By Chris Carlson
An abundance of ranked vs. ranked matchups littered the College Basketball schedule last week and they didn’t disappoint. Penn State & Clemson pulled off the biggest upsets in a week full of entertaining, closely-played games. The main marquee matchups take place in the ACC & SEC as familiar-foes go to battle with a ton of importance inside their respected conferences.
Marquee Matchups on Saturday
#1 Tennessee vs. #5 Kentucky: The Wildcats are coming off a razor-close last-second loss to LSU and now need to secure this victory to keep up in the SEC. Tennessee brings a 19-game winning streak into a huge challenge on the road at Rupp Arena. During Tennessee’s impressive run the Vols only quality win came against Gonzaga, to be fair they also beat Louisville earlier in the season. Kentucky won’t lose back to back home games as a reminder Tuesday’s loss was just the 10th loss under Coach John Calipari at Rupp Arena.
The Pick: Kentucky secures the home victory to make up for a heartbreaker of a loss to LSU.
#6 Michigan vs. #24 Maryland: The Terrapins are flying high having defeated a red-hot Purdue squad. The Wolverines stumbled on Tuesday somehow being upset by a 9-win Penn State. Maryland has been a tough out on the road in conference play so look for this one to be very competitive. Something has to give in this crucial Big Ten matchup which should produce some drama.
The Pick: Michigan gets the home victory setting them up nicely for the stretch run in the Big Ten.
Marquee Matchup on Monday
#4 Virginia vs. #22 Virginia Tech: Virginia lost to Duke for the second time this year but did manage to bounce back with a tremendous road ‘W’ against North Carolina. The Hokies have won two in a row versus subpar opponents after falling to Louisville and Clemson. Virginia Tech will need a top-notch defensive effort, somewhere in the ballpark of holding N.C. State to a measly 24 points. Okay that’s a bit over the top but you get the point. Virginia hits the road again and need a win now more than to have a legit chance for an ACC crown.
The Pick: Virginia grits this one out in an ugly overtime game played in the high 60’s.
Marquee Matchup on Wednesday
#2 Duke vs. #8 North Carolina: The Tarheels had won 7 straight until losing at home to Virginia in a game North Carolina led by 7 points with 8 minutes remaining. Duke had a comeback for the ages down 23 in the 2nd half to defeat Louisville on the road. This year North Carolina depends more on outside shooting and less on points in the paint, a complete 180 under legendary coach Roy Williams. Duke is in the midst of a 9-game unbeaten streak and proved to be able to win in a variety of ways. It’s difficult to pick against this Duke squad straight up let alone in the comforts of Cameron Indoor Arena.
The Pick: Duke pulls away in the last few minutes to defeat their bitter rivals.
Upset Special of the Week
Clemson knocks-off #17 Florida State at home on Tuesday night.
Under The Radar
#18 Kansas State vs. #23 Iowa State: Both teams have a legitimate chance of dethroning the Kansas Jayhawks in the Big-12. Kansas State is the surprise story thus far but we can’t count out the Cyclones even on the road. Desperation can bring out the best so let’s see which team truly wants it.
#21 Iowa vs. #24 Maryland: A pair of ranked Big Ten foes tries to hold on to their respected spots in the Big Ten. The Terrapins sit at just 1 game out of a 2-way tie for 1st place. The Hawkeyes aren’t far behind just 2 1/2 out of the top spot. Every game counts from here on out so expect this one to be ultra competitive throughout.
Quick Hits Recap
-Zion Williamson spurred his Duke Blue Devils to a remarkable 23-point comeback to shock Louisville at home 71-69. Zion entered the game with 4 fouls with just under the 10 minutes to play from then on Duke went on a 35-10 run.
-Marcus Howard put up 38 points as Marquette eked-out a much-needed 66-65 victory over Villanova.
-Michigan’s Jon Teske helped the Wolverines defeat Wisconsin to a tune of 17 points and 12 boards in a 61-52 victory.
-Speaking of Michigan, in the very next game they were caught looking ahead to their home and home battles with Maryland and Michigan State. Penn State got a shocking 65-58 victory on their home floor.
-LSU upset Kentucky 73-71 in overtime with a buzzer-beating tip-in by Kavell Bigby-Williams. It was the first time LSU beat a ranked Kentucky team on the road since 1980.
-Houston has the longest home winning streak in the nation at 23 in a row & the 2nd best start to a season in school history since the classic Phi Slama Jama days in the 80’s.
Note: The rankings used in this prediction article will not reflect Monday’s New Associated Press Top-25 Rankings.
Written by Chris Carlson Host of The College Ball Show Podcast available at blogtalkradio.com/ropeadoperadio Follow on Twitter @RopeADopeRadio