The College Basketball regular season is winding down and the conference races across the country couldn’t be any closer. Week by week the landscape changes with many top ranked teams routinely losing in bunches. Just this last week alone 3 teams inside the AP Poll Top 5 loss razor-tight games. We may still not know who the Final Four favorites are but the competitive nature of this season has been a blast to witness. This week the ACC heats up and Miami drew the short-straw faced with two key matchups. Let’s hope we remain lucky by getting more surprises this Saturday.
Marquee Weekend Matchups
#11 Miami vs. #5 North Carolina
Don’t look now Tarheels but the Miami Hurricanes are on the rise in the ACC. North Carolina’s loss to bitter-rival Duke put them behind the eight ball turning this contest into a must-win. The heels should continue to feed the post with the abundance of centers and power forwards on their roster. The Canes have slowly improved after a rocky start and now look poised to rise to the top of the league. It’s highly unlikely North Carolina loses back-to-back in the Dean Dome.
The Pick: UNC in another tight-game but this time Roy Williams will call a time out to set up a play.
#3 Oklahoma vs. #10 West Virginia
The Sooners struggles continued Wednesday as they fell to a scrappy Texas Tech club in the closing moments. West Virginia needs a win badly to keep pace with perennial favorite Kansas for the Big 12 title. Oklahoma’s Big 12 championship chances are slim having lost both meetings versus the Jayhawks but still have tournament seeding to worry about. Oklahoma may have more scoring issues due to the Mountaineers feisty-style of defense. Buddy Hield will have to play more consistently in the first half for Oklahoma to succeed.
The Pick: Oklahoma gets back to their winning ways with a huge road victory.
#17 Purdue vs. #22 Indiana
The last game we breakdown from a busy slate of meaningful games on Saturday is in the Big 10. Assembly Hall will be no doubt packed and jumping, but can their helter-skelter unit from Indiana show up with league title hopes still in sight. Besides their 82-81 win last week over Michigan State, the Boilermakers have been disappointing when facing ranked opponents. Of course the same case could be made against Indiana. The improving big-men for the Hoosiers, plus home court advantage leans this scribe toward Indiana.
The Pick: The Hoosiers offense is too much to handle for Purdue.
Marquee Weekday Matchups
#7 Virginia vs. #11 Miami
The ACC has filled in nicely for the mighty Big East of old on ESPN’s Big Monday, usually matched in a Big 12 doubleheader, and this game is another example of it. Virginia lost a heartbreaker to Duke last Saturday and looks to get some momentum back heading into March. Up until the Duke loss, the Cavaliers had improved drastically on the offensive side of the ball making them a tough out in the Big Dance. The Hurricanes have operated under the radar this season and will be tested in back to back Top 10 matchups. The Canes loss early this year to Virginia and will need to shoot better from behind the three-point arc to get the job done. The only thing that can be certain is a well played ball game with the outcome in the balance under 5 minutes to play.
The Pick: Miami hits some outside shots and wins close to keep pace or possible take the ACC lead.
#1 Villanova vs. #8 Xavier
The Big East is not quite as loaded at the top of the league as it was last year, but this game stands out from all the rest. Villanova will try to survive the “1” jinx that’s effected so many teams throughout the season. Xavier symbolizes an opportunity for Nova to add a top-flight win to their resume. It would also all but give them the Big East crown. Xavier had been on a nice run until falling to unranked Creighton. Now the Musketeers seek revenge from a butt-whooping Villanova put on them back in late December. Xavier bounces back from their first defeat to make it more respectable.
The Pick: Villanova wins in a tighter contest and place a lock on the Big East title.
Quick Hits Recap
-#3 Oklahoma, #4 Iowa, and #5 North Carolina all were shockingly upset on Wednesday night.
-10 ranked teams in all loss on yet another Saturday full of underdog outcomes.
– With wins over #3 Oklahoma, #21 Baylor, and #14 Iowa State, Texas Tech has won 3 straight games over ranked opponents for the first time in school history.
-Crucial wins over highly-ranked Virginia and North Carolina has Duke peaking at the right time with a few key young players developing into leaders in ACC play.
-Wisconsin has now won 7 in a row heading into the Michigan State tilt and managed to climb the Big Ten ladder after starting 1-4 in league games.
-Buzzer beaters, upsets, and questionable calls made by referees and coaches alike, have produced lots to talk about on the Weekly Podcast called The College Ball Show!
Written by Chris Carlson Host of The College Ball Show blogtalkradio.com/ropeadoperadio
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