The Badgers Top Priority Is Slowing Down Stud Point Guard Trey Burke.
Michigan (21-2, 8-2 Conf.) at Wisconsin (16-7, 7-3 Conf.)
Prediction: Wisconsin knocks off the Wolverines in a Nail biter.
- Wisconsin is an elite team on the defensive end of the floor. (while a little offensively challenged.) They're especially impressive in guarding the perimeter. They're holding Big 10 opponents to 27 % from beyond the arc. They'll have to keep Trey Burke in check to pull off the upset.
Temple (15-7, 4-4 Conf.) at Dayton (13-9, 3-5 conf.)
Prediction: Dayton edges out Temple.
- This isn't a marquee matchup by any means, but it's a big game for Temple. To stay on the right side of the bubble they must win games like this. Fran Dunphy's teams are usually sound defensively, but they aren't consistent on that end of the floor this year. Dayton leads the league in 3 pt % in conference play, while Temple's 3 pt % defense is dead last at nearly 40 %. Khalif Wyatt is capable of taking over at any given time, giving Temple a chance to win every night out.
Mississippi (18-4, 7-2 Conf.) at Missouri (16-6, 5-4 conf.)
Prediction: Missouri remains undefeated at home, taking care of business against Ole Miss.
- I'm not particularly impressed with how Missouri has been playing lately, but I refuse to bet against them at home. They're 13-0 at home this year. Ole Miss may be a more well rounded team as things stand right now, but I like the offensive punch of Missouri. They have guards that can knock down shots. Phil Pressey must play better than he has in SEC play for them to make a significant run in March. They won't get enough stops on the defensive end of the floor to be able to endure erratic point guard play.
North Carolina (16-6, 6-3 Conf.) at Miami (18-3, 9-0 Conf.)
Prediction: I like Miami to cover the 7 1/2 pt spread.
- North Carolina is improving and could be a tough out come NCAA tournament time, but this is just a bad match up. They way the game is officiated during the regular season favors a physically mature team like Miami. The heels could get man handled, and I just envision Miami gradually grinding them down. Once officials start blowing the whistle a lot more in the NCAA tournament it could be a detriment to their quest of reaching the Final 4. If P.J. Hairston or Reggie Bullock gets hot from deep, this could be a closer game than I anticipated.
Kansas (19-3, 7-2 Conf.) at Oklahoma (14-7, 5-4 Conf.)
Prediction: I couldn't imagine the Jayhawks losing 3 consecutive games? It just seems unfathomable. Kansas wins, but it won't be pretty..
- Lon Kruger's Sooner squad is catching the Jayhawks at the right time. When they aren't playing fast, they just have no flow on the offensive end. Attacking more defensively should be their calling card, as they're most efficient when constantly playing in transition.
- If Oklahoma's bigs (Romero Osby for instance) can hit some mid range jumpers, they could pull off an upset. If Withey is forced away to defend outside jumpers, it opens up the lane for the guards. While, I think it could be close throughout, I believe that KU will pull away late. It should be a priority to make sure McLemore gets plenty of looks. Let him at least 20 shots and take your chances.
- Bill Self' is a master at creating easy baskets from out of bounds baseline plays, and I expect that to play a factor in this one.
Iowa St (16-6, 6-3 Conf.) at Kansas State (18-4, 7-2 Conf.)
Prediction: This would be a tough one to call on a neutral court, but the "Octagon of Doom" should spark the Cats to victory.
- You can count on Rodney McGruder for 20+ in this contest against an shaky Iowa St defense. K-state is #1 in turnover margin. I just don't see them beating themselves.
- The Cyclones are averaging nine 3 point makes per big 12 game. It seems inevitable that they'll be hoisting up 25 + 3's in this contest. Just how many will they knock down? That will determine the winner.
Pittsburg (19-5, 7-4 Conf.) at Cincinnati (18-5, 6-4 Conf.)
Prediction: Pittsburg grinds out a difficult road contest.
- I like the fact that they play unselfishly, as no one is putting up the kind of numbers to be a 1st or 2nd team all big East candidate. While not an explosive on the offensive end, they're efficient enough. They lock down defensively, they're committed to winning games in work-man like fashion.
- Pitt will likely have no one make 1st or 2nd team All Big East lists when it's all said and done. They aren't a flashy and have a balanced attack. They aren't an explosive team, but they're efficient enough on the offensive end to beat marquee teams. Their strength is their gritty defense and their work on the glass.
- Cincinnati is another team that fits the "rugged" profile of the Big East. They play solid defense and beat most teams on the glass. What bothers me about them is that they lean heavily on the 3 pt shot, and they're only shooting it at a 30% clip in conference play.
- Cashmere Wright is the Bearcats their X factor. If he can get back to knocking down some shots like he did in non conference play, they should be more than capable of making a nice run in March.
New Mexico (20-3, 7-1 Conf.) at UNLV (17-6, 4-4 Conf.)
Prediction: Lobo's take care of business in Sin City, distancing themselves from the rest of the pack in league play.
- UNLV losing at Fresno State was likely a confidence shattering loss that could continue their downward spiral. Will they get their swagger back before march? Maybe their biggest problem was that they had too much swagger earlier in the season. Dave Rice likes to play a lot of guys, and when they do come in they don't seem to know their role, often times playing selfishly in their limited PT to make the best of their opportunity.(Bryce Dejean-Jones should play less)
- On the plus side, Anthony Bennett is a stud. He hasn't made quite the impact I thought he would once conference play has begun, but I imagine we'll see a few more monster games from him before he declares for the NBA draft.
- I trust New Mexico to take care of the ball and not beat themselves in this contest. UNLV is quite the opposite, a very turnover prone team as of late. The Rebels are favored by 5 points, but I just can't buy into them right now. They're a good rebounding team, which is their one clear advantage in this game besides playing on their home floor. I'll be happy to eat crow if I'm wrong on this one.
VCU wins big at Charlotte. Charlotte is 17-5, but they're not a very good team. Kenpom ratings has them as the luckiest team in the nation thus far. This is Shaka Smart's best team he's had at VCU. (Yes, better than the one that beat Kansas on their way to the Final 4 in 2011.) They'll be a trendy sleeper pick when filling out brackets this year. I may have already jumped on the bandwagon.
Louisville wins by 8-10 points at Notre Dame. The Cards have the reputation for defending as good as anyone in the country. When Russ Smith is struggling, they can make it difficult on themselves, as he's their high volume shooter that is an integral part to them being able to be a proficient offense. While every team in the country is flawed on some level, Louisville seems like the safest Final 4 pick to me at this juncture of the season.
Iowa over Northwestern - The Hawkeyes will be dancing this year.
Southern Miss over Memphis - Memphis has had a soft schedule and may not be prepared to come out with a Dub against an above average team on the road.
Stanford over Arizona St - Jahii Carson is a legit talent for ASU. He's one of the better freshmen in america averaging 18 PPG on 46 % shooting. I'm just not sold on the surrounding cast being sturdy enough to keep this team in contention for a NCAA tournament berth.
Stanford has been very unlucky based on KenPom ratings. They can D up a little, and are shooting 44% from 3 pt land in conference play. A recipe for success when it comes to winning on the road. This game is truly a toss up.