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College Basketball Weekly Watch List: 2/13-2/19

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College Basketball Weekly Watch List: 2/13-2/19

Joe Thomas

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At one point last week, everyone thought that there would finally be a true number one in college basketball. After Purdue and Villanova both lost, Virginia was in the driver’s seat to take over the unanimous top spot. Then their in-state rival, Virginia Tech, came in and trashed the Cavaliers’ party. Sure, Virginia is still a #1 seed, but the Hokies exposed a weakness in a team everyone thought was borderline perfect. We are now less than a month away from Selection Sunday and there is still plenty of debate on who’s the team is to beat. More than half of the top ten lost last week, which sparked plenty of controversy when the bracket preview was unveiled Sunday. This year has been beyond unique. Another huge week is in front of us; one that includes plenty of upset possibilities, including what may be the game of the year.

Hot Takes:

Why Michigan State isn’t a #1…Yet:

On Sunday, the NCAA Tournament committee unveiled the top 16 teams in college basketball seeded 1-4. The first three (Virginia, Villanova, Xavier) were no surprise, however that 4th #1 seed caught many people off guard. Purdue, who suffered losses to both Ohio State and Michigan State this week, ranked among the top four. The Spartans fell to a three seed despite winning twice this week, including that win over #1 seeded Purdue. How the hell does that make any sense? Why is the #2 team in the nation in a three spot? That is what millions of college basketball fans–including me–thought initially when the rankings came out. However, we were all wrong. Michigan State’s schedule is weak. Their very few tough games have all been at home, including their game against the Boilermakers. They don’t have as many signature wins are the rest of the #1 seeds. That being said, I still think they should at least be a #2 seed. If they can win out, do well in the Big ten tournament, and get some help from the opponents of the top four teams, then they could potentially be a #1, but bottom line is: they have some work to do.

This year could be anyone’s year:

There is not one good college basketball team this year that convinces me that they can win the national championship. Villanova’s injuries are piling up, Virginia’s offense is nothing special, Xavier can’t even blowout the worst teams in the Big East, Cincinnati has beat nobody good, Purdue couldn’t close out a game for the life of them this weekend, and trust me, I could go on and on about the rest of the top 25. We are going to have upsets galore in March. After what happened last week, I can’t trust anyone to make the Final Four. More than half of the top ten lost last week, which is remarkable. Let’s see what happens these next few weeks, but my guess is come March 11, Selection Sunday, there will be no strong favorites to come away with the championship.

What got into St. John’s?

Last week, St. John’s pulled off a remarkable upset over the Duke Blue Devils. Many people thought this was just a fluke until they beat Villanova on the road, then knocked off Marquette. So what got into them? Shamorie Ponds started to perform at a higher level, but that was about it. Despite their one blowout loss at the hands of Butler, St. John’s was practically in every other Big East game they played. This is a good team, they just weren’t able to close out ballgames. They still have to win out in the Big East to even get consideration of being a bubble team, but they could be dangerous in the Big East Tournament. Keep an eye on this team and see what they do in the remainder of their games.


Kansas at Iowa State:

We have more than a few electrifying games on Super Tuesday, starting off with the Kansas Jayhawks taking a trip to Iowa State. Now, despite the Cyclones being at the bottom of the Big 12 rankings and the Jayhawks at the top, there are a few components that make this game particularly interesting. Kansas is coming off a brutal road loss to Baylor, while Iowa State picked up a huge victory over Oklahoma. Not to mention, the Hilton Coliseum is not an easy place to play. Combine all of this and you have the ingredients for an upset. Dynamic Cyclone freshman Lindell Wigginton tore apart OU on Saturday with 26 points accompanied by 5 assists. He will also need some help from Donovan Jackson and Cameron Lard if they want to have a chance at beating Kansas. As for KU, the key is to stay out of foul trouble. Udoka Azubuike has been virtually unstoppable in the paint, but always seems to be sitting out the majority of the game due to foul trouble. If he can limit his mistakes and stay on the floor, Kansas can be dangerous. Devonte Graham continues to perform at an elite level along with Tuesday nights X-factor, Mitch Lightfoot, who is one of the most aggressive players in the Big 12. This game is much harder to pick than it should be. However, seeing the Jayhawks lose and not be within striking distance of winning the Big 12 is just hard for me to see. I like Kansas to sneak out of Ames with the dub.

