<
>

Weekend Predictions: Duke finds its swagger

C'mon, man. Really, Louisville?

Great effort and all, but the Cardinals weren't concerned about my predictions.

Not a great stretch for me. One of the worst, actually.

North Carolina beat Louisville on Marcus Paige's clutch shot late.

Virginia proved it's the best team in the ACC with a road win over Notre Dame.

Iowa State played well in a win at West Virginia.

And Duke lost to NC State.

But hey, UConn topped Cincy!

Still, I went 1-4 last weekend. That's ridiculous. Mama said there'd be days like this. Entire weekends like this? Nah. Mama didn't tell me that.

Last week: 1-4

Overall: 27-18

No. 4 Duke at No. 6 Louisville, noon ET, ESPN, Saturday: This breakdown by NBCSports.com's Rob Dauster should scare every Duke fan. Here's the synopsis of his brilliant analysis: Louisville's relentless guards can dupe Duke's defense the same way that Miami's and North Carolina State's backcourts deciphered it in back-to-back games. Not only can Chris Jones and Terry Rozier limit Tyus Jones, Rasheed Sulaimon and Quinn Cook with their defensive pressure, their ball-screen action should continue to expose Duke's defensive challenges on the perimeter. What Louisville won't do, however, is shoot 63 percent or even 50 percent from the 3-point line the way NC State and Miami did, respectively. So if Louisville hits its average of 30 percent from the arc and Montrezl Harrell's free throw struggles persist (60 percent), will the Cardinals send Duke to a third consecutive loss for the first time since the 2006-07 season, when the Blue Devils lost four in a row in two different stretches? Nope.

Prediction: Duke 61, Louisville 58

No. 8 Utah at No. 10 Arizona, 7 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network, Saturday: This is the moment for the Utes. Larry Krystkowiak's program is on the rise. Delon Wright just earned a spot on the Wooden Award Midseason Top 25. Jordan Loveridge is healthy again. Jakob Poeltl (9.5 points per game, 8.3 rebounds per game, 2.1 blocks per game) isn't just a promising big man anymore; he's just a damn good big man these days. The Utes have won six in a row and 12 of their past 13. Will the mojo continue Saturday? Not so fast. Arizona is still a Final Four-caliber program that's fallen twice on the road in tight games. Its 67 percent clip from the charity stripe hasn't helped. But Arizona will be tough to beat at the McKale Center. And Utah, through Sunday, had the nation's second-largest home versus road win differential since the 2011-12 season, per ESPN Stats & Information. And the Utes are also shooting 67 percent from the free throw line. Get ready to see a battle.

Prediction: Arizona 74, Utah 70

No. 9 Kansas at No. 11 Iowa State, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN, Saturday: "College GameDay" will be in Ames, Iowa, on Saturday. And that city will certainly be ready for a big moment. "Hilton Magic" is real. The Cyclones usually put on a show at home. But let's ignore the festivities and consider the facts. Iowa State has lost two of its past four, and the two wins against Oklahoma State and West Virginia were both nail-biters. Georges Niang is on the Wooden Award Midseason Top 25. Niang's past four games? He's 16-for-50. That won't cut it against the Jayhawks, who have regained their swagger after that loss to Temple. Kelly Oubre is getting better. Cliff Alexander is improving. They're 3-0 in the Big 12 and no league opponent has scored more than 57 points against them. Plus, Kansas has won 18 of the past 20 against Iowa State. But history ain't all that.

Prediction: Iowa State 68, Kansas 65

No. 16 West Virginia at No. 20 Texas, 6:15 p.m. ET, ESPN, Saturday: A few weeks ago, Texas appeared to be the team to beat in the Big 12, perhaps the program that would dethrone Kansas. The Longhorns might make a push for the crown, but they're 1-2 in the Big 12. They scored 0.74 points per possession in a loss to Oklahoma and 0.97 in a loss to Oklahoma State. Jonathan Holmes has scored four points in the past two games. This is a problem against a West Virginia team that's improving. The Mountaineers have the highest defensive turnover percentage in America. Texas commits turnovers on 21.1 percent of its possessions, 260th in the country. That's a problem. Even in Austin.

Prediction: West Virginia 74, Texas 69

Michigan State at No. 14 Maryland, 4 p.m. ET, CBS, Saturday: If any team can catch Wisconsin -- and the foot injury and loss of starting point guard Traevon Jackson certainly makes the Badgers more vulnerable -- it's probably playing in this game on Saturday. Iowa is in the mix, too. But the Spartans have won three in a row since that New Year's Eve double-overtime loss to Maryland. They're a better team now. They're hovering around top-30s in defense and offense. They've connected on 41 percent of their 3-pointers. Melo Trimble & Co. are a strong squad, too. But Michigan State held the Terrapins to just 0.83 points per possession and forced 21 turnovers in the first matchup. But the Spartans struggled on the offensive glass and went 5-for-22 from the 3-point line. That won't happen again.

Prediction: Michigan State 61, Maryland 60