2024 college basketball odds, picks, predictions: Can Kentucky, UConn bounce back?

Savor this, college basketball fans. We have just three weekends left of conference play before championship week fully revs up.

As much as I love March Madness — and it’s the best time of the year — I do feel as though late February is often overlooked, given how great it can be. You still have strong home-court atmospheres that can truly bring out frenzied desperation from streaky teams. 

On Saturday, look at Wake Forest hosting a Duke team that has won 16 of its last 18 games. The Demon Deacons, though, are currently in Mike Decourcy’s “First Four Out” of his Bracketology. 

With just one quad 1 victory, Steve Forbes’ team greatly needs this one. 

Look at Villanova, who is also in the First Four Out column and has the unenviable task of visiting No. 1 UConn on FOX Primetime Hoops Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. Do the Wildcats have to win this game? Absolutely not. 

It’s a golden ticket if you will, though, that if they ever did find a way to win, they’d be appearing in every bracket forecast next week. 

I think the Cats will have to win three of their final four games, if they lose on Saturday, to get a bid to the tournament.

Saturday also features a top 15 showdown in the Big 12 and a top 20 battle in the SEC. Let’s make some Saturday selections! 

No. 13 Alabama @ No. 17 Kentucky 
4 p.m. ET, CBS

I know the Wildcats suffered a heartbreaking loss against LSU this week at the buzzer, and I think that fuels them into this matchup at Rupp.

Despite losing three of their last four games in Lexington, I’m looking for UK to get up for this one against the SEC’s first place team and for Rob Dillingham and Antonio Reeves to shine. 

The Crimson Tide are really dangerous offensively behind Mark Sears, but Kentucky showed us something defensively when they flipped the switch in their commanding win at Auburn last weekend. 

I’ll go with UK at home. 

PICK: Kentucky (-1.5) to win by more than 1.5 points

No. 2 Houston @ No. 11 Baylor 
12 p.m. ET, CBS 

The Bears are 13-1 at home. 

Conventional wisdom says to pick Baylor. But, the Cougars can find an advantage against Baylor’s defense, which is outside the top 80 in KenPom efficiency. 

Jamal Shead, Emanuel Sharp and L.J. Cryer are playing as well as any backcourt trio in the country right now. Can they keep RayJ Dennis cooled off after his six-point showing in a loss at BYU? I think there’s a real chance. 

Give me the road team — yes, I know that’s dangerous! 

PICK: Houston (-2.5) to win by more than 2.5 points 

Iowa @ No. 12 Illinois 
2:15 p.m. ET, BIG Ten Network

The Hawkeyes are getting near the bubble after wins over Wisconsin and Michigan State

I think the streak stops on Saturday. 

Conference play is all about when you get a team, and Iowa is getting an angry Illinois team coming off a collapse of a loss to Penn State. Terrence Shannon Jr. had 35 points in that game. He and Marcus Domask will get plenty of open looks against Iowa. 

Give me the Illini. Big. 

PICK: Illinois (-9.5) to win by more than 9.5 points

Villanova @ No. 1 UConn 
8 p.m. ET, FOX  

Here is my surprise of the weekend! 

I like the Huskies to win, but I think the Wildcats find a way to cover. Why? Because there’s something about this matchup with possessions getting limited. 

Nova is 343rd in the country in tempo. UConn is 335th. 

The first meeting was a one-point game. So, I’ll take my chances on Kyle Neptune’s team keeping it within the spread. 

PICK: Villanova (+13.5) to lose by fewer than 13.5 points (or win outright) 

No. 8 Duke @ Wake Forest 
2 p.m. ET, ESPN

The Demon Deacons were within three of the Blue Devils with just less than eight minutes remaining earlier this season in a 77-69 Duke win at Cameron Indoor. 

I think Steve Forbes’ team breaks through behind Hunter Sallis and Boopie Miller

PICK: Wake Forest (-1.5) to win by more than 1.5 points

No. 10 North Carolina @ Virginia 
4 p.m. ET, ESPN

Everything about this pick feels wrong after the Cavaliers got blown out by Virginia Tech. But I have to think UVA took things personally after an embarrassing 75-41 defeat. 

It all comes down to whether or not Virginia can get RJ Davis in their defensive blender and frustrate Carolina’s offense. 

With a raucous crowd in Charlottesville, I think there’s a reason for this spread. 

Give me the home team, as much as I’m second guessing myself here. I’ll go against the grain. 

PICK: Virginia (+2.5) to lose by fewer than 2.5 points (or win outright) 

Butler @ Seton Hall 
8:30 p.m. ET, FS2

The Pirates have found momentum, earning back-to-back wins over Xavier and at St. John’s to return to the right side of the bubble.

Kadary Richmond totaled 24 points and 12 rebounds in the first meeting with the Bulldogs, a 78-72 win in Indianapolis. 

Thad Matta’s team has lost four of their last five games and three straight. 

I like Shaheen Holloway’s team, which is 11-3 at home on the year. 

PICK: Seton Hall to win (no line set for this game) 

Texas @ No. 9 Kansas 
6 p.m. ET, ESPN

It’s the Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse. They’ve taken some recent lumps and now are back to full strength. 

Give me Bill Self by double digits. 

PICK: Kansas (-7.5) to win by more than 7.5 points

John Fanta is a national college basketball broadcaster and writer for FOX Sports. He covers the sport in a variety of capacities, from calling games on FS1 to serving as lead host on the BIG EAST Digital Network to providing commentary on The Field of 68 Media Network. Follow him on X @John_Fanta.

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