College basketball picks, schedule: predictions for Kansas against George Mason and other top games on Saturday
It’s New Years Day and college basketball kicks off in 2022 with a solid lineup on Saturday as conference play begins to heat up across the country. While many games aren’t going to play as planned due to COVID-19 issues, there will still be plenty of action to unpack on a day that also shares the limelight with college football games. Among the highlights are three games on CBS, a showdown between No.1 Baylor and No.8 Iowa State, and a hastily arranged non-conference clash between the No.6 Kansas and George Mason. .
In some ways, Saturday marks a fresh start even in the midst of all the disruption to the schedule. Some programs will look to leave the harsh times of November and December behind as league play rolls around, and others will look to prove that their excellent starts can continue into conference play.
Iowa State certainly fits the latter category as 12-0 cyclones prepare to entangle with 12-0 bears. Few would have seen the ISU’s perfect start after the program limped to a 2-22 record last season. But first-year coach TJ Otzelberger is doing wonders so far, and his schedule will be at the center of the sport for a home showdown with the reigning national champions.
Here are the expert picks for this game and for some of the other big tournaments of the day.
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Featured Game | UNLV Rebels v San Diego State Aztecs
4 p.m. CBS, CBSSports.com, CBS Sports app (free) – It’s the first game since December 22 for both teams, so don’t be surprised if tired legs lead to an erratic attack from both sides. The kicker here is San Diego State’s elite defense, which maintains its opponents to just 58.5 points per game. The Aztecs should be able to send the defense back up and stifle the UNLV offensive. Prediction: San Diego State 65, UNLV 58
George Mason at Kansas No.6
Featured Game | Kansas Jayhawks vs. George Mason Patriots
5pm | ESPN + – This game is a late addition after George Mason’s A-10 opponent scheduled for Sunday, Duquesne, was unable to play due to COVID-19 concerns. Likewise, Kansas was set for its first Big 12 game against TCU on Saturday until the Horned Frogs ran into problems with COVID-19. George Mason has already had victories in Maryland and Georgia under first-year coach Kim English, but the Jayhawks are a superior team and will have no problems. Prediction: Kansas 84, George Mason 60
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Featured Game | Wichita State Shockers vs. Memphis Tigers
12h | CBS, CBSSports.com, CBS Sports app (free) – Both teams have had a disappointing start, and home home advantage hasn’t been of much help for Wichita State, who lost at home to Kansas State and North Texas. With the Shockers playing their first game since December 22, expect some rust. If Memphis recovers a few players who missed Tulane’s loss on Wednesday, the Tigers should look more like the team that beat No.19 Alabama by 14 points than the one that lost to Tulane. Prediction: Memphis 81, Wichita 77
2pm | CBS, CBSSports.com, CBS Sports app (free) – Villanova is incredibly dependent on 3 points, ranking 20th nationally with 28.7 long-distance attempts per game. For a team playing at a slow pace, treys are a staggering part of their offense. It’s been a recipe for success in the past, but against Seton Hall it’s a risk. Opponents are shooting just 26.1% against the Pirates from the depths this season, which means Seton Hall is No.12 nationally in 3-point shooting defense. Seek out the Pirates to stifle Villanova’s outside shooters, and use their attacking physics to put the Wildcats in trouble. Prediction: Seton Hall 72, Villanova 66
No. 1 Baylor to No. 8 Iowa State
2pm | ESPNU, fuboTV (Try for free) – This massive Big 12 battle between two of the country’s four undefeated teams will be a duel of defenses as No.1 Baylor plays just his second real road game in what is expected to be a hostile Hilton Coliseum. Both are in the top 10 nationally in points allowed, with Baylor allowing just 56.8 per game and Iowa State allowing just 56.1. The difference is, Baylor has an elite attack as well, and that will be enough for the Bears to overcome the road environment. Prediction: Baylor 73, Iowa State 63