By Chris Carlson – League play has kicked in to full gear and before we know it March Madness will be here. Based off how many #1 ranked teams have lost this year so far it should bode well for a great tourney. North Carolina is a shocking 8-8 and an almost unbelievably 1-4 in the ACC good for 14th place at the moment. The flip side of this is Rutgers, who sits in a 3-way tie for 2nd place in the Big Ten and 13-4 overall.
Marquee Matchup on Saturday
#3 Duke vs. #22 Louisville: The Blue Devils took their first loss inside the ACC falling to Clemson on Tuesday. Winners of 3 straight, Louisville is trending upwards as the conference races begin to heat up now that College Football is over. The Cardinals were one of the many #1 squads this year to get beat when they lost to Texas Tech back in December. Outside shooting will be a key in this ACC tilt as will free throw shooting. What are the odds that Duke loses back to back with Saturday’s game being at home as well?
The Pick: Duke pulls out a victory in the last 5 minutes or so.
Marquee Matchup on Tuesday
#5 Butler vs. #14 Villanova: This year it seems as though the Bulldogs are back to being a top-tier program. Of course Butler will have their hands full traveling to Philadelphia this Tuesday for this Big East matchup. Butler lost their first conference game at home to the current 1st place Seton Hall Pirates last Tuesday. Wildcats forward Saddiq Bey and PG Collin Gillespie lead the way for Villanova in the 2019-20 season. The amount of success Nova had in recent years and not losing yet in Philly, lends itself to believing the Wildcats will walk away the victor at home but it won’t come easy.
The Pick: Villanova needs late free throws with under a minute to play.
Upset Special for the Week
Texas protects their homecourt with an upset over #6 Kansas on Saturday.
Under The Radar
#21 Ohio State vs. Penn State: Saturday afternoon is full of games flying under the radar. Penn State has lost 3 road games in a row but considering no one can barley win a Big Ten away game it’s not a bad as it seems. Speaking of losing streaks, the Buckeyes beat Kentucky on December 21 but would go on to lose 4 straight games coming up against quality opposition. Ohio State got all the way up #2 before this slide and with two players being suspended it’s tough to tell if they will be back in time for Saturday.
#20 Colorado vs. Arizona: Roles are reversed for this Pac-12 tilt with the normally ranked Arizona Wildcats coming in as a somewhat underdog to the #20 ranked Buffs. Zona has lost 4 of their last 5 outings beyond their horrible performance with Oregon State those losses have been by very close margins. Funny enough, the Buffaloes recent loss was to that same Beaver squad. Making for a bit of a must win in January especially for Arizona.
#16 Wichita State vs. Houston: No shock that the Shockers are in the Top-25 with a successful non-conference and a big win over Memphis. Houston busted on the scene last year making it all the way to the Sweet 16 and is hoping to stay relevant on the national level. A relatively competitive game throughout could slowly turn in to a 10+ point win for the home team.
Quick Hits Recap
-Clemson’s historic upset over Duke coupled by a stunner of North Carolina, is the first time the Tigers beat both teams since 1990. Clemson had been 0-59 at North Carolina.
-Unranked Wisconsin got their 3rd win over a ranked opponent by defeating #17 Maryland on Tuesday in somewhat dramatic fashion.
-Purdue shocked then ranked #8 Michigan State at home by a score of 71-42 last Sunday.
-Minnesota standout center Daniel Oturu scored a career high 30 points as the Gophers upended #19 Michigan at the barn 75-67.
#4 Auburn was one of the two remaining undefeated teams (San Diego St.) in the country until they got smacked silly 83-64 by Alabama.
-So far this season 6 of the Associated Press Polls #1 ranked team have all lost before Christmas, which should produce a great March Madness considering the previous high of 3 teams happened last season over the last decade.
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