By Chris Carlson
One week to go in the regular season (except the Big Ten) which equates to the upcoming conference tourneys warming the engines for March Madness. A king has already been crowned in the Big-12, Big Ten, ACC, and the Big East. However, that doesn’t mean this weekend’s schedule won’t feature important matchups.
Marquee Matchup on Saturday
#9 North Carolina at #5 Duke: This storied rivalry doesn’t have an ACC title connected to it, thanks to Virginia walking away with it, but there is still plenty at stake to the winner. The Tarheels hadn’t lost a game since late January and seem to be rounding in shape to make a deep tournament run. North Carolina finally lost at the buzzer to Miami in a thrilling ending that saw the Tarheels tie the game with a 3-pointer with 4 seconds to play.
Duke’s herky-jerky, inconsistent play in the last month makes it difficult to call this one. North Carolina was victorious on the road, when these two teams met a little while back. Having just dropped an away game against a scrappy Virginia Tech club, the Blue Devils will have a chip on their shoulder.
The Pick: Duke figures things out at least for one game and get a much needed quality victory.
Marquee Matchup on Sunday
#10 Cincinnati at #11 Wichita State: The Shockers handed the Bearcats their second conference loss of the season not long ago. The rematch is for all the marbles in American Athletic Conference. Cincinnati’s back to back losses could be a sign of leaking oil and their high ranking was a product of a soft schedule. The Shockers have adjusted well having entered a new league this season and look to close strong before the big dance.
The Pick: Cincinnati’s defense will shine enough to limit Wichita State’s offense and secure the AAC title.
Under The Radar
Big Ten Tourney: This year the powers that be in the Big Ten decided to schedule their conference tournament a week earlier than normal. The idea behind this randomness is to continue to grow the leagues brand in the media capital of the world, NYC, at Madison Square Garden. Will see if the week plus off before the NCAA tournament will effect teams trending upwards. Look for Purdue and Ohio State to improve their NCAA seeds by cutting down the nets for a Big Ten tourney championship.
The Pick: Purdue wins Big Ten Tourney.
Upset Special of the Week
#23 Kentucky vs. Florida: A few weeks ago both of these SEC squads hit a bump in the road but have managed to right the ship some of late. The Wildcats tend to play up or down to their competition and that theme will repeat itself on Saturday. The Florida Gators really could use another victory sitting at 19 and will get what they need in the closing moments against Kentucky.
Quick Hits Recap
-Villanova’s loss to Creighton proved very costly stripping the Wildcats chance at a Big East Title, even with two victories against Xavier.
-The Kansas Jayhawks incredible run of 14 Big-12 championship in a row is the longest streak in NCAA history, topping UCLA (13) & Gonzaga (11).
-Michigan State used a 12-game winning streak to capture the Big Ten Title heading in to March as arguably the hottest teams.
-Houston completely destroyed East Carolina 109-58. The Cougars led 62-13 at the half, good for the 2nd largest halftime lead in last 10 years. Houston shot 23-31 from the field & 12-16 from behind the 3-point arc.
*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 or TheGruelingTruth.Net
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