I think Meat Loaf once said, “Three out of five ain’t bad.”
And after last weekend’s run, I kind of believe him.
I had no business picking Michigan State to beat the Maryland “Real Deal” Terrapins. Mark Turgeon’s squad is legit. And Texas showed a lot of heart in its win over West Virginia. It didn't help us figure out the Big 12, although it was good for the Longhorns.
But Duke topped Louisville, Iowa State beat Kansas and Arizona beat Utah in Tucson.
Let’s see what happens with this weekend’s slate.
Last week: 3-2
No. 11 Kansas at No. 17 Texas, 2 p.m. ET, CBS, Saturday: Another heavyweight clash in the Big 12. They’re all heavyweight clashes in this league, it seems. Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology projects seven bids for the league. Entering Thursday night, seven Big 12 teams were sitting at .500 or better. It will be difficult for any team to separate. So premier home wins will be vital in this race. Kansas followed its weekend loss to Iowa State with a scrappy win over Oklahoma after giving up a 20-point lead. Kelly Oubre continues to grow. But consistency remains an issue. Not just game to game but half to half. Texas has held its opponents to .88 points per possession. Its offense, however, hasn’t been fluid. Two flawed teams that are still factors in this conference race.
Prediction: Texas 73, Kansas 72
No. 23 Indiana at Ohio State, 1:30 p.m. ET, CBS, Sunday: The Hoosiers continue to fascinate the masses. Their surprising start in the Big Ten followed a troubling offseason. But that’s not why this is so interesting. The Hoosiers have a top-15 offense with a defense that’s hovered around the 200s in efficiency all season. So they can score 85 and give up 85 any night of the week. Give Tom Crean credit. James Blackmon, Robert Johnson and Troy Williams have blossomed next to Yogi Ferrell. Ohio State continues to struggle in the post-Aaron Craft era. How important was the former Buckeyes stopper? Ohio State never finished below 16th in adjusted defensive efficiency with him on its roster. This season, Thad Matta’s squad is 47th, per Ken Pomeroy.
Prediction: Indiana 69, Ohio State 64
No. 19 Oklahoma at No. 21 Baylor, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN2, Saturday: It’s hard to give up on Baylor or Oklahoma in the Big 12 race because both teams have showcased enough promise to make you believe that they could surge in the coming weeks. They’ve also been sloppy, and that makes them difficult to trust. Oklahoma has been down by 20 points three times this season (Washington, West Virginia and Kansas). All losses. Baylor’s 2-3 start could easily be a 4-1 start. The Bears lost to Kansas and Kansas State by three points combined. Oklahoma beat Baylor by 10 in their first meeting, though. Kenny Chery and Lester Medford went 5-for-20 combined in that game. No reason to think that will change in the rematch.
Prediction: Oklahoma 70, Baylor 65
No. 5 Duke at St. John’s, 2 p.m. ET, Fox, Sunday: This win could be No. 1,000 for Coach K, but it would also be another push for a Blue Devils squad that’s gaining momentum after back-to-back losses to Miami and NC State earlier this month. In that win at Louisville, they proved that their defense during that stretch induced panic in large part because the Hurricanes and Wolfpack couldn’t miss from the 3-point line. But the Blue Devils will face another athletic bunch in St. John’s that’s recording blocks on 19.2 percent of its opponents' possessions (third nationally). But Steve Lavin’s squad went from national ranking to national disappointment once Big East play began. There is no reason to believe that St. John’s has a shot against Duke. The pressure, however, could get to these young Blue Devils and make things more dramatic than they need to be. Or not.
Prediction: Duke 79, St. John’s 69
No. 8 Notre Dame at NC State, 6:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU, Sunday: It’s clear that Notre Dame is an elite group with a chance to win the ACC title and make noise in March. Its dynamic offense is such a potent weapon that it masks the Fighting Irish’s mediocre defense (162nd in adjusted efficiency). Jerian Grant & Co. can beat any team in this league. Maybe NC State can too. Sure, the Wolfpack followed that Duke victory with a loss to UNC. But Trevor Lacey, Ralston Turner and Cat Barber are certainly a legit trio that will be dangerous for any opponent, even one with a ceiling as high as Notre Dame’s. This team, however, doesn’t have an identity. Losses to Wofford and Purdue still don’t make much sense. Mark Gottfried’s squad is as unpredictable as it is vulnerable.
Prediction: Notre Dame 80, NC State 74