So I usually address five games every Friday. But this weekend is just too stacked for the typical lineup. So I’m going with seven games, all key matchups that you’ll want to see.
I’m even introducing the Popcorn Factor (a scale of 1-10 Bags) to give you an idea of the amount of popcorn you’ll need to get through this weekend.
Now, let’s talk about last weekend.
According to the Internet, the phrase “egg on my face” hails from an ancient theater culture where eggs were thrown at subpar performers. Maybe. I can’t confirm it.
But I had egg on my face after a daring slate of picks went flat by Saturday night.
I had a lot of confidence in Florida prior to its matchup with Kentucky. But that was the only bright spot in the most recent edition of my picks, other than Creighton over Villanova.
Saint Louis topped VCU, Wisconsin beat Michigan and UConn defeated Memphis.
Not a great weekend for my Weekend Picks.
Let’s see how things go this time.
Last week: 2-3
No. 1 Syracuse at No. 5 Duke, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN: Oh no! The sky is falling in Syracuse, N.Y., and Durham, N.C.! It’s over. … Not even close. I actually think this game is more interesting now with both teams coming off losses. Sure, Boston College beat Cuse. I can’t explain that. But I still think the previously undefeated Orange have an edge here. I know Cuse is on the road, but a few things still stand out from that first matchup. I’ll give Duke credit for fighting in one of the best games of the year on Feb. 1. The Blue Devils survived even after foul trouble put Jabari Parker and other key players on the bench down the stretch. But the Orange scored their final 23 points inside the paint or at the charity stripe in that game, according to ESPN Stats & Info. The Blue Devils had problems keeping North Carolina from the rim on Thursday, too. Plus, did you see how Duke responded to UNC’s zone? Another thriller. Same result.
Prediction: Syracuse 67, Duke 66
Popcorn Factor (9)
No. 4 Arizona at Colorado, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN: Colorado lost four of five games after Spencer Dinwiddie suffered a season-ending knee injury in a loss at Washington on Jan. 12. It was a sad moment for a program on the rise and a player with legit NBA dreams. But sophomore Xavier Johnson has scored 20 or more four times since Dinwiddie’s injury (he hadn't scored 20 this season before then). He’s stepped up to help a Colorado team that’s won five of its last six while boasting a top-50 adjusted defensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy. But Arizona understands loss, too. On Feb. 1, Brandon Ashley suffered a season-ending foot injury that changed the dynamics of the program. His midrange game, size and defense were all vital for the nation's former No. 1 team. The Wildcats are not the same without him, but they’re still a viable contender. Why? Because Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is reminding all doubters that Sean Miller’s recruiting classes have brought a bunch of talent to Tucson in recent years. Including the California game (Ashley left the contest after just two minutes of action), Hollis-Jefferson has averaged 12.6 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.2 BPG and 1.2 SPG. Yeah, the Wildcats are different. But they’re still good. Just not good enough to knock off this soaring, reinvigorated Colorado squad on the road.
Prediction: Colorado 73, Arizona 71
Popcorn Factor (8)
No. 6 San Diego State at New Mexico, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN2: While most of us have been paying attention to other leagues, the Mountain West has been engaged in a fascinating two-team battle at the top. San Diego State’s achievements (zero losses between Nov. 14 and Feb. 11) have been well-documented. Steve Fisher’s program is ninth in adjusted defensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy, and it’s stacked with a roster full of veterans. But SDSU will face New Mexico twice in the next two weeks. Those meetings will likely determine the final outcome of the Mountain West race. New Mexico has the league’s top scoring offense, and the Lobos don’t commit many turnovers (26th in offensive turnover rate per Ken Pomeroy). Plus, Alex Kirk seems healthy again following a lower-leg injury that affected him in late January. The Pit will be hectic on Saturday night, especially after fans storm the floor following New Mexico’s win. Yes, you’re allowed to storm the floor.
Prediction: New Mexico 70, SDSU 65
Popcorn Factor (10)
No. 11 Louisville at No. 7 Cincinnati, noon ET, CBS: The first game was bizarre. Cincinnati had a 28-20 advantage at halftime and led by as many as 17 points overall. Louisville bounced back, however, and nearly overcame Cincinnati. But Cincy senior guard Sean Kilpatrick (28 points, 11-for-11 from the free throw line) was clutch down the stretch. So what will change on Saturday, especially with Cincinnati at home? Well, this will obviously be another defensive battle between a pair of teams ranked in the top 10 in adjusted defensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy. But Terry Rozier has been more effective for Rick Pitino in recent weeks, and Mangok Mathiang is growing, too. For Cincy, Shaquille Thomas has matured. Young players on both rosters have stepped up lately, and that could be the key to a game that might again be decided by a few points. Sure, Kilpatrick and Russ Smith will battle, but the victor might be the team that gets the most from a reserve or underclassmen who wasn’t a major factor in the first meeting.
Prediction: Cincinnati 72, Louisville 68
Popcorn Factor (7)
No. 19 Texas at No. 8 Kansas, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU: The last time these two squads met, Texas beat Kansas by 12 points. That was unexpected. But the Longhorns were living off momentum, and Cameron Ridley and Jonathan Holmes had the size to clog the paint against Kansas, which shot just 39 percent from the floor. KU freshman Andrew Wiggins had seven points and eventually fouled out. But Wiggins hasn’t played that poorly since that awful night in Austin. And Joel Embiid, 3-for-9 in the first game against Texas, is coming off an 18-point, eight-rebound, one-block effort in a one-point win at Texas Tech. Ridley has been inconsistent, but the Longhorns are still a difficult team to control. They haven’t looked good on the road, however, since a 14-point win at Baylor last month. This will be their most challenging trip.
Prediction: Kansas 75, Texas 65
Popcorn Factor (6)
No. 16 Wisconsin at No. 15 Iowa, noon ET, ESPN2: The first game might have ended differently if Fran McCaffery had avoided a second-half ejection. The Hawkeyes had outplayed the Badgers to that point and their size on the perimeter was a problem for Wisconsin, which has won four in a row. I think Iowa will finish what it started in early January and get the win.
Prediction: Iowa 70, Wisconsin 68
Popcorn Factor (8)
No. 13 Michigan State at No. 20 Michigan, noon ET, CBS: Michigan State is somewhat healthy. Keith Appling is playing through a wrist injury, Adreian Payne is out there even though he’s still dealing with a foot injury, and Branden Dawson could return from a broken hand as early as this weekend. The Spartans suffered a loss in the first meeting last month, but that came without Payne and Dawson. Even then, the Spartans still had a chance to beat Michigan, which was then undefeated in the Big Ten squad. Different outcome on Sunday.
Prediction: Michigan State 73, Michigan 68
Popcorn Factor (10)