By Chris Carlson:
Oklahoma managed to hold on to their top ranking, citing their schedule strength and quality of wins to be just enough to hold off North Carolina. Over the next several days Iowa State will be thoroughly tested as we find out if they are a true contender in the Big-12. Important games in the Big Ten, Pac-12, and Big East should provide information as well. It will be a tough week for Louisville in the ACC. Plus, look out for a few interesting games featured in the Big 12 vs. SEC Challenge.
Marquee Matchups this Weekend
#4 Kansas vs. #20 Kentucky
Arguably the top-two programs historically speaking, do battle on Saturday in primetime. Kansas has come on to a bit of a rough patch of late and will look to gain back momentum with a win over the Wildcats. Kentucky, like every year in the past five, is very young but not as talented as previous recruiting classes under Coach Calipari. That’s not to say it will be a stroll in the park for the Jayhawks, who have fallen to 3rd place in the Big-12. Kentucky will be loosey-goosey hoping for an upset bid making them very dangerous. In a close game, Bill Self’s record of 200-9 at home during his reign will hold versus Kentucky.
The Pick: Kansas wins because they’re the better team playing at home.
#5 Texas A&M vs. #18 Iowa State
This unsuspecting yet still important tilt lost a bit of luster when the Aggies fell to Arkansas this week. Iowa State is on a roll as they look to keep the ball rolling against a Texas A&M. As if a top-rated matchup isn’t enough incentive, the Aggies should be totally focused and inspired to make a statement for their program and league. Texas A&M probably overlooked the Razorbacks based off the result of their first meeting were A&M won easily. They also have proven to be a real force with collecting a number of solid non-conference victories. The Aggies will need a big game from their senior leaders Jalen Jones and Danuel House. In the end experience will be the difference and of course, the comfy confides of Ames, Iowa will play a major role.
The Pick: Iowa State pulls the minor upset in high-paced contest.
#11 Virginia vs. #16 Louisville
This game won’t be pretty because of the style of play each team employs, but it will be ridiculously competitive. Virginia shoots a high percentage from the field but struggles to score for large portions of games. Louisville has developed a nice core unit with serviceable guards and a formidable front of big man. After losing to Clemson, Senior guard Damion Lee and his Cardinals have strung together four straight wins and appear to be clicking at the right time. With a good record, a quality win is the only thing missing on Louisville’s ledger. Virginia’s non-conference resume is very impressive but the Cavilers have been downright mediocre in ACC play. Something has to give in this ACC scrap, so whichever team comes out on top will have asserted itself as a team to compete with North Carolina.
The Pick: Louisville won’t get caught looking ahead to North Carolina as they pick up the “W”.
Marquee Matchups on Weekday
#2 North Carolina vs. #16 Louisville
There’s no rest for the weary as the Cards host North Carolina in an ACC tussle on ESPN’s Big Monday. The Tarheels probably should be ranked #1 in the country with Oklahoma’s recent lose. Both teams have a fair-share of off the court issues to cause distraction but have elite coaching to make up for it. One wonders how both mentally and physically prepared Louisville will be having faced a gauntlet in the last few games. What we do know is UNC guard Marcus Paige’s recent shooting struggles could come back to haunt them in this one. Under Roy Williams, the heels have been very successful playing at Louisville. Bryce Johnson will be a matchup nightmare for the Cards. This scribe needs to see it to believe in Louisville all the way.
The Pick: North Carolina gets the win in enemy territory.
#9 West Virginia vs. #14 Iowa State
Much like Louisville, Iowa State’s hellish run of opponents will climax with a very difficult contest. These teams waste no time getting up-and-down the court making for an intriguing clash of styles. The Cyclones shoot lots of 3’s and can light up the scoreboard at any given time. West Virginia uses defense to create fast break production and posses a stronger inside game. If Iowa State wins they will be on fire which may likely lead them to a split-Big-12 title. But that’s a big if and all’s it takes is a so-so night from the three-point line to lose a game. Defense may not win West Virginia a championship this year, but it will be enough to slow down the Cyclones offensive juggernaut on this night.
The Pick: West Virginia secures a major road victory in Ames.
Quick Hits Recap
-Iowa’s victory at Michigan State marked the first time the Hawkeyes won there since 1993. The Hawkeyes followed that up with an impressive victory over #15 Purdue on Sunday.
-#7 Xavier earned a tough road win over #10 Providence, bouncing back nicely in the Big East after an early thrashing by Villanova.
-Wisconsin upset highly-ranked Indiana on Tuesday night handing the Hoosiers their first Big Ten defeat of the year.
-Saint Mary’s finally got over the hump of an 8-game losing streak to West Coast Conference rival Gonzaga.
Written by Chris Carlson Host of The College Ball Show blogtalkradio.com/ropeadoperadio
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