by Chris Carlson: The College Basketball season is basically at the halfway point which means the plot will continue to thicken as the conference races heat up. At the beginning of the year Kentucky, Wisconsin, and Duke were looked upon as teams to beat come March. All three passed the eye test in the non-conference schedule. But Duke has stumbled some and injuries have slowed Wisconsin a bit.
Teams like Virginia, who remain unbeaten and Gonzaga have climbed the rankings and look solid enough to make a deep run in the month of March. Arizona, Notre Dame, Louisville, Iowa State, and of course Kansas, are on the heels of those top tier ball clubs. Remember, it’s not even February so put your Final Four speculation on the backburner and let’s see how the 2015 regular season turns out.
Marquee Matchups on Saturday
#13 North Carolina vs. #10 Louisville: An up and down court offensive flow favors the Heels as much as a grind-it-out type game will favor the Cards. Something has to give because both teams struggle from the 3-point line. Both teams have solid big man on the inside which will put the emphasis on guard play to decide who the winner will be in what should be a highly competitive contest.
The Pick: Louisville finds a way to hit some open jump shots and locks down the Heels defensively.
#4 Duke vs. #2 Virginia: Fundamentals will be on display as Duke visits Virginia in a must-win game for the Blue Devils at this point in the ACC. Defense versus Offense in similar fashion as the UNC vs. Louisville matchup. The only difference may be the overall depth of the two teams and better execution on opposite sides of the ball. Will Duke loss back to back games for the second time this season? Can Virginia muster up enough points to match their suffocating defense?
The Pick: The Cavaliers at home will be the difference a very meaningful ACC game.
Monday Marquee Matchups
#15 lowa State vs. #9 Kansas: The Jayhawks only loss in the Big-12 conference was two weeks ago against Iowa State. This time the Cyclones won’t be in the comforts of Ames and you can bet the KU faithful will be raring and ready to go. The crowd at Allen Fieldhouse combined with a Kansas team that seems to be jelling equals victory for the Jayhawks.
The Pick: Kansas gets revenge in an offensive explosion that will be decided in the last 5 minutes.
#2 Virginia vs. #13 North Carolina: Virginia travels to UNC in yet another key matchup between ACC foes. In the ACC vs. Big Ten Challenge Iowa came into Chapel Hill and came away victorious so the Heels are defiantly beatable at home. I see North Carolina licking their wounds after a loss on the road to L’Ville.
The Pick: North Carolina hits some 3-point shots and the rebounding differential will be the keys to victory.
Teams on the Rise
North Carolina Tarheels: After a ho-hum non-conference performance the Heels are hot starting 7-1 in ACC play. Will find out just how good they are in the next two games against Louisville and Virginia.
Ohio State Buckeyes: Ohio State has won 6 out of their last 8 games after a so-so start to the season. In back to back games they beat a red hot Indiana team and absolutely destroyed Maryland and now go to 6-3 in the Big Ten.
Weekly Quick Recap:
-Notre Dame snares a home victory 77-73 over Duke pushing their ACC record to 8-1, and 20-2 overall. Jerian Grant lead the way for the Irish with 23 pts dishing out 12 assist. Duke’s PF Jahlil Okafor finished with 22 points and 17 boards in a losing effort.
-Somehow Michigan is 6-3 in conference play despite losing talent from last years team, dropping a horrible game to N.J.I.T and now without the services of Caris LeVert their best player.
-The Big-12 has 6 out of 10 teams in the conference ranked inside the Top-25 A.P. poll. It will be very interesting to see if any of these teams can give Kansas a run for the title.
-Iowa State survived a late rally by Texas holding on 89-86 but got caught looking ahead to the Longhorns when Texas Tech upset the Cyclones last Saturday 78-73.