Western Kentucky with 15.6 points per game, while fellow senior Justin Johnson checks in at 13.8 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. You already know about Giddy Potts from Middle Tennessee’s previous tournament runs, but fellow seniors Nick King (21.8 points per game) and Brandon Walters have stepped up this season.

Western Kentucky 76, Middle Tennessee State 71

Florida at No. 18 Kentucky

Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN

It’s entirely possible that neither Florida nor Kentucky is a top-two team in the SEC, but that’s another topic for another day. Florida’s best offense is the three-ball, with the Gators ranking 31st in the country in three-point percentage while getting 36% of its points this year from distance, a rate that ranks 71st according to kenpom.com. Only four teams have surrendered a lower three-point percentage than Kentucky’s 29%, a hallmark of John Calipari’s recruiting style that places an emphasis on athleticism and length. If you’re looking for a game-within-the-game matchup to watch, that’s it.

Kentucky 74, Florida 67

Boise State at Nevada

Saturday, 10 p.m. ET, ESPNU

This is another sneakily excellent game, and a great way to wrap up a full day of college hoops. Nevada is a legitimately dangerous team led by Caleb Martin, who’s averaging 19.3 points per game on 49.8% shooting, including 46.5% from behind the arc on 114 attempts. The Wolfpack are 12th in kenpom.com’s adjusted offensive efficiency, better than Oklahoma, Arizona and North Carolina, just to name three teams. Boise State is definitely in the at-large discussion, ranked 50th on kenpom.com, 42nd in Kevin Pauga’s rankings (kpisports.net, another smart, analytically driven site) and 31st in the RPI. Still, without a significant non-conference win to its name, its path to an at-large bid may have to include at least one win over Nevada. It’ll be much easier for the Broncos to get that win when the teams meet in Boise on Valentine’s Day.

Nevada 76, Boise State 68

No. 25 Miami at North Carolina State

Sunday, noon ET, ACC Network

It’s another tepid Sunday slate, which will remain true through the Super Bowl. The Wolfpack picked up wins over Duke and Clemson before getting rolled out of Charlottesville by Virginia last weekend. Still, the Duke and Clemson wins were just what the Wolfpack needed to start building a foundation for an at-large bid. A home win over Miami would only add to that effort. The Hurricanes lost to those same Blue Devil and Tiger teams in their last two games, suffering a particularly excruciating loss to the former. Miami led Duke by 13 points with eight minutes left in the game, then watched as the Blue Devils outscored them 30-9 the rest of the way. The Hurricanes can suffer through extended bouts of listless offense, evidenced by the Duke loss, but that may not rear its ugly head against a bad defensive team in Raleigh. The bet here is that Miami’s defense, ranked seventh in the country in kenpom.com’s adjusted efficiency, is the dominant force in this game.

