College basketball picks, schedule: Predictions for Kentucky vs. Alabama and other big games on Saturday

An entertaining slate of college basketball games has arrived here on the first Saturday in February as we inch closer to the regular season stretch run and prepare for March Madness. A total of 21 ranked teams are expected to be in action starting at noon ET until 10 p.m., when No. 2 Gonzaga kicks off at BYU and No. 3 UCLA plays at Arizona State.

Other highlights of the day include the first of two scheduled matchups between Duke and North Carolina as Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski makes his last trip at the Dean Dome for take on the Tar Heels. Although unranked, UNC has won four in a row and can make a massive statement on the national stage about the state of its program under freshman coach Hubert Davis with a win.

It’s just one of many key conference clashes over the issue. In the SEC, Alabama hosts No. 5 Kentucky. In the Pac-12, No. 7 Arizona hosts No. 19 USC as the Wildcats look to solidify the top spot in the league standings that was earned in a win over No. 3 UCLA Thursday. Not to be overlooked, the two top Big 12 contenders will face off as No. 8 Baylor travels to No. 10 Kansas in a battle of teams with national title aspirations.

The day is going to be busy and we offer you here predictions for the biggest matches.

Odds via Caesars Sportsbook | All times Eastern

Featured Game | North Carolina Tar Heels vs. Duke Blue Devils

6:00 p.m. | ESPN, fuboTV (Try for free) — This is going to be a special scene as Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski sideline patrol at the Dean Dome for the last time in a confrontation of rivalry between two teams on four consecutive victories. The Blue Devils are battling for the No. 1 spot in the ACC standings, while the Tar Heels are battling for their chance to make the NCAA Tournament. The Tar Heels are just a little too shaky defensively to trust here. Prediction: Duke 79, North Carolina 75

No. 5 Kentucky at Alabama

Featured Game | Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Kentucky Wildcats

8 p.m. | ESPN, fuboTV (Try for free) — It’s another week and edition of the big mystery on which the Alabama team will show up on this time. The Crimson Tide knocked out Baylor last Saturday just four days after losing to a Georgia team that is perhaps the worst high-level team in college basketball. Unlike Baylor, however, Kentucky appears to be near perfect health, and these Wildcats are downright deadly when firing on all cylinders. Expect the UK to step down as big man Oscar Tshiebwe asserts his will on the inside. Prediction: Kentucky 81, Alabama 74

Gonzaga #1 at BYU

Featured Game | Brigham Young Cougars vs. Gonzaga Bulldogs

10 p.m. | ESPN, fuboTV (Try for free) — BYU has lost three straight since a 17-4 start, and that’s not how you want things to go when Gonzaga comes to town. The Bulldogs beat BYU 110-84 on January 13 and have continued to dominate the WCC ever since. With his elite forward-court tandem of Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren, Gonzaga is an impossible match for virtually anyone and especially a relatively undersized BYU team. Senior guard Alex Barcello continues to fill the Cougars’ role, but he’ll need a lot of help if his team is to keep this one close. Prediction: Gonzaga 99, BYU 81

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Featured Game | Indiana Hoosiers vs. Illinois Fighting Illini

12 p.m. | ESPN, fuboTV (Try for free) — Indiana won seven of eight games in the series between the 2014-15 season and the end of the 2018-19 season. But the series swung back in Illinois’ favor as the Illini won three straight, including a 75-71 overtime thriller at Indiana last season. Illinois big man Kofi Cockburn has been out of control in the Illini’s last two games — wins over Northwestern and Wisconsin — but the Hoosiers have thwarted Race Thompson and Trayce Jackson-Davis on the front line. If Indiana can get a quality performance from at least one guard to compliment Thompson and Jackson-Davis, then it can pull off a big win at home. Prediction: Indiana 73, Illinois 70

Featured Game | South Carolina Gamecocks vs. Tennessee Volunteers

1 p.m. | SCS, CBSSports.com, CBS Sports app (To free) — There have been some positive attacking signs from both of these teams recently, but they remain defensively oriented teams, and it’s hard to envision an attacking explosion here. South Carolina is 9-2 at home and will face Tennessee much closer than they did in a 66-46 road loss on Jan. 11. In the end, expect the Volunteers to narrowly win a low-scoring case. Prediction: Tennessee 62, South Carolina 60

No. 8 Baylor at No. 10 Kansas

Featured Game | Kansas Jayhawks vs. Baylor Bears

4 p.m. | ESPN, fuboTV (Try for free) — Baylor has been hit by the injury bug recently, particularly in its backyard. Top scorer James Akinjo suffered a back injury, and fellow guards Adam Flagler and LJ Cryer are also struggling with injuries. Because of those collective issues, Kansas should be able to handle home business and take a two-game lead in the Big 12 standings. Prediction: Kansas 78, Baylor 67

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