Last week didn’t seem like much beyond a packed Tuesday night of hoops on paper, but on the court, Auburn and Purdue were beaten at the time by unranked teams as well as multiple upsets from last Saturday. This week Saturday’s schedule is nuts featuring 4 ranked versus ranked tilts along with a variety of good matchups in the early part of the weeknight games. The conference races are being to take form with a month left of the regular season as teams begin to separate from the pack.
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#12 Illinois vs. #19 Michigan State: This Big Ten Marquee Matchup is huge when it comes to possessing in the standings. Illinois is dead-locked in a 2-way tie for 2nd place with Wisconsin. On the Sparty side, it’s basically do or die sitting at 9-5 two games out of the top spot. Michigan State has lost 3 of their last 4 and with no major talent to get them over the hump in close games of late. In their first meeting the Fighting Illini came out smoking but to Michigan State’s credit, they did make a run back in the second half coming up just 1-point short. Illinois has the momentum on their side having won 5 out of their last 8 outings and also worth mentioning Kofi Cockburn didn’t playback in January. Something tells me after losing to Penn State the Spartans will be ready to roll.
The Pick: Sparty bounces back to win a tight one decided with under a minute to play.
#4 Kentucky vs. #25 Alabama: Alabama was able to put on the brakes to Arkansas’s 9-game winning streak with a 68-67 victory. Kentucky had put together 6 straight wins before falling to Tennessee on the road last Tuesday. Once again Ty Ty Washington turned his ankle limiting him to just 13 minutes in the loss. Alabama hung right with the Wildcats last time out but couldn’t hit a bucket to save their lives going 28% from the field and a horrendous 3 of 30 from the arc. What are the odds Bama shoots like that again and only has 1 double digit scorer? Then again what are the odds that Crimson Tide freshman center Charles Bediako can hang with the dominant force that is Kentucky big man Oscar Tshiebwe? It won’t be a walk in the park especially if no Ty Ty but the Wildcats get the job done at home.
The Pick: Defense and a boisterous home arena is enough for Kentucky to grind a win out.
#10 Villanova vs. #24 UConn: UConn continues a tough schedule facing Villanova in a highly-competitive Big East conference. Nova has 7 wins in their last 8 one included the Huskies in a well-played game. Free throws and the Wildcats hitting a couple more shots were the difference in that game. Villanova made a statement on Tuesday to get a ‘W’ on the road at piping-hot Providence. In order to win the league regular-season crown, Nova will likely have to win out. Look for UConn to be in this one late into the game but with March nearing Nova looks to be in top form.
The Pick: Villanova keeps their good mojo going with a hard-earned victory.
Iowa upsets #16 Ohio State on Saturday.
Under The Radar
#16 Tennessee vs. #23 Arkansas: Tennessee has been on a tear of late beating Kentucky in the process while the Hogs try to regain their footing with a quality win after losing to Bama by a point.
Quick Hits Recap
-Memphis snapped Houston’s 37-game home winning streak in a 69-59 victory.
-That was the Tigers first victory over a Top-10 ranked opponent on the road since 2005.
-Rutgers won 4 straight games over the ranked foes including Illinois, Michigan State, Wisconsin, & Ohio State.
-Kentucky big man Oscar Tshiebwe scored 27 points while grabbing 19 rebounds good for his 19th double-double of the season in a win over Florida.
-Baylor has 9 Quadrant 1 victories but will now be without Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua for the remainder of the season.
-Murray State is ranked 23rd in the country and have now won 14 games in a row.
*Note: The rankings used in this prediction article will not reflect the new Associated Press Top-25 rankings.
Written by Chris Carlson Host of The College Ball Show Podcast available at blogtalkradio.com/ropeadoperadio or TheGruelingTruth.ComFollow on Twitter @RopeADopeRadio