Miami 66, North Carolina State 64

<p>We reach the penultimate weekend of January with a number of teams at a crossroads. Just what is the ceiling for Wichita State? Will Kentucky and Michigan State get on the right track? Can Notre Dame survive the gauntlet of ACC play without two key rotation players, including team leader Bonzie Colson? Those questions will be answered in full only after the next two months play out, but we’ll get the next pieces to the puzzle in the coming days. The game of the weekend, however, is in the Big East, where Xavier and Seton Hall meet for the first time this season.</p><h3>No. 7 Wichita State at Houston</h3><p><strong>Saturday, noon ET, ESPNU</strong></p><p>This is a surprisingly huge game in the AAC. Put simply, Wichita State is not holding up its end of the bargain as a Final Four contender. It has lost to the two best teams it has played—Oklahoma and a full-strength Notre Dame—and it got upset earlier this week at home by SMU. On top of that, the Shockers have played with fire too many times against teams it should handle with ease. Houston, meanwhile, has played its way into the tournament discussion, but got beat by lowly Tulane on Wednesday, it second loss of the season to a team devoid of at-large hopes. A win over Wichita State would go a long way to offsetting that damage.</p><p><strong>Wichita State 72, Houston 68</strong></p><h3>No. 22 Ohio State vs. Minnesota (at Madison Square Garden)</h3><p><strong>Saturday, noon ET, Big Ten Network</strong></p><p>Why is this game at Madison Square Garden? This is the third annual Big Ten Super Saturday, a basketball/hockey doubleheader played at the Garden in the conference’s attempt to spread the Midwest to the country’s biggest city. (The hockey game features Minnesota and Michigan State, if you’re interested.) The Buckeyes are one of the hottest teams in the country, sitting at 7-0 in the Big Ten. Keita Bates-Diop is the favorite for conference player of the year in a league that includes two likely lottery picks. Minnesota remains in the early bubble picture, but let’s remember that its best win of the season was over Alabama. The Buckeyes have too much offense for the Gophers to be able to keep up.</p><p><strong>Ohio State 81, Minnesota 72</strong></p><h3>Texas at No. 6 West Virginia</h3><p><strong>Saturday, 2 p.m. ET, CBS</strong></p><p>The Mountaineers have lost their last two games, though there’s no shame in losing to Texas Tech and Kansas, even less so by a combined six points. Defense is the watchword in this game, with both teams ranked in the top 10 in kenpom.com’s adjusted defensive efficiency. The big difference, however, is that West Virginia forces a ton of turnovers and pressures teams to play at a pace faster than it can handle, while Texas clamps down in the half court with its defense anchored by elite rim protector Mo Bamba. West Virginia, however, has the offensive pieces to counteract such a defense, especially with Esa Ahmad back on the floor. That, plus the home court advantage, tilts the scales in favor of the Mountaineers.</p><p><strong>West Virginia 75, Texas 65</strong></p><h3>No. 11 Xavier at No. 19 Seton Hall</h3><p><strong>Saturday, 2:30 p.m. ET, Fox</strong></p><p>This is the only matchup of two ranked teams all weekend. This is sneakily an important game for Xavier. They’ve done all their heavy lifting at home, with their best win outside of Cincinnati coming at Marquette. The Musketeers are unquestionably one of the 20 best teams in the country, but they need to prove they can beat high-level competition away from home. Xavier is one of the few teams in the Big East with the size to handle Angel Delgado, but it’ll be the matchup between J.P. Macura and Trevon Bluiett on one side, and Khadeen Carrington and Desi Rodriguez on the other that gets top billing in this one.</p><p><strong>Seton Hall 84, Xavier 83</strong> </p><h3>Creighton at Providence</h3><p><strong>Saturday, 3 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network</strong></p><p>These teams met a little more than a month ago, with Creighton running Providence out of Omaha to the tune of an 83-64 victory. The Friars have reason to be more confident getting the Bluejays on their home floor, but the matchup issues that existed for them the first time around are still present. Creighton is one of the most adept pace-up teams in the country, playing at kenpom.com’s 18th-fastest adjusted tempo. They get teams to play their style and those that don’t have the offense to keep up, like Providence, have trouble slowing them down. The best way to do it is on the glass but Providence is an average rebounding team. In other words, it doesn’t look like it will matter where this game is played. This is simply a clash of styles that favors Creighton significantly.</p><p><strong>Creighton 81, Providence 73</strong></p><h3>No. 24 TCU at Kansas State</h3><p><strong>Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, ESPNU</strong></p><p>TCU is already in trouble at 2-4 in the loaded Big 12. Late Thursday, more bad news surfaced for the Horned Frogs: guard Jaylen Fisher had surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his right knee and <a href="http://www.star-telegram.com/sports/college/big-12/article195436679.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:will miss the remainder of the season" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">will miss the remainder of the season</a>. Kenrich Williams and Vlad Brodziansky might not be enough to keep this team afloat (and on track for an NCAA tournament bid) in the toughest conference in the country. Six of the Horned Frogs 13 remaining games are against West Virginia, Kansas, Texas Tech and Texas. It will be instructive to get a good look at them on the road against a Kansas State team that nearly upset Kansas in Lawrence and trounced Oklahoma in its last two games.</p><p><strong>Kansas State 78, TCU 72</strong></p><h3>Notre Dame at No. 20 Clemson</h3><p><strong>Saturday, 4 p.m., ESPN</strong></p><p>The wheels are threatening to fall off Notre Dame’s season. They’re already without Bonzie Colson until March and now talented freshman D.J. Harvey joins him on the shelf for the next four weeks with a knee injury. A season can get away from any team with a bad four weeks in a loaded conference like the ACC and the Irish have already lost three straight games to Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Louisville. Clemson, meanwhile, has lost two of its last three, but this is an opportunity to get on the right track before a huge game at Virginia next week. With Colson and Harvey out, the Irish are going to have a tough time coming up with an answer for Donte Grantham.</p><p><strong>Clemson 74, Notre Dame 63</strong></p><h3>Missouri at Texas A&#38;M</h3><p><strong>Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN2</strong></p><p>These are two teams headed in opposite directions. Texas A&#38;M entered SEC play as one of the hottest teams in the country, but injuries and suspensions contributed to a 0-5 start in conference play. Missouri, on the other hand, has knocked off Georgia and Tennessee in two of its last three games, doing the work necessary to offset an ugly non-conference loss to Illinois. This is a big game between two potential bubble teams, meaning it is absolutely critical that Missouri protects its home floor. That’ll be easier said than done with the Aggies back at full strength.</p><p><strong>Missouri 68, Texas A&#38;M 66</strong></p><h3>Georgia at No. 17 Auburn</h3><p><strong>Saturday, 6 p.m., SEC Network</strong></p><p>Auburn’s 14-game winning streak came to an end earlier this week when it fell at Alabama in the Iron Bowl, basketball edition, earlier this week. The Tigers should be able to get back on track against a Georgia team that, while intriguing, is going to have trouble getting this game to its desired pace. Georgia plays at one of the slowest tempos in the country, and has really struggled offensively since conference play began, ranking last in kenpom.com’s adjusted offensive efficiency in SEC games. Auburn, meanwhile, plays the quickest pace in the conference, draws a ton of fouls and is one of the best free-throw shooting teams in the country. Put another way, this is a truly terrible matchup for the Bulldogs.</p><p><strong>Auburn 79, Georgia 67</strong></p><h3>Baylor at No. 10 Kansas</h3><p><strong>Saturday, 6 p.m., ESPN</strong></p><p>If Kansas ends up making another deep tournament run, we may look back at the second half of its win at West Virginia earlier this week as the moment its season turned. That’s not to say the Jayhawks were playing poorly before that—they were 14-3 overall and 4-1 in the Big 12—but they didn’t quite show that next gear before outscoring the Mountaineers 43-25 in the second half—including a 29-15 spread over the last 10 minutes of the game—to pick up their biggest win of the season to date. It’s a down year for Baylor, but Kansas has to make sure it isn’t looking ahead to Tuesday’s showdown with Oklahoma in Norman.</p><p><strong>Kansas 78, Baylor 62</strong></p><h3>No. 21 Tennessee at South Carolina</h3><p><strong>Saturday, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN2</strong></p><p>South Carolina has put itself back on the fringes of the early NCAA tournament discussion with wins over Georgia and Kentucky in its last two contests. The Gamecocks don’t do anything particularly well on offense, but that was the case last year when they streaked their way to the Final Four. This version of the team, of course, does not have Sindarius Thornwell, which changes the equation. Tennessee lost an ugly game at Missouri on Wednesday, but they enter this matchup as clearly the better team. South Carolina has enough size to bother Grant Williams, but the Volunteers should find a way in this one.</p><p><strong>Tennessee 68, South Carolina 60</strong></p><h3>Middle Tennessee State at Western Kentucky</h3><p><strong>Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, Stadium</strong></p><p>Want to get a jump on scouting potential NCAA tournament Cinderellas? Then you won’t want to miss this battle between the two best teams in Conference USA. Both Middle Tennessee State and Western Kentucky have fringy at-large resumés, especially the Hilltoppers, who knocked off Purdue on a neutral floor. Still, this is likely to be a one-bid league. Western Kentucky has a good chance to strike first blood with this game on its home floor, though there is a return matchup in Murfreesboro in March, and, hopefully, a third matchup looming in the Conference USA tournament championship. Senior wing Darius Thompson leads Western Kentucky with 15.6 points per game, while fellow senior Justin Johnson checks in at 13.8 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. You already know about Giddy Potts from Middle Tennessee’s previous tournament runs, but fellow seniors Nick King (21.8 points per game) and Brandon Walters have stepped up this season.</p><p><strong>Western Kentucky 76, Middle Tennessee State 71</strong></p><h3>Florida at No. 18 Kentucky</h3><p><strong>Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN</strong></p><p>It’s entirely possible that neither Florida nor Kentucky is a top-two team in the SEC, but that’s another topic for another day. Florida’s best offense is the three-ball, with the Gators ranking 31st in the country in three-point percentage while getting 36% of its points this year from distance, a rate that ranks 71st according to kenpom.com. Only four teams have surrendered a lower three-point percentage than Kentucky’s 29%, a hallmark of John Calipari’s recruiting style that places an emphasis on athleticism and length. If you’re looking for a game-within-the-game matchup to watch, that’s it.</p><p><strong>Kentucky 74, Florida 67</strong></p><h3>Boise State at Nevada</h3><p><strong>Saturday, 10 p.m. ET, ESPNU</strong></p><p>This is another sneakily excellent game, and a great way to wrap up a full day of college hoops. Nevada is a legitimately dangerous team led by Caleb Martin, who’s averaging 19.3 points per game on 49.8% shooting, including 46.5% from behind the arc on 114 attempts. The Wolfpack are 12th in kenpom.com’s adjusted offensive efficiency, better than Oklahoma, Arizona and North Carolina, just to name three teams. Boise State is definitely in the at-large discussion, ranked 50th on kenpom.com, 42nd in Kevin Pauga’s rankings (kpisports.net, another smart, analytically driven site) and 31st in the RPI. Still, without a significant non-conference win to its name, its path to an at-large bid may have to include at least one win over Nevada. It’ll be much easier for the Broncos to get that win when the teams meet in Boise on Valentine’s Day.</p><p><strong>Nevada 76, Boise State 68</strong></p><h3>No. 25 Miami at North Carolina State</h3><p><strong>Sunday, noon ET, ACC Network</strong></p><p>It’s another tepid Sunday slate, which will remain true through the Super Bowl. The Wolfpack picked up wins over Duke and Clemson before getting rolled out of Charlottesville by Virginia last weekend. Still, the Duke and Clemson wins were just what the Wolfpack needed to start building a foundation for an at-large bid. A home win over Miami would only add to that effort. The Hurricanes lost to those same Blue Devil and Tiger teams in their last two games, suffering a particularly excruciating loss to the former. Miami led Duke by 13 points with eight minutes left in the game, then watched as the Blue Devils outscored them 30-9 the rest of the way. The Hurricanes can suffer through extended bouts of listless offense, evidenced by the Duke loss, but that may not rear its ugly head against a bad defensive team in Raleigh. The bet here is that Miami’s defense, ranked seventh in the country in kenpom.com’s adjusted efficiency, is the dominant force in this game.</p><p><strong>Miami 66, North Carolina State 64</strong></p>
Picks: Big East Showdown and a Handful of Sneaky-Good Matchups to Watch This Weekend

We reach the penultimate weekend of January with a number of teams at a crossroads. Just what is the ceiling for Wichita State? Will Kentucky and Michigan State get on the right track? Can Notre Dame survive the gauntlet of ACC play without two key rotation players, including team leader Bonzie Colson? Those questions will be answered in full only after the next two months play out, but we’ll get the next pieces to the puzzle in the coming days. The game of the weekend, however, is in the Big East, where Xavier and Seton Hall meet for the first time this season.

No. 7 Wichita State at Houston

Saturday, noon ET, ESPNU

This is a surprisingly huge game in the AAC. Put simply, Wichita State is not holding up its end of the bargain as a Final Four contender. It has lost to the two best teams it has played—Oklahoma and a full-strength Notre Dame—and it got upset earlier this week at home by SMU. On top of that, the Shockers have played with fire too many times against teams it should handle with ease. Houston, meanwhile, has played its way into the tournament discussion, but got beat by lowly Tulane on Wednesday, it second loss of the season to a team devoid of at-large hopes. A win over Wichita State would go a long way to offsetting that damage.

Wichita State 72, Houston 68

No. 22 Ohio State vs. Minnesota (at Madison Square Garden)

Saturday, noon ET, Big Ten Network

Why is this game at Madison Square Garden? This is the third annual Big Ten Super Saturday, a basketball/hockey doubleheader played at the Garden in the conference’s attempt to spread the Midwest to the country’s biggest city. (The hockey game features Minnesota and Michigan State, if you’re interested.) The Buckeyes are one of the hottest teams in the country, sitting at 7-0 in the Big Ten. Keita Bates-Diop is the favorite for conference player of the year in a league that includes two likely lottery picks. Minnesota remains in the early bubble picture, but let’s remember that its best win of the season was over Alabama. The Buckeyes have too much offense for the Gophers to be able to keep up.