Virginia at Miami:

It was all there for Virginia. The unanimous one seed was within reach… but they blew it. They lost in OT to Virginia Tech in a nailbiter, and all of a sudden, people are unsure about this team being the best in the country. Tuesday night, they have a chance to bounce back from their crushing defeat when they travel to Miami to take on the Hurricanes. Miami is also coming off a brutal loss. They fell at the feet of Boston College, who they nearly went to overtime with. For the Cavaliers, this will probably be their toughest game for the remainder of the regular season. On average, Miami gives up 66.6 points per game, which isn’t horrendous until you compare it to Virginia, who only lets up 52.8. This game will be a defensive battle. Virginia has definitely struggled in some of their recent games and playing in Corral Gables is definitely not a guaranteed win. Watch for Anthony Lawrence II and Bruce Brown Jr. for the Hurricanes to be the difference makers Tuesday night. Miami, who has had so many opportunities to get a signature win this year, will upset the Cavaliers at home shaking up the top three yet again.

Oklahoma at Texas Tech:

We are now only a few weeks away from the end of the regular season and Texas Tech leads the Big 12 standings, which just sounds beyond weird. It’s stunning enough that Kansas isn’t in the driver’s seat, but who would’ve thought that it would be the Red Raiders taking over. Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. They still have some work to do. They welcome Oklahoma to the United Supermarkets Arena Tuesday night, who has lost three straight games to mediocre opponents. Trae Young continues to be the face of the Sooners, but the problem is, he is the only one playing at an elite level. He is getting little help from his teammates, and quite frankly, other teams are starting to figure out how to guard Trae Young. If OU continues to spiral downward like they are now, Young may not even win Big 12 player of the year. It could be Keenan Evans. He has played outstanding on the Red Raiders and has been a huge boost to why they are first in the conference. What differentiates these two teams is Texas Tech has more than just Evans. Jarrett Culver and Zhaire Smith are two other phenomenal players that they can trust with the ball. Texas Tech will eventually lose, but it won’t be for a while. They will beat Oklahoma by ten Tuesday night.

Games to Watch:

Kansas at Iowa State

Virginia at Miami

Oklahoma at Texas Tech

Michigan State at Minnesota


Kansas beat Iowa State

Miami beat Virginia

Texas Tech beats Oklahoma



Virginia Tech at Duke:

This is a game I didn’t think would be intriguing at all until Virginia Tech did the unthinkable and beat Virginia last week. Now the Hokies, who quite potentially solidified their spot in the NCAA tournament last week, are coming in full of confidence to Wednesday’s showcase. VT is one of those teams that doesn’t really have a star player on offense. They share the ball very well, which attributes to the reason why their leading scorer averages less than 14 points. For the Hokies to have a chance Wednesday night they need to keep doing what they do on offense, but also step up their defense. They can’t beat Duke unless they can hold them to under 75 points. Although the Blue Devils have lost 3 of their past 5, Marvin Bagley III, Grayson Allen, and even Gary Trent Jr. continue to be effective offensive weapons. Also, let us not forget that this game is at Cameron Indoor, which is one of the most difficult places to win in college basketball. I’ll reiterate what I said earlier: if Virginia Tech can hold Duke to under 75 points, they will win. Frankly, I don’t see the Hokies being able to close this game out. They will have a lead for close to half of the game, but the blue Devils will put the game out of reach in the final minute.

Seton Hall at Xavier:

The Seton Hall Pirates have hit a brutal stretch. They have now lost three straight Big East games and have to go to Cincinnati to play Xavier, who is undefeated at home. Scoring hasn’t been the issue during this rough stretch. Instead it has been their defense. In their past three games, they’ve given up more than 87 points in average. Angel Delgado is one of the many Pirates underperforming on the other side of the ball. Seton Hall has given up plenty of easy baskets these past three games, which they need to make an adjustment on before they play the #4 team in the nation. As the year has progressed, Xavier has turned into more of an all-around team with more than just two weapons. Yes, Trevon Bluiett and J.P Macura continue to dominate the headlines, but Naji Marshall, Quentin Goodin and Kerem Kanter seem to be improving  every game. The Xavier Musketeers are going to stay red hot. Seton Hall is not playing at a level high enough to compete with one of the best teams in the nation. X should have no trouble Wednesday night.

