Last week produced my first losing record, which came a week after I lost only one game. That’s what happens in conference play. If the games were just 38 minutes instead of 40, I would have been right taking Cincinnati over SMU, California over Oregon and Oklahoma over Kansas. Instead, all three showed up in the loss column.
Thanks to the College Football Playoff title game between Clemson and Alabama, there’s a very light college basketball schedule Monday night, but Tuesday’s lineup will more than make up for it. Hopefully my picks will make up for last week, too (all times Eastern):
No. 1 Kansas at No. 17 West Virginia (Morgantown, West Viginia), 7 p.m. Tuesday, ESPN2: The Jayhawks visit “Press Virginia” boasting the No. 1 3-point shooting team in the Big 12. That could prove detrimental to the Mountaineers, who are prone to giving up open shots once their press is broken. Kansas’ use of two point guards in Frank Mason III and Devonte' Graham should nullify the effectiveness of the pressure, anyway. West Virginia hasn’t lost since dropping its only game of the season seven games ago to Virginia.
Prediction: Kansas 81, West Virginia 73
No. 12 Miami at No. 4 Virginia (Charlottesville, Virginia), 7 p.m. Tuesday, ESPNU: The Cavaliers are backpedaling, having lost back-to-back games to Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech. A third straight loss would be detrimental to their quest for a third consecutive ACC regular-season title. The Canes have been playing as well as any team in the league, and their defense has been just as effective as their offense. But facing a desperate team on the road is not a good combination for victory.
Prediction: Virginia 72, Miami 66
Davidson at No. 25 Dayton (Dayton, Ohio), 8 p.m. Tuesday, CBSSN: It’s the first meeting of two teams expected to contend for the Atlantic 10 crown, and the loser will find itself two games back of current front-runners VCU and St. Bonaventure. The Flyers are adjusting to playing without second-leading scorer Kendall Pollard and look to bounce back after a loss to La Salle. The Wildcats’ best chance might be to slow down the pace as much as possible, the same way the Explorers did.
Prediction: Dayton 83, Davidson 75
New Mexico at UNLV (Las Vegas), 10 p.m. Tuesday, CBSSN: After a rare midseason coaching change, the Runnin’ Rebels will play their first game under interim coach Todd Simon when New Mexico comes to town. UNLV showed Dave Rice out after losing five of the last six games, including an 0-3 start in Mountain West play. The Lobos are tied with Boise State and San Diego State with a 3-0 start in the league. The Rebels three’ conference losses are by a combined six points.
Prediction: UNLV 68, New Mexico 64
No. 14 Duke at Clemson (Greenville, South Carolina), 7 p.m. Wednesday, ESPN2: It’s bad enough that the game is being played in Greenville while their on-campus arena is being renovated, but should the football Tigers bring home the national championship, this game is in danger of being a precious afterthought. That would be a shame, because Clemson all of a sudden is a hot team in ACC play with wins over Florida State, at Syracuse and Sunday’s upset of Louisville.
Prediction: Duke 72, Clemson 69
No. 19 Iowa at No. 5 Michigan State (East Lansing, Michigan), 7 p.m. Thursday, ESPN: Pretty sure the Spartans have had this game circled since losing to the Hawkeyes with Denzel Valentine sidelined. He’s not anymore. Valentine returned in Sunday’s win over Penn State with 10 points, four rebounds and four assists in 23 minutes. That coupled with the fact that Iowa hasn’t won at Michigan State since 1993 pretty much sums up how this should go.
Prediction: Michigan State 84, Iowa 72
No. 24 Pittsburgh at No. 16 Louisville (Louisville, Kentucky), 9 p.m. Thursday, ESPN: The Cardinals own the dubious title of being the best team in the nation that hasn’t beaten anybody substantial. They’re likely to take a slide in the polls after losing at Clemson, which fits their pattern of seemingly always suffering a head-scratching January loss. The Panthers have reeled off 10 straight wins after suffering their only loss of the season to Purdue. But Pittsburgh hasn’t won at Louisville since 2006 and is 0-4 in the KFC Yum! Center.
Prediction: Louisville 65, Pittsburgh 59
Last week’s record: 3-4 (.428)
Season record: 45-20 (.692)