Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:59 AM

Saturday's Essentials

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Oklahoma at TCU (-4.5, 144), 12 p.m. ET: The Sooners looked to be a lock for a top-four seed when 2019 began following an 11-1 start that featured wins over numerous quality opponents, but they’ve been a disaster in Big 12 play and need to rally down the stretch to salvage their at-large chances. Following Monday’s loss at Baylor, Oklahoma has now lost a season-high five straight and has been held to 54 or fewer points in three of the setbacks. OU beat TCU in Norman 76-74 on Jan. 12, posting a comeback win behind 24 points and 10 rebound from Kristian Doolittle, which is by far his best outing of the season. He’ll be the key to pulling off an upset in Fort Worth.

Maryland at Michigan (-7.5, 130), 12 p.m. ET: The Wolverines had their problems containing Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ, so we’ll see if their weakness ends up being getting a handle on quality opposing big men. Iowa 7-footer Luke Garza had a big game in the Hawkeyes’ win over Michigan on Feb. 1 and Penn State power forward Lamar Stevens went off for 26 points and 12 boards in the Nittany Lions’ upset win on Tuesday. John Beilein’s team is perfect in Ann Arbor this season, but must get a handle on athletic center Bruno Fernando and freshman power forward Jalen Smith, who had a big game to help take down Purdue.

Clemson at Louisville (-4.5, 132), 12 p.m. ET: We’ll see how resilient the Cards can be considering the meltdown they suffered earlier this week at home against Duke. While the Tigers are nowhere near as explosive as the Blue Devils, there’s no way the stench of Louisville’s mid-week loss won’t linger since no lead will feel safe until the final buzzer. Speaking of which, Clemson got beat on a shot that went through the net with less than a second remaining down in Coral Gables, knocking them under .500 in ACC play. Both teams are desperate to avoid a losing streak, so this contest should be spicy as Chris Mack tries to win back his disappointed fan base in a game that I’m not so sure the Cardinals wouldn’t prefer would be anywhere but the Yum! Center.

Baylor at Texas Tech (-7.5, 127.5), 2 p.m. ET: The Red Raiders and Bears have each lost four times in Big 12 play, which has them in a tightly-packed mix for second place in the league behind Kansas State. Texas Tech has won its last three games by double-digits, surrendering an average of 51.3 points per game. Baylor snapped its first two-game losing streak of the season by taking down Oklahoma 59-53 in Waco on Monday and got top scorer Makai Mason back from injury but lists guard King McClure as questionable with a knee issue and lost top forward Tristan Clark for the season last month.

Notre Dame at Virginia (-17, 126), 2 p.m. ET: Injuries have sabotaged the season for the Fighting Irish, but Mike Brey’s team is still fighting, beating Boston College and Georgia Tech this month as they attempt to finish with a winning record in order to qualify for postseason play. The Cavaliers crushed Notre Dame 82-55 in South Bend back on Jan. 26, shooting 55 percent from the field while holding the Irish to 8-for-29 shooting rom beyond the arc. With Ty Jerome fully healthy again, Tony Bennett’s team is back at full strength and should be formidable here.

Florida at Alabama (-3.5, 134.5), 2 p.m. ET: Both the Crimson Tide and Gators are currently slated to be very nervous on Selection Sunday, so this is a huge head-to-head matchup. Considering the next three games for ‘Bama appear quite winnable, taking care of business at home could help them go on a run that would have them on the right side of the bubble entering March. Florida has been hurt by losing F Keith Stone off a team that already lacked quality depth, but it snapped a three-game losing streak by beating Vandy on Wednesday and are now hoping to win consecutive games for just the second time in 2019.

Iowa State at Kansas State (-2.5, 131), 4 p.m. ET: The Cyclones will look to even the season series with the first-place Wildcats by returning the favor after losing 58-57 in Ames back on Jan. 12. The 92 points they surrendered at home against TCU was the second-highest output Iowa State has allowed all season, so defense should be the priority for them in Manhattan, particularly since the game should be played at a far more deliberate pace. K-State is 8-1 since forward Dean Wade returned from injury. The senior standout played a season-high 39 minutes at Texas, which is important he was limited to just 22 minutes in his first game back when these teams first met, shooting just 1-for-6 from the field. Iowa State must be ready for an improved version, especially in his backyard.

NC State at Duke (-17, 159.5) 6 p.m. ET: The Blue Devils have had issues coming out flat numerous times this season, but they’ve earned all the coffee they want as proven closers. We’ll see if the Cameron Crazies can aid their desire to stop being slow starters with the Wolfpack in town since the last thing Coach K wants to see here is the need for another second-half comeback. NC State comes off a big win over Syracuse and has posted consecutive win despite point guard Markell Johnson is still working his way back into a rhythm after missing a few weeks of action. The Blue Devils lost last year’s meeting in Raleigh 96-85 despite a monster game from Marvin Bagley III as the Wolfpack shot nearly 55 percent from the field. NC State won in Durham in 2017, so the Blue Devils are looking to overcome a rare two-game losing streak and could come out feisty. Six of Duke’s last seven have gone under the posted total.

Iowa (-3.5, 148.5) at Rutgers 6 p.m. ET: The Scarlet Knights are not in their customary position bringing up the rear in the Big Ten and have actually posted five conference wins after Wednesday’s upset at Northwestern. Rutgers is always dangerous at the RAC in Piscataway and should be able to challenge Hawkeyes big men Tyler Cook and Luka Garza with Eugene Omoruyi, 7-footer Shaquille Doorson and 6-10 freshman Myles Johnson. If Rutgers gets a few perimeter shots to go down, an upset isn’t out of the question. The Hawkeyes do get a boost with freshman Joe Wieskamp listed as probable.

Tennessee at Kentucky (-4, 145.5), 8 p.m. ET: Coming off a controversial home loss to LSU, the Wildcats are unlikely to live in the past given the challenge ahead. It’s always easier to look forward when a No. 1 walks into your building. PJ Washington has been dominant of late but will have his work cut out for him against SEC Player of the Year candidate Grant Williams, but both teams have intriguing frontcourt pieces, which suggests that this game is going to be won by whoever controls the paint and the glass. Tennessee’s only setback came at a neutral site in an OT setback at Kansas, so point guard Jordan Bone probably hasn’t gotten enough credit for the work he’s done handling pressure in opposing buildings. Kentucky’s pesky freshman lead guard Ashton Hagans, a fantastic defender, struggled with foul trouble against LSU’s Tremont Waters and played just 21 minutes, the fewest he’s played since late November. He’s scored in single-digits in six of seven and has shot just 40 percent, so getting him back on track would significantly improve Kentucky’s chances.

Oregon at Oregon State (-1.5, 132.5), 10:30 p.m. ET: The basketball version of the Civil War carries extra flavor this season since both teams are in the hunt for a second-place finish behind runaway leader Washington. Although the Ducks’ season took a major turn when they lost stud freshman Bol Bol, a lottery lock prior to his injury, they’ve scraped together enough to remain afloat and will be looking to avoid a season sweep at the hands of the Beavers since OSU came into Eugene and posted a 77-72 road win on Jan. 5. Oregon State has won three of four, while Oregon has won four of five. Tres Tinkle, a legitimate Pac-12 Player of the Year favorite, scored 28 points and grabbed eight boards in the first meeting.

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