Kentucky at Auburn:

College basketball is a wild sport. Virtually nobody would’ve been able to predict at the beginning of the year that Auburn would be ranked 10th, while Kentucky isn’t even within the top 25. The Wildcats are now losers of three straight, but have a chance to redeem themselves Wednesday night. This young, inexperienced, freshman-dominated team doesn’t have any phenomenal players on offense, but do a good job in limiting open opportunities for their opposition. Meanwhile, Auburn still hasn’t completely gained my respect. They have played very few talented teams besides Texas A&M, who they lost to last week. Bryce Brown has been this team’s leader. He is averaging 16.6 points per game, however has struggled defensively. This is going to be a lot better of a game than the rankings may make it seem. It should be close throughout and high scoring. In the end, I am taking Kentucky. The Wildcats have proven to me that they can beat talented teams on the road. Auburn, however, hasn’t. Kentucky should be able to get back on track with a road win Wednesday night. Auburn still has some work to do.

Games To Watch:

Virginia Tech at Duke

Seton Hall at Xavier

Kentucky at Auburn

Villanova at Providence



Arizona at Arizona State:

Pac-12 basketball after dark doesn’t get much better than this. Although winning the conference is out of reach, Arizona State still has some business to take care of. Thursday night they will look to prevent Arizona from completing the series sweep. The Sun Devils have been difficult to conquer all year at home and are riding a three-game win streak coming into this Pac-12 blockbuster. As ASU began to cool off, we heard less and less about Tra Holder, but he is continuing to do his thing, averaging nearly 20 points per game and being one of the main reasons why this team is still within the top 25. Shannon Evans II has also provided an unlikely boost on offense for Arizona State. Meanwhile Arizona, who beat the Sun Devils by six back on December 30, have lost 2 of their last 3 games against very beatable opponents. Deandre Ayton continues to make his case for player of the year and Allonzo Trier still is one of the best shooters in the conference. Their defense has potential to be a lot better than it truly is. With big men such as Ayton and Dusan Ristic, Arizona State will have significant trouble scoring in the paint and will have to use their perimeter game a lot more. These are two very good teams that are loaded with talent, however Arizona has more potential offensively and defensively. This year will be the Wildcats’ year. They will sweep ASU with a huge resume building road win.

Games to Watch:

Cincinnati at Houston

Ohio State at Penn State

Arizona at Arizona State

Purdue at Wisconsin


Arizona beats Arizona State

Ohio State beats Penn State

Houston beats Cincinnati



Rhode Island at St. Bonaventure:

Noticing a pattern in Friday’s watchlist? It’s time to preview the A-10 game of the week, which of course features the Rhode Island Rams. This week they get St. Bonaventure. The Bonnies are right behind the Rams in the A-10 standings, and to be honest, have no chance at coming back. Rhode Island has this conference on lockdown. At this point, if they don’t win out I would be stunned. Jared Terrell and E.C Matthews are way too good for their opponents to handle, and their defense has been stellar their past couple games. It is not even worth previewing St. Bonaventure. Here’s a bold prediction: Rhode Island will be no higher than a four seed come selection Sunday. Although they don’t play many great teams, they have coasted through a semi-difficult A-10 conference.

Games To Watch:

Rhode Island at St. Bonaventure

Pennsylvania at Columbia

Bowling Green at Buffalo


Rhode Island beats St. Bonaventure

Pennsylvania beats Columbia

Buffalo beats Bowling Green



Villanova at Xavier (Blockbuster of the Week):

