By Chris Carlson
The conference schedule is in full swing as we focus our attention on the College Basketball regular season now that Clemson claimed the football crown. Looking around the landscape inside the Top-25 Associated Press rankings the usually suspect remain with a few unfamiliar programs making noise. A few marquee matchups will take place in the ACC and Big-12 over the next several days.
Marquee Matchup on Saturday
#1 Duke vs. #13 Florida State: The Duke Blue Devils are on a roll and seem to be gelling nicely as the conference competition heats up. The Seminoles will have faced 2 Top-4 teams in a span of 8 days having lost to #4 Virginia last weekend. Since losing to Gonzaga, Duke has strung together 8 victories in a row as they get ready for a true road test in Tallahassee on Saturday. Under Coach Hamilton FSU has played an intense brand of defense that will be tough to overcome on the road. However, Duke’s inexperienced roster hasn’t prevented them from being an excellent defensive team. Bottom line is FSU doesn’t have the horses to keep up with Duke’s firepower.
The Pick: Duke digs deep to scratch and claw their way to a quality road victory.
Marquee Matchup on Tuesday
#4 Virginia vs. #9 Virginia Tech: This in-state rivalry game features a matchup of two Top-10 squads. The Hokies have a few decent victories outside of the ACC and are unbeaten in conference play thus far. Virginia beat FSU last Saturday, as they try to forget what happened last year in the opening round of the tournament becoming the first every #1 seed to lose to a #16th seed. Quality wins over Maryland and Wisconsin highlighted a strong end to 2018 for Virginia. This will be a hard-nosed blue-collar style game which has this blogger leaning towards the Cavaliers to protect their home court.
The Pick: Virginia remains unbeaten with a victory over V’Tech in a very close game.
Marquee Matchup on Wednesday
#8 Texas Tech vs. #20 Iowa State: The Red Raiders tout one of the best defensive teams in the country. Iowa State is known for their high-powered offense mostly by pushing the pace and shooting a high-rate of 3-pointers. Iowa State’s Lindell Wingginton returns to full strength after having a cast on his left foot early this season. When challenged against top-level opponents the Cyclones have come up short. They finally got over the hump against Kansas but it should be noted the Jayhawks were dealt a blow by losing a major piece to their puzzle to injury. After 3 closely contested games in a row in Big-12 play, Texas Tech blows the top off this game midway through the second half.
The Pick: The Red Raiders get a home victory and continue to look like a team ready to finally take out Kansas as league champs.
Under The Radar
#23 Oklahoma vs. #25 TCU is another great matchup in the Big-12 and could go a long way for pole-position in the conference in March. If you can believe it, the Sooners play defense this year and won’t rely on just one player to win. The Horned Frogs hope to help Oklahoma start a nosedive similar to last year by beating the Sooners. With a variety of high-profile games this one is flying under the radar.
Upset Special of the Week
Unranked but scrappy Seton Hall travels to #21 Marquette and sneaks a victory out to score a big road upset.
Quick Hits Recap
-Duke’s ultra-talented Zion Williamson put up 30 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals, going 3 of 4 from behind the arc in an 87-65 rout over Wake Forest.
-Kansas center Udoka Azubuike tore a tendon in his hand and will be out for the rest of the season. Azubuike was a key returning player to a Jayhawks club poised to win their 15th straight Big-12 title.
-#10 Nevada, #19 Buffalo, and #24 St. John’s are programs that don’t necessarily come to mind as juggernauts in College Hoops but have managed to carve out great season up to this point.
-Kansas State rallied to defeat West Virginia in the closing seconds 71-69 the 21-point deficit was largest comeback in KSU school history.
-Penn State’s 63-62 victory over highly-ranked Virginia Tech in the ACC/Big Ten series was the first time the Nittany Lions defeated a Top-25 non-conference opponent at home in 20 years.
*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
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