Thursday NCAA Picks

Our team of writers and handicappers hand out their College Basketball picks and predictions for Thursday, February 12.

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Louisville at Notre Dame, 7:00PM ET

Louisville bounced back from its first loss since December in its latest game, coming from behind in the second half to remain one of the country's hottest teams.

Already mired in a slump when it last took the court, Notre Dame may have hit rock bottom.

The fifth-ranked Cardinals will look for their 11th win in 12 games on Thursday when they head to South Bend to face the Fighting Irish, whose loss to Louisville a month ago has set off a seven-game losing streak.

Early on, the Cardinals (18-4, 9-1 Big East) didn't look much like the team that was ranked third in the preseason Top 25, losing three games to unranked opponents before conference play got under way.

Once coach Rick Pitino's team kicked off its Big East slate, though, it looked very much like a national championship contender. After closing its non-conference schedule with a victory, Louisville reeled off wins in its first eight league games, including one against then-No. 1 Pittsburgh on Jan. 17.

That streak ended with a 68-51 loss to top-ranked Connecticut on Feb. 2 when it shot just 34.4 percent, and that cold shooting carried over into the first half the Cardinals' game Sunday at St. John's. After trailing 22-19 at halftime, they rallied behind 19 of Jerry Smith's season-high 21 points to win 60-47.

NCAA Free Pick: Louisville  View Game Matchup | Best Line: -3

Gonzaga at St. Marys, 11:00PM ET

Saint Mary's leading scorer Patrick Mills has been a handful for Gonzaga. The Bulldogs, though, may not have to worry about the star sophomore for the rest of the season.

Coming off a tough non-conference loss, the 19th-ranked Bulldogs look to take advantage of Mills' absence and hand the Gaels their first loss at McKeon Pavilion this season as the West Coast Conference rivals meet Thursday night.

Gonzaga (17-5, 8-0), playing in a lightly regarded league, was dominated in a 68-50 loss to then-No. 14 Memphis on Saturday night in its last chance to impress the NCAA selection committee in a major non-conference matchup.

The Bulldogs return to conference play after having a nine-game winning streak snapped, but matchups with Saint Mary's (19-4, 6-3) are never a cakewalk. The Gaels, however, have dropped two of three after losing Mills (fractured right hand) in a 69-62 loss to the Zags on Jan. 29.

Saint Mary's had won a school-record 15 straight games - the nation's top winning streak at the time - and was ranked 22nd entering that contest, but will now have to make do without Mills at least until the WCC tournament.

NCAA Free Pick: St. Marys View Game Matchup | Best Line: -4

Utah State at Idaho, 10:05PM ET

Following the graduation of its all-time leading scorer, Utah State wasn't expected to defend its Western Athletic Conference title. With one more victory, the Aggies can repeat as league champs.

They can also match the longest win streak in school history.

While attempting to clinch a share of a second straight WAC crown, 21st-ranked Utah State will also try for its Division I-best 19th consecutive victory Thursday at Idaho.

After losing honorable mention All-American guard Jaycee Carroll, who averaged 22.4 points last season, the Aggies (23-1, 11-0) were picked to finish second behind Nevada in the preseason.

Utah State, though, is the only undefeated team in the conference while the Wolf Pack are 4 1/2 games behind the Aggies.

While it should take care of the struggling Vandals (10-12, 4-5), Utah State would be wise to avoid repeating the final 12 minutes of Saturday's 60-52 win over visiting Louisiana Tech.

The Aggies nearly gave away a 17-point second-half lead, allowing the Bulldogs to get within four twice in the final 1:09.

NCAA Free Pick: Idaho View Game Matchup | Best Line: +6

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Posted: 2/12/09 11:50AM ET

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