Blockbuster of the week? No, scratch that. This is arguably the Blockbuster of the Year. It may be a little premature to say the Big East will come down to this, but in all likelihood it will. Xavier is in a position to win their first ever Big East title, while Villanova is just trying to do what they are notorious for doing–winning the conference. The Wildcats are coming off an up and down week. Sure, they lost to St. John’s, but they managed to turn around and beat Butler, a team that had previously beat them three straight times. We have heard about Jalen Brunson and Miles Bridges all year, but as I mentioned in my previous article; the biggest X-factor on this team is Donte Divincenzo. In their win over the Bulldogs, Divincenzo had a career-high 30 points leading his team to the victory. Villanova is a team that has been punished by injuries this year and probably would’ve never lost to St. John’s if they were healthy, but they need to realize that they are still stacked without players like Phil Booth; but are they still talented enough to beat the red hot Xavier Musketeers? What I’ve learned from following the Musketeers all year is that in order for an opposing team to beat them, they would need to blow them out. One of the most remarkable stats of the year is that Xavier is 9-0 in games decided by 8 points or less. In their past three games, two of them went to OT and the other was a one-point margin. All of which they won. Now before I continue to praise X, I want to revisit January 10. Villanova destroyed the Musketeers by a whopping 24 points. Xavier was horrendous on defense and nobody could get going on offense. The leading scorer of that game was Phil Booth, who is now injured. From what started as a team that was led by two seniors has blossomed into an all around talented team. Some of their freshman guards along with some of their big men such as Sean O’Mara and Kareem Kanter have made major improvements and have been a massive boost to this team. All the pieces are there for Xavier and they are hotter than the Cats. This game is going to go wire to wire. With the Musketeers being the most clutch team in the nation, it would be foolish to pick Villanova. Xavier will gain a firm lead of the Big East in a thrilling game against the Villanova Wildcats.

West Virginia at Kansas:

The Phog will be rocking in Lawrence Saturday night when the Jayhawks welcome West Virginia to town. Kansas and West Virginia will be battling for the second spot in the Big 12 Saturday night. Yes, you read that right. Two teams that always seem to be wrestling for the top spot in the conference have to catch up to Texas Tech, which just adds to the importance of this game. You can almost expect Jevon Carter to have a strong showing, however the big X-factor will be Esa Ahmad. The Mountaineers definitely value his offense, but he needs to help his team shut down Udoka Azubuike in the paint. Foul trouble has haunted this Jayhawk team all year. They are a relatively thin team when it comes to their bench, especially at the center position. If Azubuike starts to rack up fouls early, I’d expect Bill Self to go to more of a perimeter-oriented game. Svi Mykhailiuk is one of Kansas’s secret weapons from beyond the arch. Look for the senior from Ukraine to potentially have a big game on Saturday. I am picking the Jayhawks to come away with a win, but this is one of Bill Self’s most vulnerable teams he has ever had. Expect it to be close and nearly as thrilling as the game a season ago.

Games to Watch:

Villanova at Xavier (Blockbuster of the week)

West Virginia at Kansas

Texas Tech at Baylor

North Carolina at Louisville

Auburn at South Carolina



Duke at Clemson:

In what everyone thought would be a fluke story at the beginning of the year, Clemson has turned into something special. The Clemson Tigers are one of those teams nobody expected to be within the top 25 and they certainly deserve it. They are now second to only Virginia in a very difficult ACC with wins over North Carolina, Miami, Florida, and Ohio State. They welcome the Duke Blue Devils to Littlejohn Coliseum Sunday afternoon as both teams look to improve their seeding in the March Madness bracket. What impresses me the most about the Tigers is that they are still winning without their superstar, Donte Grantham, who went out with a season-ending knee injury. Since then, Marcquise Reed has filled his role as the star player and has helped Clemson stay within the top 15. The major thing that concerns me with this team is their depth. Unlike Duke, they don’t have many star players on their bench that are effective on offense. Staying out of foul trouble will be the key to a victory. The Tigers are legit. They aren’t perfect, but who is this year in college basketball? Clemson is going to pull off the upset and further improve their tournament resume.

Wichita State at Cincinnati:

Cincinnati will finally have a tough game against a ranked opponent on Sunday. The Bearcats host #19th ranked Wichita State Sunday evening in an AAC throwdown. The biggest question going into this game is if Cincinnati can prove they are legit. They have played two ranked teams this year and lost both of them. The Bearcats have gone on a tremendous win streak ever since, but not against quality teams. The Shockers will get off to an early start, but Cincinnati will be able to gather themselves and dominate the second half. Jacob Evans III and Gary Clark are two Bearcats to keep an eye on. They will sweep another week in the American Athletic Conference and will hope to move up in the rankings the following day. As a side note, the Queen City is becoming the basketball capital of the world. Only 15 minutes separate the campuses of Xavier and Cincinnati. At this point in the season, who wouldn’t want to see a rematch between these two powerhouses?

Games to Watch:

Duke at Clemson

Ohio State at Michigan

Wichita State at Cincinnati


Clemson beats Duke

Michigan beats Ohio State

Cincinnati beats Wichita State


Last week’s record:


Overall record:


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: 2/13-2/19