Ohio State 81, Minnesota 72

Texas at No. 6 West Virginia

Saturday, 2 p.m. ET, CBS

The Mountaineers have lost their last two games, though there’s no shame in losing to Texas Tech and Kansas, even less so by a combined six points. Defense is the watchword in this game, with both teams ranked in the top 10 in kenpom.com’s adjusted defensive efficiency. The big difference, however, is that West Virginia forces a ton of turnovers and pressures teams to play at a pace faster than it can handle, while Texas clamps down in the half court with its defense anchored by elite rim protector Mo Bamba. West Virginia, however, has the offensive pieces to counteract such a defense, especially with Esa Ahmad back on the floor. That, plus the home court advantage, tilts the scales in favor of the Mountaineers.

West Virginia 75, Texas 65

No. 11 Xavier at No. 19 Seton Hall

Saturday, 2:30 p.m. ET, Fox

This is the only matchup of two ranked teams all weekend. This is sneakily an important game for Xavier. They’ve done all their heavy lifting at home, with their best win outside of Cincinnati coming at Marquette. The Musketeers are unquestionably one of the 20 best teams in the country, but they need to prove they can beat high-level competition away from home. Xavier is one of the few teams in the Big East with the size to handle Angel Delgado, but it’ll be the matchup between J.P. Macura and Trevon Bluiett on one side, and Khadeen Carrington and Desi Rodriguez on the other that gets top billing in this one.

Seton Hall 84, Xavier 83

Creighton at Providence

Saturday, 3 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network

These teams met a little more than a month ago, with Creighton running Providence out of Omaha to the tune of an 83-64 victory. The Friars have reason to be more confident getting the Bluejays on their home floor, but the matchup issues that existed for them the first time around are still present. Creighton is one of the most adept pace-up teams in the country, playing at kenpom.com’s 18th-fastest adjusted tempo. They get teams to play their style and those that don’t have the offense to keep up, like Providence, have trouble slowing them down. The best way to do it is on the glass but Providence is an average rebounding team. In other words, it doesn’t look like it will matter where this game is played. This is simply a clash of styles that favors Creighton significantly.

Creighton 81, Providence 73

No. 24 TCU at Kansas State

Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, ESPNU

TCU is already in trouble at 2-4 in the loaded Big 12. Late Thursday, more bad news surfaced for the Horned Frogs: guard Jaylen Fisher had surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his right knee and will miss the remainder of the season. Kenrich Williams and Vlad Brodziansky might not be enough to keep this team afloat (and on track for an NCAA tournament bid) in the toughest conference in the country. Six of the Horned Frogs 13 remaining games are against West Virginia, Kansas, Texas Tech and Texas. It will be instructive to get a good look at them on the road against a Kansas State team that nearly upset Kansas in Lawrence and trounced Oklahoma in its last two games.

Kansas State 78, TCU 72

Notre Dame at No. 20 Clemson

Saturday, 4 p.m., ESPN

The wheels are threatening to fall off Notre Dame’s season. They’re already without Bonzie Colson until March and now talented freshman D.J. Harvey joins him on the shelf for the next four weeks with a knee injury. A season can get away from any team with a bad four weeks in a loaded conference like the ACC and the Irish have already lost three straight games to Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Louisville. Clemson, meanwhile, has lost two of its last three, but this is an opportunity to get on the right track before a huge game at Virginia next week. With Colson and Harvey out, the Irish are going to have a tough time coming up with an answer for Donte Grantham.

Clemson 74, Notre Dame 63

Missouri at Texas A&M

Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN2

These are two teams headed in opposite directions. Texas A&M entered SEC play as one of the hottest teams in the country, but injuries and suspensions contributed to a 0-5 start in conference play. Missouri, on the other hand, has knocked off Georgia and Tennessee in two of its last three games, doing the work necessary to offset an ugly non-conference loss to Illinois. This is a big game between two potential bubble teams, meaning it is absolutely critical that Missouri protects its home floor. That’ll be easier said than done with the Aggies back at full strength.

Missouri 68, Texas A&M 66

Georgia at No. 17 Auburn

Saturday, 6 p.m., SEC Network

Auburn’s 14-game winning streak came to an end earlier this week when it fell at Alabama in the Iron Bowl, basketball edition, earlier this week. The Tigers should be able to get back on track against a Georgia team that, while intriguing, is going to have trouble getting this game to its desired pace. Georgia plays at one of the slowest tempos in the country, and has really struggled offensively since conference play began, ranking last in kenpom.com’s adjusted offensive efficiency in SEC games. Auburn, meanwhile, plays the quickest pace in the conference, draws a ton of fouls and is one of the best free-throw shooting teams in the country. Put another way, this is a truly terrible matchup for the Bulldogs.

Auburn 79, Georgia 67

Baylor at No. 10 Kansas

Saturday, 6 p.m., ESPN

If Kansas ends up making another deep tournament run, we may look back at the second half of its win at West Virginia earlier this week as the moment its season turned. That’s not to say the Jayhawks were playing poorly before that—they were 14-3 overall and 4-1 in the Big 12—but they didn’t quite show that next gear before outscoring the Mountaineers 43-25 in the second half—including a 29-15 spread over the last 10 minutes of the game—to pick up their biggest win of the season to date. It’s a down year for Baylor, but Kansas has to make sure it isn’t looking ahead to Tuesday’s showdown with Oklahoma in Norman.

Kansas 78, Baylor 62

No. 21 Tennessee at South Carolina

Saturday, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN2

South Carolina has put itself back on the fringes of the early NCAA tournament discussion with wins over Georgia and Kentucky in its last two contests. The Gamecocks don’t do anything particularly well on offense, but that was the case last year when they streaked their way to the Final Four. This version of the team, of course, does not have Sindarius Thornwell, which changes the equation. Tennessee lost an ugly game at Missouri on Wednesday, but they enter this matchup as clearly the better team. South Carolina has enough size to bother Grant Williams, but the Volunteers should find a way in this one.

Tennessee 68, South Carolina 60

Middle Tennessee State at Western Kentucky

Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, Stadium

Want to get a jump on scouting potential NCAA tournament Cinderellas? Then you won’t want to miss this battle between the two best teams in Conference USA. Both Middle Tennessee State and Western Kentucky have fringy at-large resumés, especially the Hilltoppers, who knocked off Purdue on a neutral floor. Still, this is likely to be a one-bid league. Western Kentucky has a good chance to strike first blood with this game on its home floor, though there is a return matchup in Murfreesboro in March, and, hopefully, a third matchup looming in the Conference USA tournament championship. Senior wing Darius Thompson leads Western Kentucky with 15.6 points per game, while fellow senior Justin Johnson checks in at 13.8 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. You already know about Giddy Potts from Middle Tennessee’s previous tournament runs, but fellow seniors Nick King (21.8 points per game) and Brandon Walters have stepped up this season.

Western Kentucky 76, Middle Tennessee State 71

Florida at No. 18 Kentucky

Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN

It’s entirely possible that neither Florida nor Kentucky is a top-two team in the SEC, but that’s another topic for another day. Florida’s best offense is the three-ball, with the Gators ranking 31st in the country in three-point percentage while getting 36% of its points this year from distance, a rate that ranks 71st according to kenpom.com. Only four teams have surrendered a lower three-point percentage than Kentucky’s 29%, a hallmark of John Calipari’s recruiting style that places an emphasis on athleticism and length. If you’re looking for a game-within-the-game matchup to watch, that’s it.

Kentucky 74, Florida 67

Boise State at Nevada

Saturday, 10 p.m. ET, ESPNU

This is another sneakily excellent game, and a great way to wrap up a full day of college hoops. Nevada is a legitimately dangerous team led by Caleb Martin, who’s averaging 19.3 points per game on 49.8% shooting, including 46.5% from behind the arc on 114 attempts. The Wolfpack are 12th in kenpom.com’s adjusted offensive efficiency, better than Oklahoma, Arizona and North Carolina, just to name three teams. Boise State is definitely in the at-large discussion, ranked 50th on kenpom.com, 42nd in Kevin Pauga’s rankings (kpisports.net, another smart, analytically driven site) and 31st in the RPI. Still, without a significant non-conference win to its name, its path to an at-large bid may have to include at least one win over Nevada. It’ll be much easier for the Broncos to get that win when the teams meet in Boise on Valentine’s Day.

