Well, it’s been fun, folks.
Another season of weekend predictions. This is the season's last installment, because March is here and the world’s greatest postseason will begin soon.
Some good times, some bad times.
Too many so-so times, such as last week.
Until next year. (Stay tuned for my annual "Bold Predictions.")
Last week: 3-3
No. 11 Louisville at No. 4 Virginia, 8:30 p.m. ET Saturday, ESPN: The box score didn’t tell the anticipated story of Virginia’s 79-74 win against North Carolina. The Tar Heels connected on 50 percent of their shots inside the arc and surpassed their season averages by connecting on a remarkable 47 percent of their 3-pointers. They also secured a 39 percent offensive rebounding rate. So how did they lose? Well, UNC’s 13 turnovers in a 66-possession affair damaged its aspirations. Beyond that, however, Virginia scored 1.20 points per possession. The Cavs’ offense outplayed one of the nation’s most imposing offenses. If you’re looking for a team to trust in March, Virginia makes as much sense as any. Sure, the Cavs are flawed. But they find ways to overcome those issues. In their first meeting with Louisville, they committed 15 turnovers and grabbed only 25 percent of their missed shots. Yet they beat the Cardinals by 16 points ... in Louisville. This is the last game for a Louisville team that will miss the postseason. And that’s the fine print on Saturday. The headline, however, will capture Virginia’s standing as possibly the team to beat going forward.
Prediction: Virginia 73, Louisville 68
No. 8 North Carolina at No. 17 Duke, 6:30 p.m. ET Saturday, ESPN: The hectic conclusion of the first Duke-UNC clash of the season featured a wild celebration on the Blue Devils’ bench and confusion on the other end of the court. After the game, Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said he made a mistake when he didn’t call a late timeout. Brice Johnson took one shot in the final 12:55. Marcus Paige went 2-for-10. In the final 6:46, the short-handed Blue Devils outscored the Tar Heels 14-5. Grayson Allen and Brandon Ingram combined to score 43 points; North Carolina has surrendered 19 points or more to an opposing guard in its six losses this season. And even as it all went wrong, the idea that North Carolina finished a play or two from completing what it started with its 46-42 halftime lead remained. Now the Tar Heels return to Cameron Indoor Stadium, where they intend to end Duke’s control of the rivalry -- the Blue Devils have won the past four meetings. But will this be different from the past four matchups?
Prediction: North Carolina 78, Duke 76
LSU at No. 22 Kentucky, 2 p.m. ET Saturday, CBS: We all circled this game before the season. Ben Simmons and LSU against Kentucky at Rupp Arena. We just failed to project the stakes. To solidify Simmons' standing as the Wooden Award front-runner? No, because he’s not. To elevate the respective seed lines of both teams? Not exactly. To give LSU a final chance to have a prayer on Selection Sunday? Bingo. The Tigers will certainly need an SEC tournament title to secure a bid if they lose on Saturday. And they will lose on Saturday.
Prediction: Kentucky 80, LSU 70
Wisconsin at No. 15 Purdue, 7:30 p.m. ET Sunday, Big Ten Network: For some reason, Wisconsin still isn’t ranked. Sure, the Badgers received the most votes in both polls this week, but they’re not ranked. This team has lost one game since Jan. 12 (at Michigan State) and defeated Indiana, Maryland (road), Iowa (road) and Michigan State. Maybe a fifth win against a ranked team in its past 13 games will convince more voters that Wisconsin deserves a top-25 slot.
Prediction: Wisconsin 68, Purdue 63
No. 9 Oregon at USC, 4 p.m. ET Saturday, Pac-12 Network: Elgin Cook scored 26 points in the first game, an 89-81 win that exposed USC’s defensive challenges. The Trojans don’t force many turnovers and are shooting just 68.1 percent from the free throw line in league play (ninth place). They do not have much room for error. You could say the same of the Trojans’ résumé. This week’s lopsided win against an Oregon State team that didn’t have Tres Tinkle helped, but a victory against the league champion would add even more mojo to USC’s claim for an at-large berth. But how can you trust a team that has surrendered 84 or more points in three of its past six games?
Prediction: Oregon 84, USC 75
No. 21 Iowa State at No. 1 Kansas, 4 p.m. ET Saturday, ESPN: Kansas will enter the Big 12 tournament in Kansas City as one of the hottest teams in America. The Jayhawks haven’t lost since Jan. 25 ... when they suffered a 13-point loss at Iowa State. Kansas unraveled that afternoon. The Jayhawks committed 16 turnovers and finished 5-for-17 from beyond the arc. It wasn’t a great night for the Jayhawks. But Iowa State looked like KU’s toughest opponent in the Big 12. Like Kansas, the Cyclones have big wings, and they excel at the rim. The Cyclones are still dangerous. The Jayhawks, however, have rolled since that night. They are a balanced team that is shooting 42.6 percent from the 3-point line (fourth). And they rarely lose at the Phog.
Prediction: Kansas 95, Iowa State 90 (overtime)