By Jon Rothstein
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SYRACUSE AT ST. JOHN’S
The return of Orange center Fab Melo ensures that Madison Square Garden will be a pro-Syracuse crowd like usual. Jim Boeheim’s team should resemble the unit we saw early in the season with their 7-footer back in the fold but don’t dismiss St. John’s chances of making this game competitive. The Red Storm have shown marked improvement over their last few games and displayed great resiliency in a come from behind win over DePaul in Chicago on Wednesday night. The key in this game will be whether or not Phil Greene and D’Angelo Harrison can make enough long range shots to keep the Orange’s 2-3 zone at bay and if St. John’s can find a way to overcome Syracuse’s extreme size advantage in the paint. Our guess is too many big bodies for the Orange is the difference as they break open the game midway through the second half.
PREDICTION: SYRACUSE 77, ST. JOHN’S 66
VANDERBILT AT FLORIDA
This isn’t a must win for Vanderbilt but it’s time for them to prove that they can hang with the elite teams in the SEC. The Commodores were out willed and outworked earlier this week in a loss at Arkansas and despite early season expectations, it’s hard to see Kevin Stallings’ team having a high seed in the NCAA Tournament considering they already have six losses and still have to play Florida and Kentucky twice. The Gators meanwhile, have regrouped since an early conference blemish at Tennessee and have really benefited from the presence of Will Yeguete in the starting lineup. On a team full of players renowned for their skill, Yeguete is best known for his grit — and look for him to be a major difference with his physicality and intangibles on Saturday against Vanderbilt.
PREDICTION: FLORIDA 74, VANDERBILT 69
OHIO STATE AT WISCONSIN
Think about this for a second. All of Ohio State’s seven conference wins have been by double figures. The Buckeyes have only been beaten in Big Ten when Illinois got 45 from Brandon Paul and then when nearly half their team was in foul trouble at Indiana. Unbeatable? No. Incredibly impressive? Absolutely. Unlike a year ago, Jared Sullinger isn’t the focus of every major national story and Ohio State isn’t solely being talked about as the best team in the land — but they’re still awfully good. And that’s exactly why I’m taking Wisconsin in an upset. Not logical? Welcome to college basketball.
PREDICTION: WISCONSIN 69, OHIO STATE 65
VIRGINIA AT FLORIDA STATE
Two of the ACC’s four best teams do battle in what should be a terrific game in Tallahassee. The Cavaliers have gotten off to an impressive 18-3 behind power forward Mike Scott, who more and more looks like a legitimate candidate for ACC Player of the Year. While Scott has been able to navigate his way through most front lines, his test on Saturday will be much more difficult. Florida State’s fabled four of Bernard James, Ian Miller, Okaro White, and Jon Kreft have the ability to bully Scott for the majority of 40 minutes and look for Leonard Hamilton to do the same on the perimeter to Virginia’s sharpshooting duo of Joe Harris and Sammy Zeglinski. The Seminoles proved against Georgia Tech that they can win in the mud —- expect more of the same against Virginia.
PREDICTION: FLORIDA STATE 62, VIRGINIA 54
KANSAS AT MISSOURI
Rivalry game? Check. Two of the best teams in the Big 12? Check. Must watch? You know it. The annual showdown between the Jayhawks and the Tigers features an intriguing battle of two teams who each don’t have tremendous depth. It will be interesting to see if either Ricardo Ratliffe or Thomas Robinson can get the opposing player in foul trouble and whether or not Tyshawn Taylor can trade blows with Missouri’s fabled back court. An “X-Factor” in this game is Tigers’ sixth man Michael Dixon, who really flourished on the road in Missouri’s win on Monday night at Texas. Look for him to play a big role as Frank Haith continues to show why he’s a candidate for National Coach of the Year.
PREDICTION: MISSOURI 78, KANSAS 68
Can St. John’s upset Syracuse? Make your prediction below…