Duke vs. Syracuse
There have been a lot of big games at Syracuse's Carrier Dome -- it was arguably the place to be in the 1980s when the Big East rose to become the best conference in the nation. However, Saturday's visit by Duke for the first time as an ACC opponent might be the toughest ticket in Orange history. The sellout dome will be rocking, and the Orange are 4.5-point favorites on NCAA basketball odds to stay unbeaten. It will feature the two winningest coaches in NCAA history in Duke's Mike Krzyzewski (974) and Syracuse's Jim Boeheim (940).
The No. 17 Blue Devils (13-8 ATS, 9-11 O/U at sportsbooks) seem to have found their footing. They started ACC play just 1-2, with losses at unranked Notre Dame and Clemson. Duke then got a wake-up call in a close home win over Virginia as the Blue Devils have won the following four games all by at least 15 points.
Monday's 80-65 victory at No. 18 Pittsburgh was by far the most impressive of this five-game run. It's very tough to win at Pitt's Petersen Events Center and Duke was a 4.5-point underdog for sports bettors. Duke pulled away in the second half behind the 1-2 punch of freshman Jabari Parker and senior Andre Dawkins. The latter had a season-high 20 points and was 6-for-7 from 3-point range. Parker had 21 points, and he's been great of late. After a slow conference start, Parker is averaging 18.8 points and 11.8 rebounds in the past four, all Duke covers on NCAA basketball odds.
We will see how Parker and Co. handle the vaunted zone of No. 2 Syracuse (11-4-1 ATS, 5-8-2 O/U at sportsbooks). The Orange have won five of their seven ACC games by double-digits, including an embarrassment of North Carolina. Syracuse survived a trap game at Wake Forest on Wednesday, just covering the 9.5-point spread with a 67-57 victory. The Orange have their own superstar freshman in point guard Tyler Ennis. He wasn't all that well known nationally before the season but is averaging 12.3 points, 5.4 assists and 3.4 rebounds. Duke certainly will be level of competition he hasn't seen yet.
NCAA basketball free picks: Syracuse -4.5 as the Orange improve to 21-0 for the first time in school history. Duke has been way too inconsistent on the road and there will be no more hostile environment than this one.
Arizona vs. California
While it seems impossible that Syracuse could go unbeaten through the ACC, it doesn't seem out of the realm of possibility of Arizona doing it in the weak Pac-12 as the Wildcats are currently the only ranked team from the conference. They opened as 4.5-point favorites on NCAA basketball odds for Saturday's late game at Cal.
The No. 1 Wildcats (13-7 ATS, 5-14 O/U at sportsbooks) opened their Bay Area swing with a tricky 60-57 win Wednesday at Stanford; it was the third straight game UA failed to cover the spread for sports bettors. Arizona shot only 36 percent -- star freshman Aaron Gordon was 2-for-10 -- and was actually outrebounded but locked down defensively when it counted. Stanford led 53-49 with 9:30 left but was 1-for-13 from the field after that. Leading Wildcats scorer Nick Johnson hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 51 seconds left.
California (10-10 ATS, 9-11 O/U at sportsbooks) could use this win as its an NCAA Tournament bubble team at the moment. The Bears started a crucial three-game homestand with an 89-78 overtime loss on Wednesday to Arizona State, Cal's third straight loss -- it had previously been swept in the L.A. swing. The Bears, who were 6-point favorites on NCAA basketball odds against the Sun Devils, were able to rally from a 16-point deficit to ASU, which sent it to overtime on a Jermaine Marshall 3-pointer. Cal couldn't stop ASU star Jahii Carson in the OT as he outscored Cal himself 11-6. It was the Bears' first home loss.
The Bears are 1-1 against ranked teams this year. They lost 92-81 to then-No. 2 Syracuse on Nov. 26 in Hawaii and beat No. 17 Oregon 96-83 in Eugene on Jan. 9, but the Ducks have fallen far out of the Top 25. Arizona and Cal played once last season, a 77-69 Bears win in Tucson when Arizona was No. 7 in the nation. The Cats were 13-point favorites for sports bettors.
NCAA basketball free picks: We'll take Cal +4.5 in our NCAA basketball picks. The Arizona starters played heavy minutes Wednesday and this game is potentially the Golden Bears' ticket to the Big Dance. The Cats have covered just once in their past five in this series.