With just over two weeks until Selection Sunday, college basketball is really starting to heat up. We have Kentucky looking to make their run at perfection, just 12 game away now. Duke, Virginia, Wisconsin, Villanova, and Gonzaga are battling for only three number one seeds. And there are a ton of bubble teams looking for that one win to push them in the tournament. Tomorrow’s action will feature dozens of games with tournament implications and our goal is to break down a few of them over the next two days so you know what to watch for on Saturday.
#5 Game of the Day – Dayton (21-6, 11-4 Atlantic 10) @ #22 VCU (21-7, 11-4)
This is going to be a fun game featuring two teams with conflicting styles. While both preach defense, VCU wins games by pushing the tempo and playing HAVOC defense. On the other hand, Dayton plays more traditional defense with high-pressure, half-court sets in mainly man-to-man. VCU has struggled of late winning just 4 of their last 8, however they have seemed to broken out of the offensive slump that they went through. The two teams have not played yet this year but I expect VCU to ramp it up like they normally do at this time of year and win the game by forcing double digit turnovers. VCU wins, 77 to 65 as Dayton can’t handle the VCU pressure.
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#4 Game of the Day – #20 West Virginia (22-6, 10-5 Big 12) @ #19 Baylor (21-7, 9-6 Big 12)
When these two teams met in West Virginia a few weeks ago, Baylor bullied the Mountaineers to the tune of an 87-69 victory. Baylor outrebounded WVU 47 to 35 and shot 55% compared to WVUs 36%. Both teams played very sloppy basketball but Rico Gathers and the Baylor size and athleticism were too much for West Virginia to handle. If WVU wants to keep this game competitive, they are going to have to focus on rebounding on the defensive end and Juwan Staten will need to continue his recent hot streak. Both teams are on three game winning streaks and playing the best basketball of their respective seasons so expect a fun game. However, Baylor wins this one at home, 81 to 74 as Gathers is just too much to handle down low.
#3 Game of the Day – #18 Arkansas (23-5, 12-3 SEC) @ #1 Kentucky (28-0, 15-0 SEC)
This could be the last major test for Kentucky’s pursuit of perfection until March Madness. Arkansas has been one of the most under-appreciated teams in the country all year and is a legitimate Final Four contender with their combination of scoring ability, athleticism, and experience. They are 9th in the country in points per game and share the ball incredibly well, ranking 5th in the nation in assists per game. Bobby Portis is one of the best big men in the country, averaging 17.6 points and 8.5 rebounds per game and the Arkansas front court has the size and athleticism to compete with Kentucky’s. If Arkansas wants to shock the world here, they must shoot the ball extremely well and limit their turnovers. This Arkansas team only plays two non-upper class-men significant minutes and they will not be scared of the moment. I think Kentucky slips up and their pursuit for perfection ends tomorrow. Arkansas in a shocking upset, 78 to 73.
#2 Game of the Day – #7 Arizona (25-3, 13-2 Pac 12) @ #13 Utah (22-5, 12-3 Pac 12)
These two teams are the cream of the crop in the Pac 12 and are sure to have a highly competitive, defensive battle tomorrow in Utah. Both teams have above average offenses but pride themselves on defense. Utah has arguably the best home court advantage in the country, with a home record this year of 16 wins and 0 losses and a home winning streak extending almost two seasons. There star freshman center Jacob Poeltl has an array of moves that is incredibly rare for a player as young as him and he is going to be a tough matchup for an Arizona team that doesn’t really have a center. If Arizona wants to pull the road upset, I say that T.J. McConnell must have a huge game. However, ultimately the atmosphere and talent of Utah will be too much to overcome and they win, 73 to 64.
National Game of the Day – #10 Northern Iowa (27-2, 16-1 MVC) @ #11 Wichita State (26-3, 16-1 MVC)
These two teams met earlier in the year at Northern Iowa and the Panthers throttled the Shockers winning 70 to 54. The Panthers only player averaging above 8 points a game is senior power forward Seth Tuttle, who averages 15.6 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game and he went off in the first matchup, scoring an incredible 29 points. The Panthers used their tremendous defense to limit Wichita State’s two star guards Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet to 4-12 and 3-10 shooting respectively and Wichita State shot just 35.6% compared to 60% for Northern Iowa. However, I would not expect this matchup to be similar. I expect Wichita to come out and leave it all on the court and remember what happened a month ago. The Roundhouse is going to be rocking and VanVleet and Baker will play much better. The Shockers win a huge game to win the Missouri Valley regular season title, 67 to 62.
Other Games to Watch: Boise State @ San Diego State, BYU @ Gonzaga, Tulsa @ Memphis,