By Chris Carlson
Last week in College Basketball several upset from unranked teams stood out including Louisville and Syracuse. Ohio State’s high-ranking is all but gone and previously unranked Maryland is now in third place in the Big Ten. This weekend and early next week features lots of Marquee Matchups in the ACC and the Big Ten along with a plethora of interesting games to keep an eye on.
Marquee Matchups on Saturday
#1 Duke vs. #4 Virginia: The Duke Blue Devils are the popular pick to win it all but don’t sleep on this Virginia squad. The Cavaliers have yet to taste defeat coming off a butt-whopping of in-state rival Virginia Tech. Duke lost to Syracuse last Monday as they look to bounce back at home. The Blue Devils will have the services of Cam Reddish versus Virginia however they’ll be without point guard Tre Jones due to injury during Monday’s overtime loss. This game will come down to which team can infuse their will and style of play, Duke can score with the best of them whereas the Cavs love to lock opponents down on defense.
The Pick: In a game that will play in the 70’s Duke gets back on track with an ugly victory at home.
#12 Kentucky vs. #14 Auburn: Both Auburn and Kentucky sit behind Tennessee in a competitive race inside the SEC. Kentucky’s team is not filled with the normal one-and-done roster we’ve become accustom to see under Coach John Calipari. The Wildcats this year have a mix of vets, transfers, and a few talent youngsters so it will be interesting to see how it all comes together by season’s end. Auburn is an experienced team lead by Bryce Brown and Jared Harper. The road and neutral site hasn’t been great for either but the Tigers should be able to win in the closing minutes at home.
The Pick: Auburn gets a victory to give them a one-game buffer early in the conference season over Kentucky.
Marquee Matchups on Monday
#6 Michigan State vs. #19 Maryland: This Big Ten marquee matchup could be very important come March. The Spartans suffered two losses in the non-conference but look ready to go deep in the tourney. Maryland is in the midst of a tough stretch of games and one wonders how long they can keep winning on the road. Cassius Winston and Nick Ward are the leaders for the Spartans, a team that is doing very well with less top line talent compared to last year. The Terrapins start to the Big Ten schedule has been impressive but it finally comes to an end on Monday.
The Pick: The Spartans get a key conference victory over Maryland taking over the game in the last 5 minutes.
#9 Virginia Tech vs. #13 North Carolina: North Carolina had a brutal loss to Louisville last Saturday and now look to get back to their winning ways in this ranked vs. ranked ACC tilt. It’s difficult to get a good read on the Hokies as a team with a great record but a hollow resume. One can assume Virginia Tech will be licking their wounds and chopping at the bit to get back on the court after being embarrassed by Virginia. Plenty at stake considering it’s only January, so this want-to-be-scribe will call for a well-played game that comes down to the last few possessions.
The Pick: North Carolina wins with quality guard play to go along with a good effort from big man Trevor Maye.
Upset Special of the Week
Texas is in desperate need of a Big-12 victory gets the upset over #20 Oklahoma on Saturday.
Under The Radar
Iowa State may not be ranked now but by the time the new AP Top-25 comes out they surely will. Can they hold that ranking if they lose on the road to Kansas on Monday? Keep in mind the Cyclones just beat the Jayhawks making for a must win for Kansas to protect home court and lead in the Big-12
Quick Hits Recap
-#19 Maryland started a tough 5-game stretch with a great week getting victories over Indiana and at Minnesota. The Terrapins kept it going by beating Wisconsin but go back on the road against Ohio State and Michigan State.
-Texas Tech bested Texas halting a 22-game road losing streak to the Longhorns dating all the way back to 1996.
-The Big Ten & ACC conferences are so deep this season it seems anything can happen week to week. Rutgers upset Ohio State, a 10-6 Purdue club beat Top-25 Iowa by 16 and previously unranked Maryland (now 6-1 in Big Ten) owns wins over Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Indiana. Syracuse served a beat-down to a North Carolina & unheralded Pittsburgh is 5-1 thus far in the ACC.
-The 4th-ranked Virginia Cavaliers are known for their defense, the Cavs held 7 opponents to under 50 points this season.
-Syracuse caught #1 Duke looking ahead to their high-profile matchup with undefeated Virginia this Saturday. The Orangemen scored a 95-91 upset in overtime.
-UCLA erased a 13-point deficit with just 2 minutes and 35 seconds left, and went on to defeat Oregon 87-84.
*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