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College Basketball Weekly Watch List: 2/5-2/12

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College Basketball Weekly Watch List: 2/5-2/12

Joe Thomas

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Last week was supposed to be lousy. Last week was supposed to feature very little upsets and tight games. Last week was supposed to be relatively boring in college hoops. See what I’m getting at? It was another crazy week in college basketball. There were upsets galore and some very close finishes. Looking at the week ahead, we have more than one blockbuster matchup, plenty of top 25 games, and of course, some serious potential for stunners. We are in for a wild week in college hoops.

Hot Takes:

The Mighty Big East (feat. TFS on the road):

So this weekend was pretty crazy in the Big East. Friday night, I traveled to Cincinnati to see some of the action for myself, but before the Xavier Musketeers and Georgetown Hoyas tipped off, something else was brewing up at Madison Square Garden. The St. John’s Red Storm, who are still winless (0-11) in Big East play, somehow, someway, upset the Duke Blue Devils 81-77 thanks to Shamorie Ponds’ 33 points. Again, this is a team that hasn’t won yet in the Big East, so what does that say about the conference? Later that night, thanks to LFHS Alum Avery Robbins, I was able to witness the Xavier Musketeers go wire-to-wire with the Georgetown Hoyas. Xavier took the W in overtime thanks to Trevon Blueitt’s incredibly clutch performance, including a four-point play that sent the game to overtime. Two other teams that you need to keep an eye on within the conference are Providence and Butler. They could both be sleepers come tournament time.

Figure yourselves out, Kentucky:

So I was the singing the praises of Kentucky last week when they defeated West Virginia. However, they just barely got by Vanderbilt on Tuesday at home, then struggled in a road loss to Missouri. So at this point, nobody can figure out this Wildcats team. They play both Tennessee and Texas A&M this week. Winning both games could prove to us that maybe they are worthy of the top 25 and a good seed in the tournament. Otherwise who knows what perception of this team people will have next Sunday.

Kansas Losses at home.. Again?:

Here’s something that doesn’t happen to the Kansas Jayhawks every year: three home losses. In fact, most years they don’t lose at all at Allen Fieldhouse. So, with a loss to Oklahoma State last weekend you begin to wonder, for starters, if this will be the year they don’t win the Big 12 conference, and additionally the year they struggle in the NCAA tournament. Bill Self has publicly said that his team is ‘weak’ and in a game where the Jayhawks never really had a chance against an unranked opponent at home, it makes you a bit skeptical about this team.

Tuesday:

Xavier at Butler:

This game has to be one of the most intriguing match-ups all week in the Big East. The Butler Bulldogs, winners of four of their last five games, take on the Xavier Musketeers in what should be a phenomenal game. The last time these two teams faced off, Butler stayed within reaching distance, but could never go on a run to try and pull off an upset. The Dawgs went on a bit of a fallout after the L, losing three of their next four, but have been hot as of late with four straight wins. Butler has also been really tough to beat at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Their three-point shooting, especially from Kelan Martin and Paul Jorgensen, has improved so much since the last time they played the Muskey’s. Xavier, on the other hand, is boiling hot and is now a projected one seed by ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi. J.P Macura has cooled off a bit, but Trevon Bluiett has been lethal against his opponents. Kareem Kanter has also played well in the paint and has also been working on his outside game. In most cases, I would take Xavier easily in this game, but the Bulldogs have showed immense improvement and are among the toughest to beat at home. I like Butler in this one.

Games To Watch:

Xavier at Butler

Tennessee at Kentucky

TCU at Kansas

Michigan at Northwestern

Picks:

Butler beats Xavier

Kansas beats TCU

Michigan beats Northwestern

Wednesday:

Wednesday:

Virginia at Florida State

Who would have thought that at this point in the season, the Virginia Cavaliers would be without a loss in the ACC? Wednesday evening they hit the road and head to Tallahassee to take on the Florida State Seminoles, who are coming off a big road win over Louisville. There is nothing new about this Virginia team. They continue to dominate their opponents–especially on defense–and Kyle Guy shows zero signs of slowing down. I’ve tried picking against this Cavalier team, but it has really backfired, so I’m done doing that. Florida State shows no threat to this team. Virginia will stampede this program. Currently, with no ranked opponents on the horizon, the Virginia Cavaliers definitely have a chance to go undefeated in the ACC.

