By Chris Carlson
Last week Villanova and Seton Hall were caught looking ahead to their big matchup dropping games to unranked Big East foes at home. Nova had a 21-game winning streak at home stopped as well as 8 Top-25 teams losing last Saturday. On paper, Saturday and good chunk of next week is the best schedule thus far with meaningful matchups in the all of the power conferences.
Marquee Matchups on Saturday
#10 Villanova vs. #12 Seton Hall: Sometimes teams can be focused on what’s right around the corner then what is right before them. That may have been the case last week when both Nova and Seton Hall lost in the run-up to their Big East Marquee Matchup. Something to keep an eye going forward, Seton hall got out-rebounded by Xavier 51-22 in their recent loss. Villanova was one of the hotter teams in the country so it’s a bit of a head-scratcher how they lost by double-digits to Creighton. Looking at this Big East matchup not much separates these two on the court beyond the shot-blocking ability of the Pirates anchored by center Romaro Gill. Myles Powell and Collin Gillespie are the two standouts as far as a leadership standpoint as well as production. What are the odds Nova loses another game at home after reeling off 21 in a row?
The Pick: Wildcats win and the difference maker will be homecourt and Saddiq Bey.
#11 Auburn vs. #18 LSU: LSU is the top dog in the SEC however they’re about to enter the toughest stretch of their conference play. Auburn had been unbeaten through 18 games before suffering two straight losses. Auburn did get a crucial win over Kentucky and now can make up ground on LSU. So many times the location of these marquee matchups plays a vital role in the outcome. We can add LSU to the list of teams caught looking ahead to a big game somehow they loss to Vanderbilt. The Tigers from Auburn have won 5 in a row and although this SEC tilt will come down to the last few possessions, Auburn will get the job done.
The Pick: Auburn will get the victory and in the process have the advantage in a tiebreaker on top of the SEC.
Marquee Matchup on Monday
#7 Duke vs. # 8 FSU: With Louisville leading the pack in the ACC, Duke and FSU are tied so this outcome could go a long way when and it’s all said in done. With that said Florida State has already beaten the league leading Cardinals so a win here versus the Blue Devils would be pretty big deal. We know the Seminoles will play a rugged style making Duke work for everything they get. Duke has yet to peak which could be kind of scary considering they’re 19-3 on the season. FSU’s Devin Vassell is a versatile player who can drive to the bucket and money from behind the arc. Tre Jones & Vernon Carey Jr. will be too much for FSU to handle.
The Pick: A close hard fought game ends in victory for Duke by a few buckets.
Marquee Matchup on Tuesday
#16 Michigan State vs. #20 Illinois: This important Big Ten tilt matches top tier teams in conference separated by a half point in the standings so needless to say this one has a whole lot riding on it. Illinois has an issue beaten quality teams on the road, but in the Big Ten that’s been the rule of thumb. Lucky for the Fighting Illini they will be in the comfy confines of the State Farm Center. In their first meeting the Spartans waxed the fighting Illini to a tune of 76-56, but that was January 2nd and of late Michigan State’s momentum has slowed losing back to back before their rivalry game with Michigan coming up. We know Cassius Winston is the man but don’t sleep on Ayo Dosunmu the sophomore guard. Look for this game to be played in a very physical fashion with free throws and turnovers being a major factor. We are going to find out a lot about Illinois during this 4-game stretch that started with Maryland on Friday night and includes at Rutgers and at Penn State.
The Pick: Illinois grinds out a victory over MSU at home in an ugly yet intense game.
Marquee Matchup on Wednesday
#3 Kansas vs. #13 West Virginia: One of the biggest Big-12 matchups thus far so it should be a competitive all the way to the wire. Kansas’s only conference loss is to #1 Baylor while West Virginia is sitting 2 games behind the Jayhawks and 3 behind Baylor. In their first meeting back in early January Kansas defeated the Mountaineers 60-53 in a game that West Virginia shot horribly from the field. In fact these two teams shot a combined 6 of 31 from the 3-point line. While Kansas had a variety of players pitch in for that win, West Virginia’s freshman Oscar Tshiebwe was the only one that showed up. Udoka Azubuike will get in early foul problems and West Virginia winners of 7 of the last 9 get a significant victory to inch closer in the Big-12 race.
The Pick: A better effort as a team gives West Virginia the win.
Upset Special for the Week
Marquette upsets #19 Butler as the high for the Bulldogs beating Villanova wears off.
Under The Radar
#11 Seton Hall vs. #21 Creighton: The round robin of difficult challenges in the Big East continues as Seton Hall looks to protect home court. Although the chances are low that Creighton can beat Nova and Seton Hall on their home turf it should turn out to be an entertaining game one of two times in the regular season these two will meet.
#14 Oregon vs. #24 Colorado: This Pac-12 game sticks with the theme this week of Top-2 tier teams battling for position come March. Both teams need a win to hold down the top spot and both just recently loss as the favorite. The Pac-12 is not a great conference by any means but it does have some top to bottom competition.
Quick Hits Recap
-#5 Louisville defeated North Carolina State riding the hot hand of Ryan McMahon hitting 7 shots from behind the arc and a career high 23 points in a walkover 77-57.
-Unranked Xavier knocked-off a red-hot then #8 Seton Hall out-rebounding the Pirates 51-22 and shooting 54% to 36% from the field.
-#1 Baylor moved to 8-0 in the Big-12 conference, their best start thru 8 games since 1948.
-#2 Gonzaga extended their winning streak to 16 making it the longest in Division 1.
-#3 Kansas extended their home record to 27-1 since 2018-19 with a win over Texas Tech. The Red Raiders are 1-19 all time at Kansas.
-#8 FSU guard Devin Vassell went 7-7 from the 3-point line (Tying ACC Record) and 8-10 from the field in the Seminoles 74-63 victory over Virginia Tech.
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