By Jon Rothstein
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NORTH CAROLINA AT DUKE
Isn’t it amazing how the Tarheels started the season as the unanimous top team in the country and now people barely even acknowledge that they exist? That won’t happen after this weekend. Despite blowing a late double digit lead to the Blue Devils a few weeks ago in Chapel Hill, North Carolina is primed and ready for revenge followed by a big run in the ACC Tournament. Look for UNC wing Reggie Bullock to have a big impact defensively against Duke X-Factor Andre Dawkins. We like the Tarheels — and we like them convincingly.
PREDICTION: NORTH CAROLINA 82, DUKE 73
GEORGETOWN AT MARQUETTE
The Golden Eagles may have had Marquette across their chest on Wednesday night against Cincinnati but they certainly didn’t resemble one of Buzz Williams’ teams when they got beaten from start to finish against the Bearcats. Cincinnati won every 50-50 ball in as lopsided a defeat as we’ve seen Marquette have in quite sometime and it won’t get any easier on Saturday against Georgetown. The Hoyas have altered their starting lineup and now use senior guard Jason Clark as the team’s primary ball handler, giving them the type of length and size that can disrupt an opponent on each and every possession. It says here that’s the difference on Saturday in Milwaukee.
PREDICTION: GEORGETOWN 69, MARQUETTE 66
VANDERBILT AT TENNESSEE
Of all the games we’ll be watching with NCAA Tournament implications this weekend, this one may be the most interesting. Tennessee can finish second in the SEC with a win and a Florida loss after starting the season with a 3-6 record. The Vols have become a different team since the addition of freshman big man Jarnell Stokes and athletic forward Jeronne Maymon has been senstational. It will be interesting to see how Vanderbilt matches up with the bounciness of Tennessee and how they respond in what should be a terrific atmosphere. The Commodores have had monumental expectations all year long but have yet to prove they can win big games in March. We’ll see if they can start on Saturday.
PREDICTION: TENNESSEE 78, VANDERBILT 68
KENTUCKY AT FLORIDA
The Gators have quickly become the latest team to attempt to use four guard alignments with regularity after forward Will Yeguete broke his foot last week and is likely done for the remainder of the season. In order to have a chance against the Wildcats, Florida is going to need to make at least 10 3-pointers — and that could directly hinge on what they get off the bench from Rutgers transfer Mike Rosario, who has had barely any impact this year. Look for Kentucky to own this game defensively on the perimeter, a common theme for the Wildcats this season and really, forever under John Calipari.
PREDICTION: KENTUCKY 74, FLORIDA 66
OHIO STATE AT MICHIGAN STATE
I just can’t see the Buckeyes going very far in the field of 68 and really wouldn’t be shocked if they don’t even make the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. We knew coming into the season that Ohio State wouldn’t shoot the ball nearly as well as they did a year ago but what’s really surprised me is how much this team struggles to get quality percentage shots, which is directly related to how they pass the basketball. Michigan State however looks like it has the one thing that Tom Izzo seems to find in the month of March — chemistry. Despite a loss earlier in the week at Indiana, senior power forward Draymond Green simply won’t let Sparty lose in East Lansing with the Big Ten title on the line.
PREDICTION: MICHIGAN STATE 70, OHIO STATE 65
What’s your prediction for UNC-Duke? Sound off below…