Saturday brings another full slate of college basketball games, including several interesting nonconference games such as the first meeting between Alabama and Houston since the 1979-80 season. It will be a top-15 showdown as the No. 9 Crimson Tide plays host to the No. 14 Cougars. Alabama will be riding high off its win over No. 5 Gonzaga last Saturday in Seattle, while Houston enters on the heels of three straight blowout home wins against overmatched foes.
Houston hasn’t been tested quite like Alabama was against the Zags, but the Cougars do have impressive double-digit victories over Virginia, Butler and Oregon on their resume. With Alabama ranking among the nation’s highest-scoring teams at 86.4 points per game and Houston allowing just 53.4 points per contest, the game should present a compelling contrast in styles.
Another key factor will be Alabama’s home-court advantage as the Crimson Tide welcome their biggest foe yet of the season to Coleman Coliseum. It’ll be a test for Houston, which has yet to play a true road game.
The Alabama-Houston game is one of several intriguing matches involving ranked teams on Saturday. Below, our staff has predictions for that game and for several key matchups from a busy Saturday slate.
Odds via Caesars Sportsbook | All times Eastern
No. 11 Arizona at Illinois
Featured Game | Illinois Fighting Illini vs. Arizona Wildcats
5 p.m. | Fox, fuboTV (Try for free) — No one would have predicted before the season that No. 11 Arizona would be the team ranked inside the top-15 and that Illinois would be unranked for this game. But the Wildcats have been magnificent under first-year coach Tommy Lloyd. The Illinois offense has been picking up steam over a five-game winning streak, but the Wildcats are much stingier defensively than anyone the Illini have played in that stretch. Both of the Illini’s losses are against teams with first-year coaches (Marquette and Cincinnati) and the bet here is that Arizona hands them a third. Prediction: Arizona 88, Illinois 81
No. 10 Kentucky at Notre Dame
Featured Game | Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Kentucky Wildcats
5:15 p.m. | ESPN, fuboTV (Try for free) — This is Kentucky’s first opponent ranking within the top-100 at KenPom since the Wildcats lost to Duke in the season opener, and it’s just their second game against a top-275 team since then. The Wildcats have been on an absolute cakewalk and will be challenged by a Notre Dame squad which can be dangerous when it gets hot from the outside. The Fighting Irish are off to a disappointing start but should be competitive here. Prediction: Kentucky 80, Notre Dame 77
Featured Game | Marquette Golden Eagles vs. UCLA Bruins
9:30 p.m. | FS2, fuboTV (Try for free) — The No. 4 Bruins face their toughest test since a 20-point loss against Gonzaga on Nov. 23 as they play for the first time in 10 days on the road against a plucky Marquette squad. The Golden Eagles already knocked off one ranked team at Fiserv Forum this season, when they took down then-No. 10 Illinois on Nov. 15. But the Bruins aren’t going to turn the ball over 23 times like Illinois did. Prediction: UCLA 81, Marquette 75
No. 14 Houston at No. 9 Alabama
Featured Game | Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Houston Cougars
10 p.m. | ESPN2, fuboTV (Try for free) — These teams share some similarities as both are veteran-laden groups that are solid defensively and reliant on 3-pointers. Alabama’s lead guards have been turnover-prone, though, and that’s not a recipe for success against a Houston team that is among the nation’s best at collecting steals. Look for the Cougars to frustrate the Crimson Tide’s offensive flow. Prediction: Houston 76, Alabama 72
No. 22 Wisconsin at No. 21 Ohio State
12 p.m. | Big Ten Network, fuboTV (Try for free) — This shapes up as a battle between No. 21 Ohio State’s front court and star guards Brad Davison and Jonathan Davis from No. 22 Wisconsin. Ohio State forwards E.J. Liddell, Kyle Young and Zed Key are versatile enough to pull Wisconsin’s 7-footers Steven Crowl and Chris Vogt away from the paint and open up the floor to give the Buckeyes an edge. Prediction: Ohio State 72, Wisconsin 66
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