Ohio State at Purdue:

Similar to Virginia, very few people thought that Ohio State would still be hanging around in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes are still only one game back of the Boilermakers, adding to the importance of this matchup. In their most recent matchup against the struggling Illinois Fighting Illini, they trailed for a good part of the game, but managed to come back partially thanks to Keita Bates-Diop’s 35 points. That, to me, was very concerning. This team has showed plenty of vulnerabilities that need to be patched before Wednesday’s game. Bates-Diop can’t be the only player that has a sensational game. They need other players to step up. The keys for Ohio State to win this game are to stay out of foul trouble and limit points in the paint. This team has more potential than any other program to beat them so far. Still, they are going to come up short. I really want to pick the Buckeyes, but this Purdue team is too good to pick against. Don’t forget, this game is also in West Lafayette. Boilermakers by five.  

Games to Watch:

Virginia at Florida State

Marquette at Seton Hall

Ohio State at Purdue

Texas A&M at Auburn

Picks:

Virginia beats Florida State

Seton Hall beats Marquette

Purdue beats Ohio State

Auburn beats Texas A&M

 

Thursday:

Duke at North Carolina (Blockbuster of the Week):

Does it really matter how good these teams have to be in order to be the Blockbuster of the Week? As long as they are in the top 25, then yes. The Tobacco Road rivalry will take place on the campus of the North Carolina Tar Heels, who look to bounce back after losing three of their last four. Duke, on the other hand, is coming off a loss to St. John’s. Yes, you read that right… the 11-13 St. Johns Red Storm! So how in the world do you bounce back from what these two programs have experienced? Well, first off they need to play like a team. The Blue Devils looked somewhat selfish in their loss over the weekend, while the Tar Heels’ poor communication skills are leading to turnovers. Both teams will of course practice leading up to the game and try and fix their mistakes, but it really depends on which team will execute their gameplan. Gary Trent Jr. will be the x-factor for Duke if they want to win on the road, while Cameron Johnson could be a player to watch for on UNC. You could go either way in predicting this matchup. Duke has struggled on the road, while North Carolina has to face one of the best defenses in college basketball. This will be a slugfest to say the least, but the Blue Devils have the more complete team. They will be the ones celebrating in their 20-minute bus ride back home.

Games to Watch:

Pittsburgh at Clemson

Duke at North Carolina (Blockbuster of the week)

UCLA at Arizona

Picks:

Clemson beats Pittsburgh

Duke beats North Carolina

Arizona beats UCLA

 

Friday:

Davidson at Rhode Island:

I love it how the A-10 plays on Fridays. It always gives me a chance to shine the spotlight on what the Rhode Island Rams are doing. Still without a loss in conference play, Rhode Island destroyed VCU on the road Friday night with strong performances from E.C Matthews, Jared Terrell, and 25 points from the bench. Davidson now holds the second spot in the conference and their only hope of tying the Rams would be to win Friday night and get some help from the rest of their conference. Just seeing what Rhode Island has done to their opponents makes me think that the Wildcats don’t stand a chance. The Rams will improve their tournament resume with a 20 point win Friday night.

Games to Watch:

Davidson at Rhode Island

Minnesota at Indiana

Princeton at Harvard

Picks:

Rhode Island beats Davidson

Indiana beats Minnesota

Harvard beats Princeton

 

Saturday:

Purdue at Michigan State (Blockbuster of the Week):

There is no other word to describe Saturday’s hoop schedule other than ‘stacked.’ Midway through the day the Big Ten game of the year will go down between Purdue and Michigan State. The two top five teams will battle in East Lansing in what could be a Big Ten title-defining win for the Boilermakers, or a step towards a share in the title for the Spartans. Either way this game will have huge ramifications on next week’s rankings. Purdue’s Carsen and Vincent Edwards are the best shooters the program possesses, while Isaac Haas and Matt Haarms work the paint. The Boilermakers are the definition of an all-around team. MSU, well, not so much. Yes, they do have stellar players such as Miles Bridges, Nick Ward and Joshua Langford, but they don’t have a 7’ 3’’ mammoth center that is going to defend the paint. This team is good, but they have gaps that opponents can work around. Purdue is just one of those teams that shows little vulnerability. Carsen Edwards will go off for 30 in this game as Purdue will take care of business at Michigan State.