Nevada 76, Boise State 68

No. 25 Miami at North Carolina State

Sunday, noon ET, ACC Network

It’s another tepid Sunday slate, which will remain true through the Super Bowl. The Wolfpack picked up wins over Duke and Clemson before getting rolled out of Charlottesville by Virginia last weekend. Still, the Duke and Clemson wins were just what the Wolfpack needed to start building a foundation for an at-large bid. A home win over Miami would only add to that effort. The Hurricanes lost to those same Blue Devil and Tiger teams in their last two games, suffering a particularly excruciating loss to the former. Miami led Duke by 13 points with eight minutes left in the game, then watched as the Blue Devils outscored them 30-9 the rest of the way. The Hurricanes can suffer through extended bouts of listless offense, evidenced by the Duke loss, but that may not rear its ugly head against a bad defensive team in Raleigh. The bet here is that Miami’s defense, ranked seventh in the country in kenpom.com’s adjusted efficiency, is the dominant force in this game.

Miami 66, North Carolina State 64

<p>We reach the penultimate weekend of January with a number of teams at a crossroads. Just what is the ceiling for Wichita State? Will Kentucky and Michigan State get on the right track? Can Notre Dame survive the gauntlet of ACC play without two key rotation players, including team leader Bonzie Colson? Those questions will be answered in full only after the next two months play out, but we’ll get the next pieces to the puzzle in the coming days. The game of the weekend, however, is in the Big East, where Xavier and Seton Hall meet for the first time this season.</p><h3>No. 7 Wichita State at Houston</h3><p><strong>Saturday, noon ET, ESPNU</strong></p><p>This is a surprisingly huge game in the AAC. Put simply, Wichita State is not holding up its end of the bargain as a Final Four contender. It has lost to the two best teams it has played—Oklahoma and a full-strength Notre Dame—and it got upset earlier this week at home by SMU. On top of that, the Shockers have played with fire too many times against teams it should handle with ease. Houston, meanwhile, has played its way into the tournament discussion, but got beat by lowly Tulane on Wednesday, it second loss of the season to a team devoid of at-large hopes. A win over Wichita State would go a long way to offsetting that damage.</p><p><strong>Wichita State 72, Houston 68</strong></p><h3>No. 22 Ohio State vs. Minnesota (at Madison Square Garden)</h3><p><strong>Saturday, noon ET, Big Ten Network</strong></p><p>Why is this game at Madison Square Garden? This is the third annual Big Ten Super Saturday, a basketball/hockey doubleheader played at the Garden in the conference’s attempt to spread the Midwest to the country’s biggest city. (The hockey game features Minnesota and Michigan State, if you’re interested.) The Buckeyes are one of the hottest teams in the country, sitting at 7-0 in the Big Ten. Keita Bates-Diop is the favorite for conference player of the year in a league that includes two likely lottery picks. Minnesota remains in the early bubble picture, but let’s remember that its best win of the season was over Alabama. The Buckeyes have too much offense for the Gophers to be able to keep up.</p><p><strong>Ohio State 81, Minnesota 72</strong></p><h3>Texas at No. 6 West Virginia</h3><p><strong>Saturday, 2 p.m. ET, CBS</strong></p><p>The Mountaineers have lost their last two games, though there’s no shame in losing to Texas Tech and Kansas, even less so by a combined six points. Defense is the watchword in this game, with both teams ranked in the top 10 in kenpom.com’s adjusted defensive efficiency. The big difference, however, is that West Virginia forces a ton of turnovers and pressures teams to play at a pace faster than it can handle, while Texas clamps down in the half court with its defense anchored by elite rim protector Mo Bamba. West Virginia, however, has the offensive pieces to counteract such a defense, especially with Esa Ahmad back on the floor. That, plus the home court advantage, tilts the scales in favor of the Mountaineers.</p><p><strong>West Virginia 75, Texas 65</strong></p><h3>No. 11 Xavier at No. 19 Seton Hall</h3><p><strong>Saturday, 2:30 p.m. ET, Fox</strong></p><p>This is the only matchup of two ranked teams all weekend. This is sneakily an important game for Xavier. They’ve done all their heavy lifting at home, with their best win outside of Cincinnati coming at Marquette. The Musketeers are unquestionably one of the 20 best teams in the country, but they need to prove they can beat high-level competition away from home. Xavier is one of the few teams in the Big East with the size to handle Angel Delgado, but it’ll be the matchup between J.P. Macura and Trevon Bluiett on one side, and Khadeen Carrington and Desi Rodriguez on the other that gets top billing in this one.</p><p><strong>Seton Hall 84, Xavier 83</strong> </p><h3>Creighton at Providence</h3><p><strong>Saturday, 3 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network</strong></p><p>These teams met a little more than a month ago, with Creighton running Providence out of Omaha to the tune of an 83-64 victory. The Friars have reason to be more confident getting the Bluejays on their home floor, but the matchup issues that existed for them the first time around are still present. Creighton is one of the most adept pace-up teams in the country, playing at kenpom.com’s 18th-fastest adjusted tempo. They get teams to play their style and those that don’t have the offense to keep up, like Providence, have trouble slowing them down. The best way to do it is on the glass but Providence is an average rebounding team. In other words, it doesn’t look like it will matter where this game is played. This is simply a clash of styles that favors Creighton significantly.</p><p><strong>Creighton 81, Providence 73</strong></p><h3>No. 24 TCU at Kansas State</h3><p><strong>Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, ESPNU</strong></p><p>TCU is already in trouble at 2-4 in the loaded Big 12. Late Thursday, more bad news surfaced for the Horned Frogs: guard Jaylen Fisher had surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his right knee and <a href="http://www.star-telegram.com/sports/college/big-12/article195436679.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:will miss the remainder of the season" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">will miss the remainder of the season</a>. Kenrich Williams and Vlad Brodziansky might not be enough to keep this team afloat (and on track for an NCAA tournament bid) in the toughest conference in the country. Six of the Horned Frogs 13 remaining games are against West Virginia, Kansas, Texas Tech and Texas. It will be instructive to get a good look at them on the road against a Kansas State team that nearly upset Kansas in Lawrence and trounced Oklahoma in its last two games.</p><p><strong>Kansas State 78, TCU 72</strong></p><h3>Notre Dame at No. 20 Clemson</h3><p><strong>Saturday, 4 p.m., ESPN</strong></p><p>The wheels are threatening to fall off Notre Dame’s season. They’re already without Bonzie Colson until March and now talented freshman D.J. Harvey joins him on the shelf for the next four weeks with a knee injury. A season can get away from any team with a bad four weeks in a loaded conference like the ACC and the Irish have already lost three straight games to Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Louisville. Clemson, meanwhile, has lost two of its last three, but this is an opportunity to get on the right track before a huge game at Virginia next week. With Colson and Harvey out, the Irish are going to have a tough time coming up with an answer for Donte Grantham.</p><p><strong>Clemson 74, Notre Dame 63</strong></p><h3>Missouri at Texas A&#38;M</h3><p><strong>Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN2</strong></p><p>These are two teams headed in opposite directions. Texas A&#38;M entered SEC play as one of the hottest teams in the country, but injuries and suspensions contributed to a 0-5 start in conference play. Missouri, on the other hand, has knocked off Georgia and Tennessee in two of its last three games, doing the work necessary to offset an ugly non-conference loss to Illinois. This is a big game between two potential bubble teams, meaning it is absolutely critical that Missouri protects its home floor. That’ll be easier said than done with the Aggies back at full strength.</p><p><strong>Missouri 68, Texas A&#38;M 66</strong></p><h3>Georgia at No. 17 Auburn</h3><p><strong>Saturday, 6 p.m., SEC Network</strong></p><p>Auburn’s 14-game winning streak came to an end earlier this week when it fell at Alabama in the Iron Bowl, basketball edition, earlier this week. The Tigers should be able to get back on track against a Georgia team that, while intriguing, is going to have trouble getting this game to its desired pace. Georgia plays at one of the slowest tempos in the country, and has really struggled offensively since conference play began, ranking last in kenpom.com’s adjusted offensive efficiency in SEC games. Auburn, meanwhile, plays the quickest pace in the conference, draws a ton of fouls and is one of the best free-throw shooting teams in the country. Put another way, this is a truly terrible matchup for the Bulldogs.</p><p><strong>Auburn 79, Georgia 67</strong></p><h3>Baylor at No. 10 Kansas</h3><p><strong>Saturday, 6 p.m., ESPN</strong></p><p>If Kansas ends up making another deep tournament run, we may look back at the second half of its win at West Virginia earlier this week as the moment its season turned. That’s not to say the Jayhawks were playing poorly before that—they were 14-3 overall and 4-1 in the Big 12—but they didn’t quite show that next gear before outscoring the Mountaineers 43-25 in the second half—including a 29-15 spread over the last 10 minutes of the game—to pick up their biggest win of the season to date. It’s a down year for Baylor, but Kansas has to make sure it isn’t looking ahead to Tuesday’s showdown with Oklahoma in Norman.</p><p><strong>Kansas 78, Baylor 62</strong></p><h3>No. 21 Tennessee at South Carolina</h3><p><strong>Saturday, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN2</strong></p><p>South Carolina has put itself back on the fringes of the early NCAA tournament discussion with wins over Georgia and Kentucky in its last two contests. The Gamecocks don’t do anything particularly well on offense, but that was the case last year when they streaked their way to the Final Four. This version of the team, of course, does not have Sindarius Thornwell, which changes the equation. Tennessee lost an ugly game at Missouri on Wednesday, but they enter this matchup as clearly the better team. South Carolina has enough size to bother Grant Williams, but the Volunteers should find a way in this one.</p><p><strong>Tennessee 68, South Carolina 60</strong></p><h3>Middle Tennessee State at Western Kentucky</h3><p><strong>Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, Stadium</strong></p><p>Want to get a jump on scouting potential NCAA tournament Cinderellas? Then you won’t want to miss this battle between the two best teams in Conference USA. Both Middle Tennessee State and Western Kentucky have fringy at-large resumés, especially the Hilltoppers, who knocked off Purdue on a neutral floor. Still, this is likely to be a one-bid league. Western Kentucky has a good chance to strike first blood with this game on its home floor, though there is a return matchup in Murfreesboro in March, and, hopefully, a third matchup looming in the Conference USA tournament championship. Senior wing Darius Thompson leads Western Kentucky with 15.6 points per game, while fellow senior Justin Johnson checks in at 13.8 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. You already know about Giddy Potts from Middle Tennessee’s previous tournament runs, but fellow seniors Nick King (21.8 points per game) and Brandon Walters have stepped up this season.</p><p><strong>Western Kentucky 76, Middle Tennessee State 71</strong></p><h3>Florida at No. 18 Kentucky</h3><p><strong>Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN</strong></p><p>It’s entirely possible that neither Florida nor Kentucky is a top-two team in the SEC, but that’s another topic for another day. Florida’s best offense is the three-ball, with the Gators ranking 31st in the country in three-point percentage while getting 36% of its points this year from distance, a rate that ranks 71st according to kenpom.com. Only four teams have surrendered a lower three-point percentage than Kentucky’s 29%, a hallmark of John Calipari’s recruiting style that places an emphasis on athleticism and length. If you’re looking for a game-within-the-game matchup to watch, that’s it.</p><p><strong>Kentucky 74, Florida 67</strong></p><h3>Boise State at Nevada</h3><p><strong>Saturday, 10 p.m. ET, ESPNU</strong></p><p>This is another sneakily excellent game, and a great way to wrap up a full day of college hoops. Nevada is a legitimately dangerous team led by Caleb Martin, who’s averaging 19.3 points per game on 49.8% shooting, including 46.5% from behind the arc on 114 attempts. The Wolfpack are 12th in kenpom.com’s adjusted offensive efficiency, better than Oklahoma, Arizona and North Carolina, just to name three teams. Boise State is definitely in the at-large discussion, ranked 50th on kenpom.com, 42nd in Kevin Pauga’s rankings (kpisports.net, another smart, analytically driven site) and 31st in the RPI. Still, without a significant non-conference win to its name, its path to an at-large bid may have to include at least one win over Nevada. It’ll be much easier for the Broncos to get that win when the teams meet in Boise on Valentine’s Day.</p><p><strong>Nevada 76, Boise State 68</strong></p><h3>No. 25 Miami at North Carolina State</h3><p><strong>Sunday, noon ET, ACC Network</strong></p><p>It’s another tepid Sunday slate, which will remain true through the Super Bowl. The Wolfpack picked up wins over Duke and Clemson before getting rolled out of Charlottesville by Virginia last weekend. Still, the Duke and Clemson wins were just what the Wolfpack needed to start building a foundation for an at-large bid. A home win over Miami would only add to that effort. The Hurricanes lost to those same Blue Devil and Tiger teams in their last two games, suffering a particularly excruciating loss to the former. Miami led Duke by 13 points with eight minutes left in the game, then watched as the Blue Devils outscored them 30-9 the rest of the way. The Hurricanes can suffer through extended bouts of listless offense, evidenced by the Duke loss, but that may not rear its ugly head against a bad defensive team in Raleigh. The bet here is that Miami’s defense, ranked seventh in the country in kenpom.com’s adjusted efficiency, is the dominant force in this game.</p><p><strong>Miami 66, North Carolina State 64</strong></p>
Picks: Big East Showdown and a Handful of Sneaky-Good Matchups to Watch This Weekend

