By Chris Carlson
With so many high profile matchups from the weekend and mid-week it’s hard to keep everything in perspective. Last weekend we didn’t see too many upsets but that changed on Wednesday with San Diego State standing out. The Big Ten & Big East feature the best teams matching up this week as we make are way into the beloved month of March Madness. Don’t sleep on the ranked vs. ranked teams in the Big-12, ACC, & SEC trying to make up ground or hold on tightly to their current position. Kansas has the most challenging week but if they win both games it probably means a 15th league title in a row.
Marquee Matchups on Saturday
#3 Virginia vs. #18 Louisville: The Cardinals are fresh off a rough patch of challenging opponents having lost 3 of their last 5 outings. Virginia is smack-dab in the middle of a difficult stretch but their only loss was to #1 Duke. Louisville’s main issue is closing games out after giving up a humongous lead to Duke and barely got by Clemson with some head-scratching moments late. This ACC tilt will be neck and neck throughout and the winner will be the team who can knock down some outside shots. At some point Louisville will win an important game at home again.
The Pick: Louisville pulls off a home victory to stop the bleeding & mixes things up at the top of the ACC.
#5 Tennessee vs. #13 LSU: Tennessee didn’t play up to their ability last Saturday versus Kentucky. LSU got a controversial tip-in victory at Kentucky and now look to take control of the SEC race. The Volunteers need this victory to hold off the Tigers but also keep pace with Kentucky who’s coming in to town next weekend. Tennessee will find a way to close it out on the free throw line, taking high percentage shots by making the extra pass. With a win LSU would be in the driver’s seat but that won’t happen.
The Pick: Tennessee wins a fast pace contest with both in the low 80’s.
Marquee Matchup on Sunday
#7 Michigan vs. #10 Michigan State: This one will help decide which team from the state of Michigan comes away with the Big Ten crown. Keep in mind these two bitter interstate rivals will square off to close out the regular season. Just when Sparty managed to pull out of their 3-game funk their hit with the injury bug, this time it’s center Nick Ward who may or may not return at some point this season. MSU shoots a much higher percentage from the field but the Wolverines can catch up or pull away in the blink of the eye. Without Ward the Spartans miss the opportunity to exploit the paint, a weakness for Michigan.
The Pick: Better defense and 3-point shooting equals a Michigan home victory.
Marquee Matchup on Monday
#12 Kansas vs. #23 Kansas State: This is a very important Big 12 scrap matching the Jayhawks offensive against the Wildcats defense. Kansas beat a back on the rise Texas Tech club at the beginning of February. A little over two weeks ago Kansas State defeated Kansas and ever since the top spot in the conference has been held by the Wildcats. However that was when Kansas was struggling, losing yet another player out of the starting lineup. The Jayhawks are a totally different team at home then on the road this season. The Jayhawks chalk up another conference victory as we come down the home stretch.
The Pick: Kansas holds off a game Kansas State team.
Upset Special of the Week
Ohio State knocks off #21 Iowa via late second shot because the Hawkeyes have two separate buzzer-beaters so it’s only right it happens to them.
Under The Radar
#8 North Carolina vs. #16 Florida State: The first part of January was bad for Florida State. Winners of 8 straight FSU is finding their stride just in the nick of time. Surely the Carolina faithful will be ready to make life difficult for the Seminoles. FSU always play the Tarheels tough and this won’t be any different. Could we get a letdown after North Carolina’s great victory over Duke?
#11 Marquette vs. #17 Villanova: This one is flying under the radar because the rest of the conference is subpar. Marquette won their first meeting a short time ago. Villanova also just loss to St. John’s and Georgtown , which sets up perfectly for the game to decide who will be the Big East champs. Do not count out Nova just yet don’t forget who the head coach is.
Quick Hits Recap
-The Kentucky Wildcats smoked #1 Tennessee 86-69 putting a halt to the Volunteers 19-game winning streak.
-Kentucky head coach John Calipari registered his 8th win versus a #1 Associated Press ranked opponents.
-Blue Devils small forward RJ Barrett tallied the 4th triple-double in Duke’s storied history, overall 23 points 11 rebound 10 assists in a 94-78 blowout victory over N.C. State.
-St. Johns rallied from 14-points down to upset #17 Villanova 71-65 to earn a much needed quality victory.
-The Michigan State Spartans loss another key player due to a hairline fracture inside junior center Nick Ward hand. Ward is our indefinitely.
-USC guard Bennie Boatwright was on fire from behind the arc hitting a school record 10 3-pointers in an 89-66 rout of California.
-The Iowa Hawkeyes won another game in buzzer-beater fashion, this time it was clinched with an unbelievable shot high off the glass fading away by Joe Wieskamp.
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