Butler at Villanova:

There is only one team in college basketball that has figured out the Villanova Wildcats and it probably isn’t who you are expecting. The Butler Bulldogs have won their past three straight games against Nova and have won them all by considerable margins. The Dawgs have been the only team to beat the Cats this year when they scored triple digits against them back in December. In order for that to happen again, the Bulldogs need to create open shots from the perimeter and get some of their bigger guys going, such as Tyler Wideman. They will score a lot of points, but so will Villanova. Jalen Brunson hasn’t seemed to cool off at all this year along with Miles Bridges, and oh, don’t forget about Donte Divincenzo, who hasn’t been playing bad as of late. Butler has been a team I have followed all year and I still don’t get what they know about Villanova that other teams don’t. They’ve figured out how to beat this team. Now, they just need to execute their gameplan Saturday afternoon to try and pull another upset. It would truly be something if the Dawgs came out with a win after this one, but I have a gut feeling that Nova will take the dub in a close game.

Gonzaga at St. Mary’s:

In the latest AP Poll, the Gonzaga Bulldogs were ranked 12th. Their predecessor? The St. Mary’s Gaels. After beating Gonzaga at home, the Gaels gained a lot more respect, however that still remains their best win. They haven’t played a ton of talented teams this year, but two wins over the Bulldogs will look stellar on their NCAA tournament resume. Jock Landale is a name basketball fans should be familiar with by now. He is averaging 22.8 PPG and is easily their best defender. St. Mary’s doesn’t have a ton of depth, so the key for Gonzaga is pretty simple. Shut down Jock Landale. If that happens and Jonathan Williams, along with Josh Perkins, combine for over 35, then they have a legitimate shot. However, it’s tough to just assume that when Landale dropped 26 on the Zags home floor in their first meeting. What makes me think a big enough difference will happen for the Bulldogs to win the game? Absolutely nothing. Gaels sweep the season series.

Games To Watch:

Kentucky at Texas A&M

Butler at Villanova

Florida at South Carolina

Kansas at Baylor

North Carolina at NC State

Texas at TCU

Xavier at Creighton

Virginia Tech at Virginia

Texas Tech at Kansas State

Gonzaga at St. Mary’s

Picks:

Purdue beats Michigan State

Villanova beats Butler

St. Mary’s beats Gonzaga

Kansas State beats Texas Tech

Xavier beats Creighton

 

Sunday:

Cincinnati at SMU:

It’s time to give this Cincinnati team more credit. Or is it? Just by looking at their (21-2) record, it is easy to assume that they should be in the top five, but upon further inspection their schedule has been a cake walk, except for two games, the two games that they lost. Since their spanking from Xavier and defeat to Florida, the toughest team they have come across is UCLA. If I am a Bracketologist, this circumstance is screaming first or second round upset. Are the Bearcats really that good? Well, they still have to play Wichita State twice, so I guess we may find out then. For now though, they travel to Southern Methodist on Sunday to take on the Mustangs. SMU has not had the best season, but does have a win against a once-7th-ranked Wichita State. They at least have potential to pull the upset. Shake Milton has been their most dynamic player, averaging 18 points a game. The Mustangs defense also isn’t that bad. On average, they give up close to 62 points a game, but they know well that Cincinnati is a different animal. If Jacob Evans III and Gary Clark get hot, then SMU can pretty much just throw in the towel. The Cincinnati defense is better than the Mustangs and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Bearcats hold them in the 50’s. Cincinnati will eventually lose in conference. They just won’t lose to SMU.

Games To Watch:

Michigan at Wisconsin

Cincinnati at SMU

Duke at Georgia Tech

Picks:

Michigan beats Wisconsin

Cincinnati beat SMU

Duke beats Georgia Tech

 

This week is huge. There are an overwhelming amount of ranked match-ups and games that could determine what teams get in and out of the NCAA Tournament at the end of the year. There are historic rivalries with massive stakes, and do I have to say it again? The possibility for some jaw dropping upsets. Whatever this week brings us, I know it will be incredible.

 

Last Weeks Record:

(10-9)

Overall Record:

(109-54)

 

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: 2/5-2/12