We reach the penultimate weekend of January with a number of teams at a crossroads. Just what is the ceiling for Wichita State? Will Kentucky and Michigan State get on the right track? Can Notre Dame survive the gauntlet of ACC play without two key rotation players, including team leader Bonzie Colson? Those questions will be answered in full only after the next two months play out, but we’ll get the next pieces to the puzzle in the coming days. The game of the weekend, however, is in the Big East, where Xavier and Seton Hall meet for the first time this season.

No. 7 Wichita State at Houston

Saturday, noon ET, ESPNU

This is a surprisingly huge game in the AAC. Put simply, Wichita State is not holding up its end of the bargain as a Final Four contender. It has lost to the two best teams it has played—Oklahoma and a full-strength Notre Dame—and it got upset earlier this week at home by SMU. On top of that, the Shockers have played with fire too many times against teams it should handle with ease. Houston, meanwhile, has played its way into the tournament discussion, but got beat by lowly Tulane on Wednesday, it second loss of the season to a team devoid of at-large hopes. A win over Wichita State would go a long way to offsetting that damage.

Wichita State 72, Houston 68

No. 22 Ohio State vs. Minnesota (at Madison Square Garden)

Saturday, noon ET, Big Ten Network

Why is this game at Madison Square Garden? This is the third annual Big Ten Super Saturday, a basketball/hockey doubleheader played at the Garden in the conference’s attempt to spread the Midwest to the country’s biggest city. (The hockey game features Minnesota and Michigan State, if you’re interested.) The Buckeyes are one of the hottest teams in the country, sitting at 7-0 in the Big Ten. Keita Bates-Diop is the favorite for conference player of the year in a league that includes two likely lottery picks. Minnesota remains in the early bubble picture, but let’s remember that its best win of the season was over Alabama. The Buckeyes have too much offense for the Gophers to be able to keep up.

Ohio State 81, Minnesota 72

Texas at No. 6 West Virginia

Saturday, 2 p.m. ET, CBS

The Mountaineers have lost their last two games, though there’s no shame in losing to Texas Tech and Kansas, even less so by a combined six points. Defense is the watchword in this game, with both teams ranked in the top 10 in kenpom.com’s adjusted defensive efficiency. The big difference, however, is that West Virginia forces a ton of turnovers and pressures teams to play at a pace faster than it can handle, while Texas clamps down in the half court with its defense anchored by elite rim protector Mo Bamba. West Virginia, however, has the offensive pieces to counteract such a defense, especially with Esa Ahmad back on the floor. That, plus the home court advantage, tilts the scales in favor of the Mountaineers.

West Virginia 75, Texas 65

No. 11 Xavier at No. 19 Seton Hall

Saturday, 2:30 p.m. ET, Fox

This is the only matchup of two ranked teams all weekend. This is sneakily an important game for Xavier. They’ve done all their heavy lifting at home, with their best win outside of Cincinnati coming at Marquette. The Musketeers are unquestionably one of the 20 best teams in the country, but they need to prove they can beat high-level competition away from home. Xavier is one of the few teams in the Big East with the size to handle Angel Delgado, but it’ll be the matchup between J.P. Macura and Trevon Bluiett on one side, and Khadeen Carrington and Desi Rodriguez on the other that gets top billing in this one.

