This weekend is full of strong head-to-head matchups between college basketball powerhouses.
2 Duke (20-2, 8-1 ACC) vs. 3 Virginia (20-1, 8-1 ACC)
Saturday’s rematch with Duke is the start of a difficult stretch for Virginia, in which the Cavaliers will play four of their next five games against teams ranked in the top 16.
Duke handed UVA its only loss of the season when the two teams met in Durham three weeks ago.
In my preview for that game, I said Duke stars Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett would need to combine for 45 or 50 points for the Blue Devils to win. Williamson and Barrett ended up scoring 57 of Duke’s points in a 72-70 win.
I’m sticking with the idea that Williamson and Barrett need to score 50 in Saturday’s rematch. Duke is limited in terms of depth, and while having Tre Jones back from injury helps Coach K’s team, most of the Blue Devils’ offense will need to come from the team’s two best players.
Prediction: I expect Virginia to shoot better than 3 for 17 from three, which was the Cavaliers output in the first meeting. But, Duke’s best defender Tre Jones, who is healthy for this game after missing the first matchup, should boost the Blue Devils. Coach K’s squad wins a tight one again.
16 Louisville (17-6, 8-2 ACC) vs. 22 Florida State (17-5, 5-4 ACC)
In another matchup featuring a pair of ranked ACC teams, Florida State hosts Louisville.
After losing four of its first five conference games, Florida State has rounded into form, winning four straight ACC contests.
The rest of the ACC doesn’t want to play a Florida State team that’s getting hot at the right time of the season. Leonard Hamilton’s squad is reminding the rest of college basketball that despite their slow start to conference play, this is still the same Seminoles team that reached the Elite Eight last year.
Louisville and Florida State look very similar on paper. Both teams score in the upper 70s, hold teams to 68 points per game, and shoot 45%.
A player to watch for Louisville is sophomore forward Jordan Nwora. Nwora is long and athletic, standing 6’8. He can step out and shooting threes and he averages close to 40% from beyond the arc this season. In addition, he’s a handful to deal with inside.
Prediction: While I like Louisville’s athleticism, Florida State is the more talented team. Plus, the Seminoles are hot right now and they’re at home Saturday. Take Florida State to win.
14 Villanova (19-4, 10-0 Big East) vs. 10 Marquette (19-4, 8-2 Big East)
In game that should go a long way towards deciding the Big East regular season champion: Marquette, currently second in the conference standings, hosts Villanova, who are unbeaten in Big East play.
Villanova head coach Jay Wright deserves a ton of credit for turning the Wildcat’s season around. Most people buried the defending champs early in the season after back-to-back losses to Michigan and Furman in non-conference play.
But despite losing four players from last year’s team to the NBA, Villanova is right back in the thick of the college basketball race and may win the Big East again.
The Wildcats mix outside shooting, Collin Gillespie averages nearly 42% shooting from three, with size inside. Forward Eric Paschall is averaging 17 points and six rebounds per game.
Meanwhile, Marquette has been one of the stories of college basketball this season. Sam Hauser might be the best player you’ve never heard of. The 6’8 forward is posting 15 points and seven rebounds per game, while shooting 40% from three. The Golden Eagles feature a balanced offensive attack: three players average double figures and shoot at least 40% from the outside. Plus, this team plays hard nose defense.
Prediction: Desperation goes a long way in sports. Marquette has to win this game if the Golden Eagles are going to keep pace with Villanova for the Big East regular season title. Plus, Marquette lost a heartbreaker in overtime to St. John’s earlier this week. I like Marquette’s balance on offense and the fact that they’re at home. The Golden Eagles win a close game.
19 Wisconsin (17-6, 9-3 Big Ten) vs. 7 Michigan (21-2, 10-2 Big Ten)
Wisconsin has worked its way into the top 20, thanks in part to a 10 point win over Michigan three weeks ago. In total, the Badgers have won six straight after a 1-3 slide earlier in Big Ten action.
Wisconsin star Ethan Happ posted 26 points and 10 rebounds in the Badgers victory over Michigan on January 19th. Happ will need to go for at least 20 and 10 again Saturday if Wisconsin wants to beat the Wolverines on the road.
For Michigan, in the first meeting Ignas Brazdeikis and Charles Matthews were held to a combined five points ( Brazdeikis was scoreless). The pair will need to combine for at least 25 points in Saturday’s rematch for Michigan to win.
Prediction: Michigan rebounds from a poor shooting performance in the first matchup and wins this time around against the Badgers.
Graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism. Fan of all sports and a long-suffering Jets fan who will defend Sam Darnold at all times. Also, an above average golfer.