Yep. I was wrong.
But I was almost right. (Called the two-point game. Can I get a ribbon or something?)
But Ulis had the juice and touch when the Wildcats needed him against a Cardinals squad that never quit. That’s a 4-0 record at Rupp Arena and an 8-1 record overall for John Calipari against Rick Pitino’s Louisville squad.
That was weeks ago, though. (Google “Dave Chappelle Rick James skit.”)
This weekend’s slate is the best Saturday/Sunday combo we’ve had since March Madness. There are upset alerts and powerhouse pairings. There are games that could diminish the value of Monday’s Kansas-Oklahoma matchup too.
Get your popcorn ready.
Last week: 0-1
No. 9 Butler at No. 6 Xavier, 1 p.m. ET, Saturday, FS1: No other way to describe what happened on New Year’s Eve. Xavier got stomped by Villanova in a crucial game between Big East contenders. The loss of Edmond Sumner, who was transported to a local hospital following a scary fall, seemed to shake the team early. That’s no excuse for a 19-turnover, 31-point loss. A good Butler team will enter this game hungry for a win after losing to Providence on Thursday. Sumner’s status as the glue guy for this program contributed to Thursday’s loss. His likely absence will be Xavier’s rallying cry on Saturday. That’s not enough to stop Kellen Dunham and Roosevelt Jones, though.
Prediction: Butler 76, Xavier 73
No. 23 Baylor at No. 2 Kansas, 4 p.m. ET, Saturday, CBS: Here’s a quote about Kansas from someone close to the Baylor program: “You ain’t gonna beat them in Lawrence. Not happening.” That’s the general thought process of every Big 12 supporter. And that’s not the only reason to pick Kansas. Yes, Baylor’s 42.2 offensive rebounding percentage is ranked sixth nationally per KenPom.com. The Bears lost their two road games against quality opponenets -- Texas A&M and Oregon -- by 26 points. There’s no reason to think they’ll remedy those challenges outside Waco, Texas, by Saturday when they face a national title contender that’s shooting 44.1 percent from the 3-point line.
Prediction: Kansas 78, Baylor 69
Iowa at No. 14 Purdue, 6 p.m. ET, Saturday, BTN: Don’t ignore Iowa’s whipping of a Denzel Valentine-less No. 1 Michigan State squad in the Big Ten opener for both teams. That win showcased Iowa’s ability to spread the floor and impact the game with spacing that’s difficult to solve. Jarrod Uthoff, Peter Jok and Mike Gesell combined to score 54 points. Matt Painter’s team will encounter the same problems that hurt the Spartans. But I’m just not sure how Iowa will handle Caleb Swanigan’s passes from the post, A.J. Hammons’ physicality and Isaac Haas’ length. Painter can employ multiple schemes that place Rapheal Davis, the reigning Big Ten defensive player of the year, in front of any opponent’s best offensive wing. Great game ahead. But Ricky Davis ain’t walkin’ through that door.
Prediction: Purdue 74, Iowa 69
No. 11 Iowa State at No. 3 Oklahoma, 7 p.m. ET, Saturday, ESPN2: A friend and Iowa State fan sent this note to me during the Cyclones’ 104-84 win over Coppin State on Wednesday (Coppin State, a mediocre offensive squad, connected on 17 of 30 3-pointers): “We can’t stop a nosebleed.” Within KenPom.com’s top 20, Iowa State’s differential (51) in offensive (16th) and defensive efficiency (67th) is third behind North Carolina and SMU. Oklahoma has Buddy Hield, a veteran crew around him and an offense that’s connecting on 46.2 percent of its 3-pointers (No. 2 in the country). But Oklahoma will compete for the Big 12 title and more because of a defense that was strong enough to hold Wisconsin to 0.80 points per possession and Villanova to 0.77 PPP.
Prediction: Oklahoma 82, Iowa State 74
No. 21 Utah at California, 7:30 p.m. ET, Sunday, Pac-12: Ivan Rabb vs. Jakob Poeltl is a matchup that NBA scouts and execs will enjoy. The Bears need a win to prove that they’re legit Pac-12 contenders. But Poeltl is a handful and his work in the paint creates offensive options for a Utah squad that handled Duke on a neutral floor. The Utes boast a continuity that Cal has sought all season. Plus, Rabb, Jaylen Brown, Tyrone Wallace and Jabari Bird haven’t justified the preseason hype and top-25 ranking yet. A win on Sunday would -- will -- alter perceptions about the Bears.
Prediction: Cal 79, Utah 75
No. 4 Maryland at Northwestern, 8 p.m. ET, Saturday, BTN: Maryland is blessed with a Big Ten schedule that features one game against Michigan State (Jan. 23 in East Lansing). The Terrapins have everything you’d want for a conference title run. Except trust. Our trust. Diamond Stone’s NBA Jam game saved Maryland against Penn State in the team’s Big Ten opener. Will Maryland face similar trouble at Northwestern in its second true road game of the year? Yes.
Prediction: Maryland 79, Northwestern 78 (overtime)
No. 8 Arizona at Arizona State, 2 p.m. ET, Sunday, FS1: DeAndre Ayton (No. 1 in the 2017 class per RecruitingNation), Markus Howard (2016), Marvin Bagley III (No. 1 in the 2018 class per RecruitingNation). Those are the names of elite prospects in the state of Arizona’s upcoming recruiting classes, a state that’s lacked elite talent in recent years. Bobby Hurley might not get those kids, but he has to get on their lists and those of the young men like them on the West Coast prep scene. Arizona is always on the list. A win over Arizona State’s rival would boost Hurley’s national profile and continue to show the dramatic changes he’s already made to the program. But Ryan Anderson, Allonzo Trier and Gabe York won’t let that happen. Get ready for a thriller -- that Arizona wins on a buzzer-beater.
Prediction: Arizona 76, ASU 74