Seton Hall 84, Xavier 83

Creighton at Providence

Saturday, 3 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network

These teams met a little more than a month ago, with Creighton running Providence out of Omaha to the tune of an 83-64 victory. The Friars have reason to be more confident getting the Bluejays on their home floor, but the matchup issues that existed for them the first time around are still present. Creighton is one of the most adept pace-up teams in the country, playing at kenpom.com’s 18th-fastest adjusted tempo. They get teams to play their style and those that don’t have the offense to keep up, like Providence, have trouble slowing them down. The best way to do it is on the glass but Providence is an average rebounding team. In other words, it doesn’t look like it will matter where this game is played. This is simply a clash of styles that favors Creighton significantly.

Creighton 81, Providence 73

No. 24 TCU at Kansas State

Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, ESPNU

TCU is already in trouble at 2-4 in the loaded Big 12. Late Thursday, more bad news surfaced for the Horned Frogs: guard Jaylen Fisher had surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his right knee and will miss the remainder of the season. Kenrich Williams and Vlad Brodziansky might not be enough to keep this team afloat (and on track for an NCAA tournament bid) in the toughest conference in the country. Six of the Horned Frogs 13 remaining games are against West Virginia, Kansas, Texas Tech and Texas. It will be instructive to get a good look at them on the road against a Kansas State team that nearly upset Kansas in Lawrence and trounced Oklahoma in its last two games.

Kansas State 78, TCU 72

Notre Dame at No. 20 Clemson

Saturday, 4 p.m., ESPN

The wheels are threatening to fall off Notre Dame’s season. They’re already without Bonzie Colson until March and now talented freshman D.J. Harvey joins him on the shelf for the next four weeks with a knee injury. A season can get away from any team with a bad four weeks in a loaded conference like the ACC and the Irish have already lost three straight games to Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Louisville. Clemson, meanwhile, has lost two of its last three, but this is an opportunity to get on the right track before a huge game at Virginia next week. With Colson and Harvey out, the Irish are going to have a tough time coming up with an answer for Donte Grantham.

Clemson 74, Notre Dame 63

Missouri at Texas A&M

Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN2

These are two teams headed in opposite directions. Texas A&M entered SEC play as one of the hottest teams in the country, but injuries and suspensions contributed to a 0-5 start in conference play. Missouri, on the other hand, has knocked off Georgia and Tennessee in two of its last three games, doing the work necessary to offset an ugly non-conference loss to Illinois. This is a big game between two potential bubble teams, meaning it is absolutely critical that Missouri protects its home floor. That’ll be easier said than done with the Aggies back at full strength.

Missouri 68, Texas A&M 66

Georgia at No. 17 Auburn

Saturday, 6 p.m., SEC Network

Auburn’s 14-game winning streak came to an end earlier this week when it fell at Alabama in the Iron Bowl, basketball edition, earlier this week. The Tigers should be able to get back on track against a Georgia team that, while intriguing, is going to have trouble getting this game to its desired pace. Georgia plays at one of the slowest tempos in the country, and has really struggled offensively since conference play began, ranking last in kenpom.com’s adjusted offensive efficiency in SEC games. Auburn, meanwhile, plays the quickest pace in the conference, draws a ton of fouls and is one of the best free-throw shooting teams in the country. Put another way, this is a truly terrible matchup for the Bulldogs.

Auburn 79, Georgia 67

Baylor at No. 10 Kansas

Saturday, 6 p.m., ESPN

If Kansas ends up making another deep tournament run, we may look back at the second half of its win at West Virginia earlier this week as the moment its season turned. That’s not to say the Jayhawks were playing poorly before that—they were 14-3 overall and 4-1 in the Big 12—but they didn’t quite show that next gear before outscoring the Mountaineers 43-25 in the second half—including a 29-15 spread over the last 10 minutes of the game—to pick up their biggest win of the season to date. It’s a down year for Baylor, but Kansas has to make sure it isn’t looking ahead to Tuesday’s showdown with Oklahoma in Norman.

Kansas 78, Baylor 62

No. 21 Tennessee at South Carolina

Saturday, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN2

South Carolina has put itself back on the fringes of the early NCAA tournament discussion with wins over Georgia and Kentucky in its last two contests. The Gamecocks don’t do anything particularly well on offense, but that was the case last year when they streaked their way to the Final Four. This version of the team, of course, does not have Sindarius Thornwell, which changes the equation. Tennessee lost an ugly game at Missouri on Wednesday, but they enter this matchup as clearly the better team. South Carolina has enough size to bother Grant Williams, but the Volunteers should find a way in this one.

Tennessee 68, South Carolina 60

Middle Tennessee State at Western Kentucky

Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, Stadium

Want to get a jump on scouting potential NCAA tournament Cinderellas? Then you won’t want to miss this battle between the two best teams in Conference USA. Both Middle Tennessee State and Western Kentucky have fringy at-large resumés, especially the Hilltoppers, who knocked off Purdue on a neutral floor. Still, this is likely to be a one-bid league. Western Kentucky has a good chance to strike first blood with this game on its home floor, though there is a return matchup in Murfreesboro in March, and, hopefully, a third matchup looming in the Conference USA tournament championship. Senior wing Darius Thompson leads Western Kentucky with 15.6 points per game, while fellow senior Justin Johnson checks in at 13.8 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. You already know about Giddy Potts from Middle Tennessee’s previous tournament runs, but fellow seniors Nick King (21.8 points per game) and Brandon Walters have stepped up this season.

Western Kentucky 76, Middle Tennessee State 71

Florida at No. 18 Kentucky

Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN

It’s entirely possible that neither Florida nor Kentucky is a top-two team in the SEC, but that’s another topic for another day. Florida’s best offense is the three-ball, with the Gators ranking 31st in the country in three-point percentage while getting 36% of its points this year from distance, a rate that ranks 71st according to kenpom.com. Only four teams have surrendered a lower three-point percentage than Kentucky’s 29%, a hallmark of John Calipari’s recruiting style that places an emphasis on athleticism and length. If you’re looking for a game-within-the-game matchup to watch, that’s it.

Kentucky 74, Florida 67

Boise State at Nevada

Saturday, 10 p.m. ET, ESPNU

This is another sneakily excellent game, and a great way to wrap up a full day of college hoops. Nevada is a legitimately dangerous team led by Caleb Martin, who’s averaging 19.3 points per game on 49.8% shooting, including 46.5% from behind the arc on 114 attempts. The Wolfpack are 12th in kenpom.com’s adjusted offensive efficiency, better than Oklahoma, Arizona and North Carolina, just to name three teams. Boise State is definitely in the at-large discussion, ranked 50th on kenpom.com, 42nd in Kevin Pauga’s rankings (kpisports.net, another smart, analytically driven site) and 31st in the RPI. Still, without a significant non-conference win to its name, its path to an at-large bid may have to include at least one win over Nevada. It’ll be much easier for the Broncos to get that win when the teams meet in Boise on Valentine’s Day.

Nevada 76, Boise State 68

No. 25 Miami at North Carolina State

Sunday, noon ET, ACC Network

It’s another tepid Sunday slate, which will remain true through the Super Bowl. The Wolfpack picked up wins over Duke and Clemson before getting rolled out of Charlottesville by Virginia last weekend. Still, the Duke and Clemson wins were just what the Wolfpack needed to start building a foundation for an at-large bid. A home win over Miami would only add to that effort. The Hurricanes lost to those same Blue Devil and Tiger teams in their last two games, suffering a particularly excruciating loss to the former. Miami led Duke by 13 points with eight minutes left in the game, then watched as the Blue Devils outscored them 30-9 the rest of the way. The Hurricanes can suffer through extended bouts of listless offense, evidenced by the Duke loss, but that may not rear its ugly head against a bad defensive team in Raleigh. The bet here is that Miami’s defense, ranked seventh in the country in kenpom.com’s adjusted efficiency, is the dominant force in this game.

