Weekend picks: Wisconsin surges in Big Ten with win over Purdue

Much better week than the previous week.

After an 0-4 stretch, we finished 4-3 last week. Not perfect but we'll take it. We're making progress. Kind of.

This weekend's slate doesn't have the same pizzazz as last weekend's lineup. So we'll pick fewer games.

Still have the same goal, though: perfection.

Kidding. The goal is to minimize embarrassment.

Last week: 4-3

Overall: 9-10

No. 13 Wisconsin at No. 20 Purdue, 4:30 p.m. ET, Sunday, CBS: On Thursday night, Purdue did what it had failed to do in its overtime home loss to Minnesota: The Boilermakers finished a frenzied battle against Ohio State in Columbus. Caleb Swanigan's push for Big Ten player of the year and national player of the year consideration continued when he scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds on an off night (3-for-9 inside the arc). He hit 1 of 2 late free throws to seal the win.

This is Caleb Swanigan, the S-Class model. The same player who scored 28 points (14-for-17 from the free throw line) in a win over Wisconsin in the regular season finale last season. He's even better this season. He's shooting 40 percent ... from the 3-point line. He has made 58 percent of his shots inside the arc.

Can you see it? Swanigan again toying with the Badgers, who will struggle to deal with the big-bodied savant and surrender a greater cushion to a Boilermakers squad that has connected on 40.3 percent of its 3-pointers this season.

Wisconsin stalled a more efficient offense when it KO'd Indiana in Bloomington on Tuesday. But the Boilermakers present more balance.

When Wisconsin faced more balanced units with size and athleticism, Creighton and North Carolina beat Greg Gard's squad by double digits.

Something happened after the North Carolina loss, though. Nigel Hayes stopped launching 3-pointers. Ethan Happ had a time-for-me-to-eat-too epiphany. And Bronson Koenig continued to lead this talented group with his playmaking and his voice.

The confidence gained through a nine-game winning streak and a defense that handled Indiana won't shrink in this matchup.

Prediction: Wisconsin 83, Purdue 78 (overtime)

Oakland at Valparaiso, 9 p.m. ET, Friday, ESPN2: Former Oakland star Kay Felder could win a ring as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, who will probably will reach the NBA Finals for the third consecutive season this summer. Another Horizon League star should find a spot at the next level after this season, too. Alec Peters (25.0 PPG, 10.4 RPG) is a 6-foot-9, versatile forward who has connected on 32 percent of his shots from beyond the arc. Last season, he made 44 percent of his attempts from the perimeter.

How important is he to Valpo? Per hooplens.com, his squad scores just .77 points per possession when he's off the floor and 1.07 PPP when he's on the court.

Like last season, this game could impact the Horizon League race. It's a major matchup for both teams.

And this is a chance for Peters to shine on a national stage. He will.

But this show will belong to Martez Walker (17.7 PPG) and Oakland.

Prediction: Oakland 86, Valparaiso 85

No. 21 Virginia Tech at No. 12 Florida State, 2 p.m. ET, Saturday, ACC Network: We thought last week's trio of losses for ACC top dogs demonstrated the league's depth. Florida State won at Virginia, North Carolina fell at Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech ruined Duke in Blacksburg. A few days later, however, the Hokies suffered a 104-78 loss at North Carolina State.


This ACC is a beast. But it's still too early to know if the league's upstarts will manufacture serious runs into the top tier of the conference.

The same Virginia Tech team that dominated Duke could not outlast an NC State squad that has allowed 77 points or more in seven games this season. Is Virginia Tech for real? We won't have an answer after another tough loss in Tallahassee.

Prediction: Florida State 83, Virginia Tech 75

No. 22 Cincinnati at Houston, 9 p.m. ET, Saturday, ESPNU: Mick Cronin's Bearcats are ranked fourth in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom.com. Kyle Washington has emerged as one of the best players in the American Athletic Conference. He's averaging 13.4 PPG, 7.4 RPG and 1.4 BPG.

But Houston's Danrad Knowles -- no relation to Houston native Beyonce Knowles -- has helped the Cougars hold opponents to a 41.6 percent clip inside the arc, 13th in the country per KenPom.com. Kelvin Sampson's squad can hit shots from the perimeter against a tough Cincy team, too. This is Sampson's best squad at Houston, and winning over a good Cincy squad should prove as much.

Prediction: Houston 68, Cincinnati 65