#20 Duke vs. #18 Louisville (12 noon ET Saturday, ESPN)
The Duke Blue Devils are back.
On Wednesday, Duke defeated their most hated rival: the #9 North Carolina Tar Heels. The Devils came out on top 74-73, thanks in large part to a last-second block of a Joel Berry jumper by Derryck Thornton. The Blue Devils got it done with almost zero help from their depleted bench as five guys played all but 14 minutes and scored all 74 points, while the ‘Heels torpedoed their own cause by making just 1 of 13 3-point attempts. Duke is now 20-6 and have won five in a row, and if they win today, they could rocket themselves into the top 10.
It’s been a brutal year for Louisville basketball as the team brought in senior transfers Trey Lewis and Damion Lee with an eye toward making a deep run in the tournament. But, this season was rocked by allegations assistant coaches arranged for prostitutes for players, which was followed in February by the school’s self-imposed NCAA tournament suspension, suggesting the October allegations weren’t so far-fetched. After peaking at 19-4 and #13 in the polls, the Cardinals have lost two of three and are now ranked 18th. These guys are playing for nothing but pride at this point, which makes them extra dangerous.
When the two teams faced each other just two weeks ago, Duke came out on top 72-65.
#3 Oklahoma vs. #10 West Virginia (4pm ET Saturday, ESPN)
It’s gut check time for both the Oklahoma Sooners and the West Virginia Mountaineers, each of whom came into the week ranked in the top 10 nationally only to lose to a lesser team from Texas.
The Sooners fell Wednesday 65-63 to the Texas Tech Red Raiders (16-9), despite having had a four-point lead with 2:26 to play. Wooden Award favorite Buddy Hield scored 10 points in the first 6:40 of play, but only six more the rest of the way, making two-of-nine in the second half. This was one of Hield’s worst games of the season as he scored just 16 points (nine off his season average) to go along with six rebounds, one assist and five turnovers. The loss was the Sooners’ second in a row and third in their last four games, dropping them to 20-5, 8-5 in the Big 12.
The Mountaineers at least lost to a ranked opponent: the #24 Texas Longhorns, who outscored West Virginia 85-78. West Virginia completely dominated the boards, outrebounding Texas 35-19, but they also made a gruesome 13 of 21 free throws while the Longhorns were lights out from three, making 10 of 22. The loss was West Virginia’s second in their last three games and puts their record at 20-6 overall and 9-4 in the Big 12.
Both of these teams are likely to fall in next week’s rankings, but the loser of this game will fall a lot farther.