Miami 66, North Carolina State 64

Alabama guard John Petty (23) heads toward the basket as Auburn guard Malik Dunbar (14) tries to defend during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
SEC leaders suffer setbacks, top of standings wide open
Alabama guard John Petty (23) heads toward the basket as Auburn guard Malik Dunbar (14) tries to defend during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
<p>The biggest obstacle to comparison in sports is time. Measuring one player against another is nearly impossible if the two competed in entirely different eras. Try comparing Doak Walker and Reggie Bush, two of the best running backs in college football history, and you wouldn’t know where to start—though it’s hard to believe Bush wouldn’t have the edge in the open field.</p><p>The same is true of teams. There’s little common ground to anchor a comparison of today’s teams with ones from the 1950s or ’60s, when pass plays were scarce and some teams still hadn’t integrated their rosters. So comparing this year’s Alabama team with, say, the national title-winning 1961 Crimson Tide is a futile exercise.</p><p>Comparing this year’s Alabama team with the last four Alabama teams to go all the way is a little easier, partly because they all occupied the same 10-year span and partly because there’s another anchor: Nick Saban, who has led the Tide to an unprecedented five national championships over his 11 years in Tuscaloosa, with the first one coming after the 2009 season. While Alabama’s SEC foes haven’t achieved the same level of consistency, the similarities between the dominant Tide teams under Saban in terms of style, personnel and strength of schedule lend themselves well to comparison. While we have no idea what a matchup between the 2017 and 1961 squad would look like, it’s not particularly hard to imagine a matchup between this year’s team and 2009’s. Thus, a ranking of the five Saban-led Alabama national title teams is, while patently subjective and speculative in nature, possible. Here it is.</p><p>• <strong><a href="http://si.fanatics.com/COLLEGE_Alabama_Crimson_Tide" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Alabama fans: Buy national champs gear here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Alabama fans: Buy national champs gear here</a> | <a href="https://subscription.si.com/storefront/subscribe-to-sports-illustrated/site/si-2017cfc49.html?link=1045302&#38;fpa_oc=CFB+2018" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Order SI&#39;s championship package" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Order SI&#39;s championship package</a></strong></p><h3>1. 2009</h3><p><strong>Record:</strong> 14–0<br><strong>Loss:</strong> None<br><strong>Key Contributors:</strong> Greg McElroy, Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, Julio Jones, Rolando McClain, Mark Barron, Javier Arenas</p><p>The only of Saban’s five title-winning Tide teams to go undefeated was the first one. The season started with a tough 34–24 win over No. 7 Virginia Tech in Atlanta, but the Tide would play only two close games the rest of the season. Led by a two-headed backfield monster of Heisman winner Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson and boosted by a wiry sophomore wide receiver named Julio Jones, this team got better as the year went on and really asserted its dominance toward the end of the season, when the games were supposed to get tighter. In the SEC title game against Tim Tebow and top-ranked Florida, the Tide coasted to a 32–13 victory. A month later, in the BCS title game against Texas, they knocked out Longhorns quarterback Colt McCoy in the first quarter and cruised to a 37–21 victory. That’s two consecutive victories in matchups of that nation’s No. 1 and No. 2 teams by a combined 37 points. Not too shabby.</p><h3>2. 2011</h3><p><strong>Record:</strong> 12–1<br><strong>Loss:</strong> 9–6 vs. No. 1 LSU<br><strong>Key contributors:</strong> AJ McCarron, Trent Richardson, Eddie Lacy, Brad Smelley, Dont’a Hightower, Mark Barron, Courtney Upshaw, Dee Milliner</p><p>Anchored by future first-rounders Dont’a Hightower, C.J. Mosley and Dre Kirkpatrick, the 2011 Alabama defense was one of the best in college football history. The unit gave up an average of just 8.2 points per game, a figure that was skewed by the 21 points allowed to Georgia Southern’s option offense. The Tide didn’t give up more than 14 points to an FBS team all season. Let that sink in. After losing 9–6 to No. 1 LSU, a Game of the Century that some loved and some couldn’t stay awake through, Saban got his revenge in the national title game by beating those same Tigers 21–0. In that game, LSU famously didn’t cross midfield until the fourth quarter. It was a fitting end to a season dominated by a defense that never budged.</p><h3>3. 2015</h3><p><strong>Record:</strong> 14–1<br><strong>Loss:</strong> 43–37 vs. Ole Miss<br><strong>Key Contributors:</strong> Jacob Coker, Derrick Henry, Kenyan Drake, Calvin Ridley, O.J. Howard, Reggie Ragland, Reuben Foster, Minkah Fitzpatrick</p><p>Quarterback Jacob Coker now works for logistics company Cooper Marine &#38; Timberlands in Creola, Ala. But four of his backfield mates either are playing on Sundays (Derrick Henry, Kenyan Drake) or will be in the very near future (Bo Scarbrough, Damien Harris). Coker’s favorite receiving target, then-freshman Calvin Ridley, will be a first-round pick in this year’s draft, and his tight end, O.J. Howard, went 19th overall last spring. The phenomenal skill-position talent was on display right from the season-opening 35–17 win over Wisconsin in Dallas, and this team had perhaps the best offense of any of the five. The loss to Ole Miss qualifies as the type of blemish Saban teams don’t take often, but a 38–0 pounding of Michigan State in the playoff semifinals and an epic 45–40 win over Deshaun Watson and Clemson more than made up for it. </p><h3>4. 2012</h3><p><strong>Record:</strong> 13–1<br><strong>Loss:</strong> 29–24 vs. No. 15 Texas A&#38;M<br><strong>Key Contributors:</strong> AJ McCarron, Eddie Lacy, T.J. Yeldon, Kenyan Drake, Amari Cooper, C.J. Mosley, Trey DePriest, Dee Milliner, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix</p><p>This team made a statement right away, opening with a 41–14 embarrassment of Michigan in Texas, then opening SEC play two weeks later with a 52–0 victory at Arkansas. McCarron threw for 30 touchdowns—11 of which were to Amari Cooper—and just three interceptions, while Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon combined for 29 rushing touchdowns. The lone loss that fall was to a Texas A&#38;M team quarterbacked by an electric redshirt freshman named Johnny Manziel, but that marked the conclusion of a three-game stretch against teams ranked inside the top 15. The SEC title game that season ended up being a much tougher contest than the national title game—Bama overcame a fourth-quarter deficit to beat Georgia 32–28 for the conference crown, while the national championship was a 42–14 cakewalk over Manti Te’o and Notre Dame.</p><h3>5. 2017</h3><p><strong>Record:</strong> 13–1<br><strong>Loss:</strong> 26–14 at No. 6 Auburn<br><strong>Key Contributors:</strong> Jalen Hurts, Tua Tagovailoa, Damien Harris, Bo Scarbrough, Najee Harris, Calvin Ridley, Ronnie Harrison, Raekwon Davis, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Hootie Jones</p><p>Being the lowest-ranked national championship team is like being the poorest member of the Forbes 400—just being on the list is what’s important, and no disrespect is intended. After Auburn soundly beat the Tide 26–14 to knock them out of the SEC title game, there was some serious doubt as to whether this team would get a chance to avenge the heartbreaking 2016 title loss to Clemson in the CFP semis. Yes, Alabama’s 24–6 suffocation of Clemson seemed to validate the committee’s decision to put them in the playoff over Ohio State, but there’s a solid argument that this team didn’t deserve a shot at the national title in the first place. If they had been competing in the BCS era, the 2017 season would have likely ended with a ho-hum (by Bama standards) Sugar Bowl berth. Still, a title is a title, and Tua Tagovailoa’s 41-yard touchdown pass to seal a 26–23 win over Georgia in overtime is emblazoned in Tide history just as prominently as the program’s other championship-sealing moments. </p>
Ranking Nick Saban's Five Alabama National Championship Teams

The biggest obstacle to comparison in sports is time. Measuring one player against another is nearly impossible if the two competed in entirely different eras. Try comparing Doak Walker and Reggie Bush, two of the best running backs in college football history, and you wouldn’t know where to start—though it’s hard to believe Bush wouldn’t have the edge in the open field.

The same is true of teams. There’s little common ground to anchor a comparison of today’s teams with ones from the 1950s or ’60s, when pass plays were scarce and some teams still hadn’t integrated their rosters. So comparing this year’s Alabama team with, say, the national title-winning 1961 Crimson Tide is a futile exercise.

Comparing this year’s Alabama team with the last four Alabama teams to go all the way is a little easier, partly because they all occupied the same 10-year span and partly because there’s another anchor: Nick Saban, who has led the Tide to an unprecedented five national championships over his 11 years in Tuscaloosa, with the first one coming after the 2009 season. While Alabama’s SEC foes haven’t achieved the same level of consistency, the similarities between the dominant Tide teams under Saban in terms of style, personnel and strength of schedule lend themselves well to comparison. While we have no idea what a matchup between the 2017 and 1961 squad would look like, it’s not particularly hard to imagine a matchup between this year’s team and 2009’s. Thus, a ranking of the five Saban-led Alabama national title teams is, while patently subjective and speculative in nature, possible. Here it is.

