By Chris Carlson
Last week #1 Baylor, #2 Gonzaga, and #4 San Diego State all took “L’s” along with 5 teams in total were unranked but managed to defeat a Top-25 opponent. Kansas’s win evened them up with Baylor in the Big-12 conference , to join the Big Ten and Big East in highly-competitive regular season title races that will likely go down to the wire. This week the SEC could get decided, and in the Big Ten several games hold extreme importance.
Marquee Matchups on Saturday
#8 Kentucky vs. #15 Auburn: It wasn’t all that long ago when Auburn had beaten Kentucky and LSU boosting them in to sole position of 1st place in the SEC. The Tigers had found a way to win most of their close games and were poised to close the season out strong. Back to back road losses to unranked foes have taken some of Auburn’s swagger. Speaking of swagger don’t look now but Kentucky is in 1st place by two games and win on Saturday would all but give them the SEC title. Their first meeting back in February was razor-close but it was the Tigers who closed it out on the free throw line. Look for Kentucky to get more production out of the backcourt and shoot better overall from the field.
The Pick: Kentucky wins a give and take game to lock up the SEC.
#9 Maryland vs. #24 Michigan State: The Terrapins were on a complete tear of late thru the Big Ten taking over 1st place. A loss to Ohio State after winning 9 in a row now Maryland must refocus on the task at hand. Beating Minnesota in crazy comeback fashion at Williams Arena was impressive but now Michigan State comes in to town. About two weeks and change ago Maryland went into enemy territory and snuck one out against Sparty. Michigan State had lost 3 straight games but a big win on the road at Illinois and 3 of 4 at least pointed MSU in the right direction with March right around the corner. This game is basically a 50-50 with the homecourt advantage going to Maryland and shooting percentage and assist per game favoring MSU.
The Pick: Maryland seems to be the real deal this year as they further their lead in a heated Big Ten.
Marquee Matchup on Monday
#2 Baylor vs. #22 Texas Tech: Baylor can’t get to down on their luck from losing to Kansas last Saturday considering they close the season with the Red Raiders and at West Virginia. Texas Tech isn’t as good as last year of course but they had won 6 of 8 until they dropped a game to Oklahoma on the road Tuesday. The Red Raiders have come up short versus ranked teams but were in some very close scraps against Kentucky, Kansas, and Baylor to name a few. In their early January game Baylor won in low scoring fashion 57-52. Both teams were horrible from the free throw line hitting a combined 14 of 34. Will the Red Raiders finally get over the hump versus a ranked team? A mini-slide is possible for Baylor but the home advantage makes in unlikely here.
The Pick: Baylor brushes off a tight loss to Kansas and beats Texas Tech by single digits.
Marquee Matchup on Wednesday
#12 Villanova vs. #13 Seton Hall: A once 3 game advantage in the Big East has shrunk to just a one-game lead over #10 Creighton and you guessed it, Villanova. The Wildcats stumbled in back to back to games to Butler and Seton Hall but have strung together 5 in a row heading into their matchup with Providence on Saturday. Seton Hall is in a tough spot still having to face Marquette, Nova and Creighton. At the beginning of February, Seton Hall beat Villanova on the road, a feat that hadn’t been accomplished in 17 tries. With such a daunting task ahead for the Pirates a home win is much needed. For some reason this podcast believes Seton Hall will rise to the occasion at a rowdy Prudential Center and get the job done.
The Pick: It won’t be pretty but Seton Hall earns a series sweep off Nova.
Upset Special for the Week
Stanford protects home floor with a win over #21 Colorado &/or Rhode Island upsets a great run by #4 Dayton.
Under The Radar
#16 Penn State vs. #24 Michigan State: A tale of two clubs of late with Penn State losing to a rising Indiana and slumping Illinois. Whereas Michigan State does seem to being turning things around from their recent slump getting a big win over Iowa and winners of 3 out last 4 outings. Will get more data after this week to help predict which of these two clubs are ready to make a run deep into March.
#19 Michigan vs. #23 Ohio State: This is a great rivalry on the gridiron but Sunday’s contest definitely has plenty riding on it. The Wolverines looked dead in the water faltering in January losing 4 in a row but have now won 7 of 8 with the only loss coming to of course Ohio State. The Buckeyes got a huge win over Maryland as they try to stay on or get over the bubble in time for the Big Dance. The winner of this game strengthens their case for an invite which adds intrigue to an already solid matchup
Quick Hits Recap
-#6 Florida State took over sole possession by a hair of the ACC by defeating Louisville 82-67 adding to their 22 home game winning streak.
-#10 Creighton is red-hot right winning 4 straight against Top-25 teams.
-Creighton’s Marcus Zegarowski knocked down 7 of 7 behind the arc as his squad pulled away from Butler 81-59.
-Marquette’s Marcus Howard put up 38 points in a losing effort to Providence, his 7 game of 35+ points this season.
-#20 West Virginia’s slide continued losing at TCU, which was just the third time the Horned Frogs have beaten W.V. and the Mountaineers 5th straight road loss.
-If #12 Villanova closes this season well it will come on the defensive end, case in point holding Xavier to 55 points the lowest offensive output in the Big East this year.
-Dayton’s ranking of 4th in the country is the highest the Flyers have been ranked since the 1955-56 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