Weekend Predictions: North Carolina spoils Jim Boeheim's return

Inside the numbers: North Carolina-Syracuse (1:45)

Chris Hassel and Kara Lawson break down some significant numbers for Syracuse under interim coach Mike Hopkins as the Orange prepare to play North Carolina. (1:45)

It gets worse, I guess.

Kind of.

I should have known that Xavier would use its matchup against Butler as a way to purge itself of the lopsided road loss to Villanova. And I really considered how Iowa’s perimeter spacing would affect a Purdue team that lost to a Butler squad that presented similar challenges.

Big misses on those two matchups.

But hey, I called Oklahoma over Iowa State, Kansas over Baylor and Cal over Utah. (Everyone did, I know. Just let me enjoy this.)

Let’s see what happens this week.

Last week: 3-2

Overall: 21-15

No. 6 North Carolina at Syracuse, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN, Saturday: Jim Boeheim will return from a nine-game suspension Saturday. So the Carrier Dome will erupt. But that atmosphere can carry the Orange only so far. Brice Johnson is coming off one of the greatest games in recent history (39 points, 23 rebounds in a win at Florida State). And, per ESPN Stats & Information, the Tar Heels are averaging 10 more points per game with Marcus Paige in the lineup. Right now, North Carolina looks like the team to beat in the ACC. But North Carolina lost games outside Chapel Hill, North Carolina, to Texas and Northern Iowa (without Paige). The Tar Heels are rolling in ACC play, though, and Syracuse has surrendered a league-high 13.0 second-chance PPG.

Prediction: North Carolina 80, Syracuse 75

Valparaiso at Oakland, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2, Friday: This is a matchup between the Horizon League’s best offense and its top defense. Valparaiso is ranked second in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom.com. And Oakland is sixth in the nation at 86.6 PPG. The difference in this matchup will be Kahlil Felder (26.1 PPG and 9.2 APG), the 5-9 offensive catalyst who will help Oakland secure a significant Horizon League win.

Prediction: Oakland 70, Valpo 67

No. 21 Texas A&M at Tennessee, 1 p.m. ET, SEC Network, Saturday: On Wednesday night, Rick Barnes’ squad registered 83 points in a 14-point win against Florida, which is ranked among the top five teams in defensive efficiency this season. Now, that doesn’t erase losses to Auburn and Nebraska. But the Vols haven’t lost at home. And that won’t change Saturday.

Prediction: Tennessee 76, Texas A&M 72

No. 3 Maryland at Wisconsin, 1 p.m. ET, ESPN, Saturday: Former Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan wanted Milwaukee native and Maryland forward Diamond Stone to stay home and play in Madison, Wisconsin. But he chose Maryland. And he has been a monster in his past five games (18.2 PPG). A Badgers squad ranked 88th nationally in opponents’ field goal percentage at the rim (54.2 percent), per hoop-math, will have trouble with Maryland’s interior presence and with the one who got away.

Prediction: Maryland 75, Wisconsin 68

Baylor at No. 13 Iowa State, 3 p.m. ET, ESPN2, Saturday: The Cyclones are 16-1 in their past 17 conference home games, with their only loss coming against Baylor last season. That’s a timely stat, but Baylor has lost to its three ranked opponents this season, all road games, by 54 points combined. Iowa State leads major conference programs with 42.4 PPG in the paint, according to the good folks at ESPN Stats & Info. Plus, the Cyclones are on a mission to prove that the Big 12 is not just Oklahoma versus Kansas. Meanwhile, Baylor is still trying to find itself outside Waco, Texas.

Prediction: Iowa State 87, Baylor 82

Vanderbilt at No. 22 South Carolina, 3 p.m. ET, ESPNU, Saturday: Vandy is the best six-loss team in America. But the Commodores opened the SEC season with losses to Arkansas and LSU. A victory against Vandy would help South Carolina silence the critics of its perfect record. The knock against South Carolina is that it accrued an unblemished résumé via weak competition. A convincing win against the Commodores would help the Gamecocks show the college basketball world that their hot hands (39.4 percent from the 3-point line) and strong defense will continue against better competition.

Prediction: South Carolina 72, Vanderbilt 66

No. 7 Arizona at USC, 7 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network, Saturday: It has been a tough opening chapter for Pac-12 teams. Arizona lost to UCLA at Pauley Pavilion on Thursday night. The Bruins were swept by Washington State and Washington on the road during the weekend. Cal at Oregon? Loss. Oregon at Oregon State? Loss. Utah left the Bay Area with losses to Cal and Stanford in its first two games. USC's Andy Enfield has his best team and a top-50 defense, but the Wildcats won’t lose two in a row.

Prediction: Arizona 79, USC 75

Upset Alert

No. 1 Kansas at Texas Tech, 9 p.m. ET, ESPNU, Saturday: The Red Raiders pushed Iowa State in a road loss earlier this week. They’re holding opponents to a 30.6 percent clip outside the arc. Kansas is second in the country at 45.7 percent from the 3-point line. If the Red Raiders turn Kansas into an average 3-point shooting team, they’ll have a chance to secure the upset. This will be a tough trip for the entire Big 12. Tubby Smith’s Red Raiders will push America’s top team to the brink in this one.

Prediction: Kansas 86, Texas Tech 84