Alabama fans: Buy national champs gear here | Order SI's championship package

1. 2009

Record: 14–0
Loss: None
Key Contributors: Greg McElroy, Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, Julio Jones, Rolando McClain, Mark Barron, Javier Arenas

The only of Saban’s five title-winning Tide teams to go undefeated was the first one. The season started with a tough 34–24 win over No. 7 Virginia Tech in Atlanta, but the Tide would play only two close games the rest of the season. Led by a two-headed backfield monster of Heisman winner Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson and boosted by a wiry sophomore wide receiver named Julio Jones, this team got better as the year went on and really asserted its dominance toward the end of the season, when the games were supposed to get tighter. In the SEC title game against Tim Tebow and top-ranked Florida, the Tide coasted to a 32–13 victory. A month later, in the BCS title game against Texas, they knocked out Longhorns quarterback Colt McCoy in the first quarter and cruised to a 37–21 victory. That’s two consecutive victories in matchups of that nation’s No. 1 and No. 2 teams by a combined 37 points. Not too shabby.

2. 2011

Record: 12–1
Loss: 9–6 vs. No. 1 LSU
Key contributors: AJ McCarron, Trent Richardson, Eddie Lacy, Brad Smelley, Dont’a Hightower, Mark Barron, Courtney Upshaw, Dee Milliner

Anchored by future first-rounders Dont’a Hightower, C.J. Mosley and Dre Kirkpatrick, the 2011 Alabama defense was one of the best in college football history. The unit gave up an average of just 8.2 points per game, a figure that was skewed by the 21 points allowed to Georgia Southern’s option offense. The Tide didn’t give up more than 14 points to an FBS team all season. Let that sink in. After losing 9–6 to No. 1 LSU, a Game of the Century that some loved and some couldn’t stay awake through, Saban got his revenge in the national title game by beating those same Tigers 21–0. In that game, LSU famously didn’t cross midfield until the fourth quarter. It was a fitting end to a season dominated by a defense that never budged.

3. 2015

Record: 14–1
Loss: 43–37 vs. Ole Miss
Key Contributors: Jacob Coker, Derrick Henry, Kenyan Drake, Calvin Ridley, O.J. Howard, Reggie Ragland, Reuben Foster, Minkah Fitzpatrick

Quarterback Jacob Coker now works for logistics company Cooper Marine & Timberlands in Creola, Ala. But four of his backfield mates either are playing on Sundays (Derrick Henry, Kenyan Drake) or will be in the very near future (Bo Scarbrough, Damien Harris). Coker’s favorite receiving target, then-freshman Calvin Ridley, will be a first-round pick in this year’s draft, and his tight end, O.J. Howard, went 19th overall last spring. The phenomenal skill-position talent was on display right from the season-opening 35–17 win over Wisconsin in Dallas, and this team had perhaps the best offense of any of the five. The loss to Ole Miss qualifies as the type of blemish Saban teams don’t take often, but a 38–0 pounding of Michigan State in the playoff semifinals and an epic 45–40 win over Deshaun Watson and Clemson more than made up for it.

4. 2012

Record: 13–1
Loss: 29–24 vs. No. 15 Texas A&M
Key Contributors: AJ McCarron, Eddie Lacy, T.J. Yeldon, Kenyan Drake, Amari Cooper, C.J. Mosley, Trey DePriest, Dee Milliner, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix

This team made a statement right away, opening with a 41–14 embarrassment of Michigan in Texas, then opening SEC play two weeks later with a 52–0 victory at Arkansas. McCarron threw for 30 touchdowns—11 of which were to Amari Cooper—and just three interceptions, while Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon combined for 29 rushing touchdowns. The lone loss that fall was to a Texas A&M team quarterbacked by an electric redshirt freshman named Johnny Manziel, but that marked the conclusion of a three-game stretch against teams ranked inside the top 15. The SEC title game that season ended up being a much tougher contest than the national title game—Bama overcame a fourth-quarter deficit to beat Georgia 32–28 for the conference crown, while the national championship was a 42–14 cakewalk over Manti Te’o and Notre Dame.

5. 2017

Record: 13–1
Loss: 26–14 at No. 6 Auburn
Key Contributors: Jalen Hurts, Tua Tagovailoa, Damien Harris, Bo Scarbrough, Najee Harris, Calvin Ridley, Ronnie Harrison, Raekwon Davis, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Hootie Jones

Being the lowest-ranked national championship team is like being the poorest member of the Forbes 400—just being on the list is what’s important, and no disrespect is intended. After Auburn soundly beat the Tide 26–14 to knock them out of the SEC title game, there was some serious doubt as to whether this team would get a chance to avenge the heartbreaking 2016 title loss to Clemson in the CFP semis. Yes, Alabama’s 24–6 suffocation of Clemson seemed to validate the committee’s decision to put them in the playoff over Ohio State, but there’s a solid argument that this team didn’t deserve a shot at the national title in the first place. If they had been competing in the BCS era, the 2017 season would have likely ended with a ho-hum (by Bama standards) Sugar Bowl berth. Still, a title is a title, and Tua Tagovailoa’s 41-yard touchdown pass to seal a 26–23 win over Georgia in overtime is emblazoned in Tide history just as prominently as the program’s other championship-sealing moments.

Alabama forward Braxton Key (25) tries to block Auburn forward Desean Murray (13) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Petty scores 27, Alabama holds off No. 17 Auburn 76-71
Alabama forward Braxton Key (25) tries to block Auburn forward Desean Murray (13) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Alabama forward Braxton Key (25) scores during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Auburn on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Petty scores 27, Alabama holds off No. 17 Auburn 76-71
Alabama forward Braxton Key (25) scores during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Auburn on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Alabama coach Avery Johnson talks to his team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Auburn on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Petty scores 27, Alabama holds off No. 17 Auburn 76-71
Alabama coach Avery Johnson talks to his team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Auburn on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Auburn forward Chuma Okeke (4) dribbles by Alabama forward Galin Smith (30) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Petty scores 27, Alabama holds off No. 17 Auburn 76-71
Auburn forward Chuma Okeke (4) dribbles by Alabama forward Galin Smith (30) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Auburn forward Anfernee McLemore (24) tries to get by Alabama forward Galin Smith (30) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Petty scores 27, Alabama holds off No. 17 Auburn 76-71
Auburn forward Anfernee McLemore (24) tries to get by Alabama forward Galin Smith (30) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Auburn forward Horace Spencer (0) goes up for a shot over Alabama forward Braxton Key (25) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Petty scores 27, Alabama holds off No. 17 Auburn 76-71
Auburn forward Horace Spencer (0) goes up for a shot over Alabama forward Braxton Key (25) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Auburn coach Bruce Pearl yells during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Alabama on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Petty scores 27, Alabama holds off No. 17 Auburn 76-71
Auburn coach Bruce Pearl yells during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Alabama on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Auburn forward Anfernee McLemore (24) fouls Alabama forward Daniel Giddens (4) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Petty scores 27, Alabama holds off No. 17 Auburn 76-71
Auburn forward Anfernee McLemore (24) fouls Alabama forward Daniel Giddens (4) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Auburn forward Desean Murray (13), Alabama forward Braxton Key (25) and Auburn forward Anfernee McLemore (24) battle for a loose ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Petty scores 27, Alabama holds off No. 17 Auburn 76-71
Auburn forward Desean Murray (13), Alabama forward Braxton Key (25) and Auburn forward Anfernee McLemore (24) battle for a loose ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Anfernee McLemore (24) and others on the Auburn bench reacts during the last minutes of an NCAA college basketball game against Alabama on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Anfernee McLemore (24) and others on the Auburn bench reacts during the last minutes of an NCAA college basketball game against Alabama on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Anfernee McLemore (24) and others on the Auburn bench reacts during the last minutes of an NCAA college basketball game against Alabama on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Alabama guard Dazon Ingram (12) dribbles during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Auburn on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Alabama guard Dazon Ingram (12) dribbles during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Auburn on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Alabama guard Dazon Ingram (12) dribbles during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Auburn on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Alabama guard John Petty (23) shoots as Auburn guard Jared Harper (1) tries to block during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Alabama guard John Petty (23) shoots as Auburn guard Jared Harper (1) tries to block during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Alabama guard John Petty (23) shoots as Auburn guard Jared Harper (1) tries to block during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Auburn coach Bruce Pearl reacts during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Alabama on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Auburn coach Bruce Pearl reacts during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Alabama on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)
Auburn coach Bruce Pearl reacts during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Alabama on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Laura Chramer)

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