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College Basketball Weekly Watch-list: 1/29-2/2

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College Basketball Weekly Watch-list: 1/29-2/2

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This year, college basketball has been more of a roller coaster than ever before. Want proof? Well, nearly half of the top ten lost last week and the rest of the 15 ranked teams have been shifting quite a bit. If there is one thing we know for sure, it is that predicting a good bracket in March will be harder than ever before.

Hot Takes:

Who really is the best team in the nation?

It doesn’t matter what the latest AP poll says, there will always be a debate on who should be the number one team in college basketball. You could make a case for Villanova, Virginia, and even Purdue. All of the aforementioned programs have wins against ranked teams, making it even tougher to determine a #1. Villanova has been the top team for a while now, but it may be time for a change. Purdue didn’t blow my mind last week despite beating Michigan and Indiana, and Nova barely snuck by Marquette. What about Virginia? Well, they beat Clemson at home and Duke on the road last week. They did blow my mind. They are the #1 team… for now.

What is Auburn doing in the top 15?

Here’s a surprise: The Auburn Tigers are actually good at basketball. Nobody saw this coming, especially considering the investigation that took place before the season began. They are, at the time of publication, a two-loss team, which by looking at the numbers is good enough to be in the top five, but instead they are ranked 11th.  The Tigers have only played two ranked teams this season, with their best win coming on the road against Tennessee. This team needs to prove to me that they can beat a solid top-15 team. As of now, they seem like the team that will lose in the first round of the tournament to a mid-major.

Tuesday:

North Carolina at Clemson:

The North Carolina Tar Heels had a downright horrible past week. For starters, they fell to Virginia Tech on the road, then lost to their in-state rivals, North Carolina State, at home in overtime. Needless to say, they should have won both games given the fact that before both games tipped off, the Hokies and the Wolfpack were on the bottom half of the ACC standings. This week must be a bounce back week for the Tar Heels. Their first test will be against Clemson on Tuesday night, who also lost this past week. Both teams will certainly fall back in the rankings, making the stakes even bigger for Tuesday’s contest. Joel Berry III of North Carolina continues to play mediocre. He only had 6 points in the Heels’ loss to NC State and wasn’t that efficient on defense either. On the other side, defense seems to be the Tigers specialty. Their offensive production has been sluggish, especially last week when they only scored 36 points against a tough Virginia team. This game will come down to if Clemson can keep Joel Berry III cold. The magic number for the Tigers will be around 80 points, but knowing their offensive struggles as of late, they won’t get there. It’s tough to see Roy Williams team lose three straight. I like the Heels in a nail-biter.

Games to Watch:

Indiana at Ohio State

Florida at Georgia

TCU at Oklahoma State

Picks:

Ohio State beats Indiana

Florida beats Georgia

Oklahoma State beats TCU

Wednesday:

Louisville at Virginia

Virginia made a statement Saturday afternoon. Along with Allen Fieldhouse and Rupp Arena, Cameron Indoor is one of the most difficult places to win. For Virginia to go in there and shut down the Duke Blue Devils was awe-inspiring. Now, they come back home to play Louisville, who is shockingly in second place in a brutally tough ACC. The Cardinals seem to have overcome all of the offseason drama that surrounded their university and now look to be an NCAA tournament team. However, if they want to be taken seriously, they need to go into Charleston and pick up a W. How do they do that? Well, three things need to happen: First, they need to take out the home crowd by getting off to a hot start, then shut down Cavalier studs such as Kyle Guy and Devon Hall, and then finally get everyone on their offense going and be able to close out a ball game. As for Virginia, as long as their defense can make a statement early and hold the Cardinals to under 75 points, they will win this one. The Virginia Cavaliers, a team that wasn’t even ranked at the beginning of the season, will continue to build their strong resume for a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

Games to Watch:

Penn State at Michigan State

Louisville at Virginia

Providence at Seton Hall

Houston at Cincinnati

Texas at Texas Tech

Butler at Marquette

Picks:

Michigan State beats Penn State

Virginia beats Louisville

Marquette beats Butler

Providence beats Seton Hall

 

Thursday:

Creighton at Villanova:

There has been endless debate over whether Villanova should be ranked as the #1 team in the country. They are coming off a three-point victory over Marquette and will play a solid Creighton Blue Jays team at home on Thursday. The Blue Jays are a five-loss team and seem to be on the borderline of the top 25 every week. You can practically assure them a spot in the NCAA Tournament, but not an incredibly high seed. Creighton’s Marcus Foster has had a superb year thus far along with Khyri Thomas,  numbers are quite high as of late. Both will need to go for over 20 points, along with some help on defense from Martin Krampelj and Ronnie Harrell Jr. As for Nova, you hear about Mikal Bridges and Jalen Brunson quite a bit, but one name you should start getting familiar with is Donte DiVincenzo. He had 23 points last Sunday and had 11 points off the bench in their win over Providence. This game would be a lot more intriguing if it was in Omaha, but I like the Wildcats by 10 in this one. Make sure to keep an eye of Donte DiVincenzo.  

