By Chris Carlson
Last week in College Basketball we saw the Big 12 win six out of ten games in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge along with several minor upsets as we end the month of January. This week the Marquee Matchups reside mostly in the ACC and Big 12 as the conference races heat up the cold winter. Louisville will be tested over the next 4 games facing a ranked opponent every time out.
Marquee Matchups on Saturday
#3 North Carolina vs. #15 Louisville: Louisville has won 5 in a row since upsetting North Carolina in early January. The Tarheels are coming off their best win of the year against the Hokies. North Carolina faces 4 ranked opponents in the next 6 games. In their first meeting the Cardinals destroyed UNC so look for the Tarheels to be motivated. Defense seems to be an issue with Roy Williams team’s especially in the middle of the conference season. That fact combined with this game being played at the KFC Yum Center doesn’t bode well for UNC. This game is a 50-50 and I for one will admit I’m completely guessing the outcome with no confidence what so ever.
The Pick: North Carolina makes up for that ugly loss to break even with Louisville on season.
#11 Kansas vs. #16 Texas Tech: The Red Raiders experienced a rough-patch losing 3 games in a row all by unranked teams. Texas Tech finally got off the snide by beating Arkansas and TCU. Kansas got a much needed conference win over Iowa State as they adjust to life without Udoka Azubuike. On Saturday, they dropped a competitive tilt to Kentucky. Can Texas Tech regroup in time enough to salvage a strong finish in the Big 12? Kansas is always a difficult place to play for the road team. The Jayhawks will lean on guard-play to go along with Dedric Lawson on the inside. Having lost two games in a row it’s hard imagine Kansas losing a third.
The Pick: Kansas steps up to the plate with a home victory as they try to fend off Big 12 foes.
Marquee Matchup on Monday
#12 Virginia Tech vs. #15 Louisville: No sleep for the wary for both clubs as they buckle down for their upcoming games. V’Tech will be the 2nd ranked team Louisville will have to face on a schedule that features 4 straight matchups against programs in the Top-25. If the Hokies want to stay in the ACC race they must beat the Cardinals on their home floor. How many times can the Cardinals go to the well during this mad stretch but picking them to lose again is a tough decision? The Hokies have a whole lot of firepower and offense usually shines at home.
The Pick: Virginia Tech beats Louisville in a game played in the 80’s.
Marquee Matchup on Wednesday
#19 LSU vs. #22 Mississippi State: Both teams are in unlikely positions in the SEC standings, the Bulldogs at 3-4 in a three-way tie for 8th place. Whereas LSU is sitting pretty at 7-0 tied for 1st place with #1 Tennessee. The Tigers have won 10 games in a row and look to add to their resume with a quality road victory. Mississippi State dropped two of their last 3 but that was on the road. Because winning on the road is such a difficult task the LSU’s hot-streak comes to an end.
The Pick: The Bulldogs please their home crowd but more importantly improve their SEC position.
Upset Special of the Week
The Syracuse Orangemen upset #25 Florida State at the Carrier Dome.
(Honorable Mention: Kansas State is always trouble for KU at home so this hack-of-a-scribe is siding with an undervalued Wildcats club. Note: With Kansas losing to Texas this pick was downgraded to honorable mention.)
Under The Radar
#12 Virginia Tech vs. #23 N.C. State: Before the Hokies face Louisville on Monday the Wolfpack’s standing in the way this Saturday. Virginia Tech needs a quality win after dropping back to back marquee matchups in the ACC. North Carolina State’s resume is hallow and is also in search of a key ACC victory.
#20 Iowa State vs. Oklahoma: The Cyclones got a great road victory over Ole Miss in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. Beyond a TCU win, the Sooners are struggling against the top teams in the Big 12 and desperately need to notch this one versus a rising Iowa State.
Quick Hits Recap
-The Purdue Boilermakers defeated red-hot Michigan State 73-63 and in the process put a haul to a Spartans 13-game winning streak.
-Virginia Tech’s Justin Robinson was crucial for the Hokies 78-57 victory over Syracuse, hitting a school record 9 three-pointers, adding 8 assists. Robinson now has the most assists in school history at 579.
-N.C. State made an 8-0 run in 19 seconds, capping off a great comeback win over Clemson with a game winning 3-pointer by guard Braxton Beverly.
-Iowa State shot a season best 69% from the field, which marks the best field goal percentage for any team in the country on the road.
-Tennessee’s 14 victories in a row is longest winning streak in school history dating all the way back to the 1922-23 season.
-Marquette’s Markus Howard helped the Golden Eagles rally to beat Xavier 87-82. Howard put up 31 points, his 5th 30+ game this season.
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