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College basketball handicapper Chris Smith gives us two picks for Saturday

Kentucky vs. North Carolina

The Wildcats enter today’s “Blue Blood” showdown with the Tar Heels coming off four consecutive losses, having not won a game since blowing out Morehead State in their opener. North Carolina hasn’t been all that impressive either, failing to cover the spread in their last four including losses to Texas and Iowa. Senior forward Garrison Brooks will lead the way for Roy Williams squad while Oliver Sarr will need to stay out of foul trouble in this one for John Calipari’s guys.

Expect a sloppy game here as both teams feature young backcourts prone to turning the ball over. Couple that with poor outside shooting from both teams and I foresee a frenetic pace. Kentucky teams of the past decade or so have a tendency to start the season slow before putting the pieces together just in time for a March run through the tournament. There’s a decent chance that’s the formula for this year as well.

One thing that stuck out to me during last week’s last second loss at home to Notre Dame, was how inspired the Wildcats played down the stretch erasing a 20 point deficit before falling just short. I suspect Calipari’s guys fight hard again this weekend and keep the game close through the final possession. Therefore, I’ll take the points with the Wildcats. 

BET: Kentucky +3.5 @ -110

Gonzaga vs. Iowa

Two of the top three teams in the nation do battle from South Dakota this afternoon in the marquee matchup of the weekend. We haven’t seen or heard from top ranked Gonzaga since their last game of the week against Baylor was cancelled two Saturdays ago due to COVID restrictions. Since that time Iowa has won four straight games, all in impressive fashion, and emerged as a true National Title contender themselves.

While Luka Garza is the obvious leader in the clubhouse for player of the year, this Hawkeyes team is no one-man-show with Joe Wieskamp and Jordan Bohannon ready to strike from anywhere on the court at a moment’s notice. The problem facing Iowa in this game is that they may have trouble keeping pace with Jalen Suggs and the high flying Bulldogs. Expect Mark Few to throw a ton of different looks at Garza, similar to how Roy Williams defended him in the UNC game when Garza struggled from the floor.

Gonzaga has such a deep and talented roster that I suspect they can frustrate Garza at times and potentially create enough turnovers to get out and run with efficiency against a sub-par defensive team in the Hawkeyes. Could there be some rust for the Bulldogs off a two week hiatus? It’s possible, but I’ll lay the points with the Zags in this potential shootout. 

BET: Gonzaga -4 @ -115


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