You hear that?
It’s the Ohio Players singing in the background: “Heaven must be like this...”
OK, we’re exaggerating, but our bounce-back game after the previous week’s results was legit.
From 2-5 to 7-1? Yeah, we’ll take that.
But this weekend’s slate will be more difficult to project. So many good games. So many good teams.
We’ll try, though.
Get ready for a supersized edition of Weekend Predictions.
Last week: 7-1
No. 7 Virginia at Duke, 4:30 p.m. ET Saturday, ESPN: A month ago, this matchup would not have stirred much national interest. Both teams were crumbling in the opening weeks of league play and desperate to recover and match the preseason hype that pointed to ACC contention. At that point, however, the Cavs were in the middle of a 1-3 stretch that featured three road losses to unranked teams. Duke had encountered a 1-4 hurdle in the post-Amile Jefferson era that prompted conversations about something called the NIT that Duke fans had never heard of. But this game demands patience because Saturday’s clash will actually feature two of the hottest teams in the ACC -- Duke has won four of its past five, and Virginia has won seven in a row -- two teams that started February with the rhythm they’d lost a month ago. Both Duke (1.21 points per possession, tied with Saint Mary’s for first) and Virginia (1.15 PPP, 15th) possess two of the most efficient offenses in America. The young Blue Devils are soaring now. But they’re facing Malcolm Brogdon and a team full of grown men pushing for an ACC title and high NCAA tournament seed.
Prediction: Virginia 73, Duke 71
No. 6 Kansas at No. 3 Oklahoma, 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday, ESPN: You saw the first 30 for 30. Well, it wasn’t a 30 for 30, but the triple-overtime affair on Jan. 4 was arguably the greatest regular-season matchup of the past decade. Buddy Hield (46 points) received a standing ovation from Jayhawks fans after that game. Well, here we go again. No, this game won’t match that classic. It can’t. But the two Big 12 powers will battle until the final minute again. The same Oklahoma squad that shot 48 percent from the 3-point line, however, has cooled off in its past three games (26-for-76, 34 percent), a stretch that included a loss at Kansas State when the Sooners connected on just 25 percent of their 3-pointers. They’re still a great team. But a normal night from beyond the arc and Khadeem Lattin’s limited impact on offense (ESPN analyst Seth Greenberg's oft-touted 5-on-4 defensive advantage for the Jayhawks) will give Kansas a slight edge in another thriller.
Prediction: Kansas 77, Oklahoma 74
No. 22 Kentucky at South Carolina, noon ET Saturday, ESPN: This is a matchup for first place in the SEC, and the teams share more than first place (along with LSU in a three-way tie). They’ve looked like different squads at home vs. on the road. Plus, Kentucky will miss Alex Poythress, who is out for two weeks with a knee injury. Yes, the Wildcats have won their past four SEC games at Rupp Arena by 106 points combined. On the road, however, they couldn’t handle Tennessee. South Carolina coach Frank Martin is building a program. Another win Saturday, after Wednesday’s victory against LSU, will prove as much.
Prediction: South Carolina 76, Kentucky 72
Northern Iowa at No. 25 Wichita State, noon ET Saturday, ESPN2: Wichita State has whipped the Missouri Valley Conference since early January. But the Shockers’ résumé doesn’t need another conference loss after they suffered that defeat at Illinois State last weekend. The Panthers are on a five-game winning streak and look like the team that beat Iowa State and North Carolina early in the season.
Prediction: Wichita State 82, Northern Iowa 78 (overtime)
No. 13 Louisville at Notre Dame, 4 p.m. ET Saturday, ESPN2: With a respectable effort at Duke earlier this week, Damion Lee and Trey Lewis proved they’re not going to coast through the regular season even though Louisville can’t reach the postseason. The Cardinals are here to fight. And in this game, decided on a clutch shot in the final seconds, they’ll prove it again.
Prediction: Louisville 79, Notre Dame 77
Wisconsin at No. 2 Maryland, 6:30 p.m. ET Saturday, ESPN: In the first matchup, Melo Trimble hit a late 3-pointer to secure the win for the Terrapins, who escaped despite 16 turnovers. The Badgers have won six in a row, though. They’re back in the bubble conversation. After Saturday’s win, folks will realize that Greg Gard’s squad is a legitimate at-large contender now.
Prediction: Wisconsin 68, Maryland 65
Gonzaga at No. 16 SMU, 10 p.m. ET Saturday, ESPN2: Gonzaga could use another signature win. But SMU, banned from the postseason, is just playing for pride. Get ready for a fun battle between two high-powered offenses.
Prediction: SMU 85, Gonzaga 80
Indiana at No. 8 Michigan State, 1 p.m. ET Sunday, CBS: Indiana is in the hunt for the Big Ten title, while Michigan State is too far back (five conference losses) to catch the group at the top. But the Spartans have won four of their past five games, and their loss to Purdue this week required overtime and an out-of-his-mind start for Rapheal Davis. The Spartans aren't easy to beat, especially at home.
Prediction: Michigan State 83, Indiana 76
No. 23 USC at No. 17 Arizona, 8 p.m. ET Sunday, FS1: Allonzo Trier is back for the Wildcats, who want to avenge their loss of a four-overtime matchup at USC last month. With their top scorer back in the mix and a defense that’s held opponents to .94 PPP (No. 23), they will.
Prediction: Arizona 85, USC 75