It's a good day, folks.
Last weekend was our best weekend.
Missed the Providence-Villanova result but picked the others.
Let's keep the party going this weekend.
Last week: 5-1
No. 20 Kentucky at No. 4 Kansas, 7 p.m. ET, Saturday, ESPN: Let's get this out of the way now. This isn't what we expected. When we all saw this matchup on the schedule, we figured this game would feature a pair of top-five teams with legit national title hopes, not two traditional powerhouses still searching for their identities. “I'd love to see personality,” Bill Self said Thursday about his Jayhawks, who've lost three of their past five matchups.
John Calipari grew so dispirited by his frontcourt's woes that he inserted Derek Willis into his starting lineup. The latter maneuver, as much as the competition the team has faced, may have inspired the Wildcats, who've swarmed opponents during their three-game win streak (no team has registered more than a point per possession in the past three games). Kentucky is beginning to look like Kentucky. Kansas is a nice team that lacks the bite previous Jayhawks squads demonstrated in the program's 11-year reign over the Big 12. But this game will not disappoint the masses. Two teams seeking clarity and quality wins will come to play. They'll make this the heavyweight bout we've all anticipated for months. And after the final buzzer, we'll discuss Kentucky's growth and KU's ongoing struggles.
Prediction: Kentucky 84, Kansas 81 (overtime)
No. 1 Oklahoma at LSU, 5 p.m. ET, Saturday, ESPN: Yes, we're lucky to see a matchup that features the premier candidates in the Wooden Award race, Buddy Hield and Ben Simmons. They're both very good, we've heard. And that's a fun thing to emphasize entering this matchup. But the Sooners are grown men who've faced adversity in Norman and beyond. They've overcome difficult circumstances all season and remained calm. Meanwhile, the LSU Tigers are still a team that relies on underclassmen and fails to make clutch defensive plays (ranked 100th in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom.com) in critical situations. Hield vs. Simmons is fun. For LSU, a double-digit loss will not be.
Prediction: Oklahoma 80, LSU 70
No. 14 Iowa State at No. 5 Texas A&M, 2 p.m. ET, Saturday, ESPN: During Iowa State's current four-game winning streak, just one opponent (Oklahoma) has registered more than a point per possession against the Cyclones. That's why Iowa State once again looks the part of a Big 12 title contender and more. Naz Long's season-ending injury cost the Cyclones their best perimeter defender. Abdel Nader's improvement on that end of the floor (four steals against Kansas), however, has helped the Cyclones find a rhythm. But they're facing a tough Texas A&M squad in College Station -- a Texas A&M squad with Jalen Jones (17.1 PPG), Danuel House (15.8 PPG) and a defense ranked fifth in efficiency on KenPom.com. The Aggies held Gonzaga, Baylor and LSU, all top-50 offenses, to fewer than 62 points. All of these challenges for the Cyclones plus the unknown status of Jameel McKay, a senior big man dealing with knee issues, suggests they're in trouble. That's a tough scenario for any team. But the Cyclones are playing with a rare confidence. The streak will continue.
Prediction: Iowa State 83, Texas A&M 79
No. 9 West Virginia at Florida, 12 p.m. ET, Saturday, ESPN: Michael White's squad is close, but the Gators aren't there yet. Let us explain. Florida has lost three games this season by three or fewer points. The Gators suffered a one-point loss at Vanderbilt on Saturday when they registered just 0.86 PPP. Yet they're ranked fourth in adjusted defensive efficiency. But West Virginia boasts the nation's best defense and is a bully on the offensive glass with Devin Williams, Elijah Macon and Jonathan Holton (suspended Thursday night) roughing up opponents in the paint. Another great effort for Florida. And another tough single-digit loss for the Gators.
Prediction: West Virginia 66, Florida 62
No. 11 Virginia at No. 16 Louisville, 1 p.m. ET, Saturday, CBS: Virginia suffered all four of its losses this season in true road games against unranked opponents. That's one reason to pick against a Cavs squad that's traveling to Louisville to face a Cardinals squad that has held opponents to a 40.3 percent mark inside the arc this season (third in the nation). Also, Damion Lee is playing like Will in the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” episode in which Carlton gets jealous because Uncle Phil can't get enough of his nephew's game. Lee has been a monster (29 points in a win over Virginia Tech on Wednesday). Then there's the issue with Virginia's offense outside Charlottesville. Malcolm Brogdon connected on just four of his 23 3-point attempts in his team's four road losses. That's a problem.
Prediction: Louisville 69, Virginia 65
No. 10 Providence at Georgetown, 8 p.m. ET, Saturday, FS1: Providence needs a win after losing at home to Xavier earlier this week. But the Hoyas are 6-2 in league play. And D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera (16.3 PPG), not Kris Dunn, will be the biggest star on the floor Saturday.
Prediction: Georgetown 75, Providence 72
No. 22 Wichita State at Evansville, 4 p.m. ET, Sunday, ESPNU: Wichita State has won its Missouri Valley Conference games by an average margin of 21.1 PPG. The only MVC squad that's made the Shockers seem beatable in the MVC is Evansville, which suffered a 67-64 loss to the Shockers in Wichita, Kansas, on Jan. 6. The Purple Aces have connected on 56 percent of their shots inside the arc. But Wichita State hasn't lost since Dec. 19. Everything must come to an end, though. Wichita State's win streak, however, will not.
Prediction: Wichita State 75, Evansville 72 (overtime)