Games To Watch:

Creighton at Villanova

Wichita State at Temple

Northwestern at Wisconsin

Arizona State at Washington

Picks:

Villanova beats Creighton

Wichita State beats Temple

Washington beats Arizona State

Friday:

Here’s one team you probably haven’t heard much from. The Rhode Island Rams quietly entered the top 25 last week and are expected to start climbing into the teens after a winning streak that began on Dec. 6th. They play in the A-10, which is probably one of the strongest mid-major conferences, and are currently undefeated. They play VCU Friday night, who has definitely had their fair share of defensive setbacks. They allow close to 75 points a game with the worst performance coming against the Dayton Flyers when the allowed 106 points. Now, I highly doubt that will happen on their home court where they are most comfortable, but they need to be able to defend Jared Terrell and E.C Matthews. They are toast if they allow too many open shots from beyond the perimeter. A VCU win wouldn’t stun me, but this team has too many flaws and holes to make me believe the Rams aren’t the better team and will walk away with a double-digit victory. This one could be close, but Rhode Island will continue to move up the ranks after a win against Virginia Commonwealth.

Games To Watch:

Rhode Island at VCU

Utah at Colorado

Harvard at Columbia

Picks:

Rhode Island beats VCU

Colorado beats Utah

Harvard beats Columbia

Saturday:

Oklahoma at Texas:

College basketball headlines continue to be dominated by Oklahoma freshman phenom Trae Young. As long as he keeps draining shots from NBA-three-point distance, you won’t stop hearing about him, so get used to it. Saturday night OU travels to Austin, Texas to take on the Longhorns, who need to nearly win out to have a chance at winning the conference. The Sooners, on the other hand, just need to keep winning and beat the Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse, which they know is easier said than done. I was planning on saying Texas’s key to the game would be shutting down Trae Young, but no team has been able to do it and nothing makes me think the Longhorns can. However, what they can do is create turnovers. Oklahoma on average gives the ball up over 13 times a game. The less chances Young has to shoot, the better shot the Longhorns have at pulling the upset. Texas doesn’t necessarily have a fantastic shooter on their team, but their defense is among the best in the conference. Keep an eye on Mohamed Bamba. If there is one player that will make an impact on the opposite side of the floor, it will be him. The Texas Longhorns can and will win this game. Not by a lot, but I believe their defense will give them the dub.

Virginia at Syracuse (Blockbuster of the Week):

This game presents the perfect conditions for an upset. The Syracuse Orange, who are riding a three-game win streak, welcome the Virginia Cavaliers to the Carrier Dome Saturday evening. When these two teams battled it out earlier this month, the Cavaliers only managed to win by seven at home, which is slightly alarming. The Orange will be coming in hot and full of confidence knowing how difficult it is to play in their stadium, and Virginia can’t come into this one expecting to coast through it. Tyus Battle and Frank Howard have been the offensive studs for ‘Cuse, while their defense only allows an average of 63.2 points. Yes, Devon Hall and Kyle Guy are huge threats, but if they can shut them down on top of scoring over 80 points, then the #2 team in the nation may go down. Team statistics make me lean towards picking Virginia, but I have a strong gut feeling that Syracuse students will get to storm the court after this one. The Orange have the talent and the environment to pull the upset and continue to convince the tournament committee that they deserve a spot in March Madness.

Games to Watch:

Michigan State at Indiana

Cincinnati at Connecticut

Texas Tech at TCU

Kentucky at Mizzou

Virginia at Syracuse

Oklahoma at Texas

Picks:

Indiana beats Michigan State

Cincinnati beats Connecticut

Kentucky beats Mizzou

Syracuse beats Virginia

Texas beats Oklahoma

Sunday:

Seton Hall at Villanova:

The Seton Hall Pirates had the opportunity to be in the top three and maybe even the #1 seed in the Big East at the start of conference play. They went on to win their first three conference games, then suffered a 20-point loss to Marquette, and haven’t seemed to recover ever since. Sunday afternoon they will have a chance to turn their season around for the better. They will play the #1 team in the nation on the road. Nobody has won in Philadelphia yet, and that likely won’t change unless a miracle happens. The Wildcats are just too good right now and an unstable Pirates team standing in their way should be nothing difficult for Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges and the rest of the Villanova superstars. Nova shouldn’t have to worry about losing until they play Bulter again in a few weeks.  

Seton Hall at Villanova

Illinois at Ohio State

Arizona State at Washington State

Given this week’s slate of games, there won’t be as many upsets compared to last week, but there will definitely be some outcomes that may catch you off guard. One thing I’ve learned while covering college basketball is literally anything can happen. It doesn’t matter what you’re ranked, how dominant you have been in your conference, or the legacy of your program. From here on out, every top team is prone to an upset.

Last Weeks Record:

(15-8)

Overall:

(99-45)

About the Writer
Joe Thomas, Author

Joe Thomas is a staff writer for The Forest Scout who has a burning passion for sports. He covers high school football, hockey and baseball along with...

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College Basketball Weekly Watch-list: 1/29-2/2