By Chris Carlson: Last week was a continuation of upset city highlighted by Kansas, Butler, Xavier, and Illinois without their start point guard. This weekend the Big-12 and Big Ten feature marquee matchups per usual as we get down to the nitty-gritty. We are less than a week away from the major conference tourney as teams attempt to improve their seeding or just try to punch their ticket to the Big Dance.
Marquee Matchups on Saturday
#4 Illinois vs. #7 Ohio State: The fighting Illini surprised many of us by defeating Michigan short-handed. Meanwhile the Buckeyes are on a current 3-game slide losing to UM, Michigan State, and Iowa last Sunday. In their first meeting back in January, Illinois had no answer for E.J. Liddell. The odds are against Ohio State to shoot 54% from the field and 52% from behind the arc in the rematch. Illini all-purpose player Ayo Dosunmu broke his nose so at the time this article is being written will assume he won’t play. Even if Ayo does play the string of wins over ranked opponents for Illinois currently sits at 5, comes to an end.
The Pick: The more desperate Buckeyes find a way to win this crucial home game.
#6 West Virginia vs. #17 Oklahoma State: The Cowboys have won 3 straight versus Top-25 clubs beating Oklahoma in back to back games. Oklahoma State has the potential to become the #1 pick in the NBA Draft in Cade Cunningham. Cade has taken some knocks for how he starts games as it pertains to scoring but he usually shows up when it’s closing time. The Mountaineers dropped a razor-close game to Baylor on Tuesday and now look to rebound in this important Big-12 tilt. These two teams did meet all the way back in the beginning of January. West Virginia won the game by shooting better and making 4 more free throws in a game with the score reading 87-84. WV’s Derek Culver was a beast putting up 22 points and 19 rebounds so that will have to change for Oklahoma State to walk away victories.
The Pick: A tale of two halves like their first meeting but this time OKST plays great in the 2nd half to pull a minor upset.
Marquee Matchup on Sunday
#3 Baylor vs. #18 Texas Tech: The first time around was a low-scoring 68-60 win for the Bears on the back of some clutch shooting down the stretch. Beyond Mac McClung’s 24 points and four 3-pointers the Red Raiders didn’t get much production. Baylor was defeated by Kansas sure but also got a nice win over a hot West Virginia on the road. The rust factor is much less now that Baylor has played 3 games since their Covid-19 rest. Look for the score to peak up into the 70’s which only favors the all-around better built roster in Baylor.
The Pick: Baylor sinks a couple of key shots in the last few minutes to end the regular season in style.
Upset Special for the Week
Winner’s of 9 out the last 10 games Memphis upsets #9 Houston at home.
Under The Radar
#5 Iowa vs. #25 Wisconsin: Can the Badgers break through and actually beat a ranked opponent? The Hawkeyes have improved on defense some but will it be enough to make a Final Four push?
21 Virginia vs. Louisville: The Cavs lost 3 in a row prior to winning against Miami and now need to regroup heading into the ACC tourney. The Cardinals need another quality victory so there’s plenty at stake.
Quick Hits Recap
-Baylor won their first outright Big-12 conference title for the first times since 1950.
-Villanova went 2 for 27 from 3-point land in their loss to Butler making it the worst shooting percentage from behind the arc since Jay Wright started coaching the Wildcats.
-Illinois tied Michigan with 8 Quadrant 1 victories with a great win over Michigan.
-Not long after Oklahoma State joins those two teams with 8 Quad 1 wins now.
-The Big Ten have all 14 programs ranked in the Top-20 of the KenPom strength of schedule rankings.
-The Minnesota Gophers have gone belly-up losing to a Northwestern team that hadn’t won in 13 games and Nebraska as the Cornhuskers had lost 31 of their last 32 conference games.
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 & Follow on Twitter @RopeADopeRadio