By Jon Rothstein
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CINCINNATI AT MARQUETTE
If you like Big East basketball, this game is a must watch. Marquette has shown flashes of being the second best team in this conference behind Syracuse but Cincinnati has quietly put together a solid season and the Bearcats have shown no signs that they’re done yet. In Wednesday’s win over St. John’s at Madison Square Garden, Mick Cronin went back to a four guard lineup with Jaquon Parker as an undersized glue guy. Look for Parker and the presence of Yancy Gates to be the difference as Cincinnati continues to gain momentum with a marquee road win.
THE SKINNY: CINCINNATI 72, MARQUETTE 69
WICHITA STATE AT CREIGHTON
Gregg Marshall told me this week that Creighton is a team that “doesn’t have many weaknesses” and he’ll get a first hand look when he leads the Shockers against the Blue Jays on Saturday. There’s been a consensus throughout the entire season that these are the two best teams in the Missouri Valley Conference and even though Creighton has gotten more national attention, Wichita State has played just as well. Look for the Shockers veteran perimeter of Joe Ragland, Toure’ Murry, and David Kyles to be the difference in this one.
THE SKINNY: WICHITA STATE 68, CREIGHTON 64
MICHIGAN STATE AT OHIO STATE
The two best teams in the Big Ten do battle in a game that seems like it should be played in shoulder pads rather than sneakers. The Buckeyes got a bit of a scare in a narrow win earlier in the week against Purdue and there’s no doubt Thad Matta will have Ohio State primed and ready for the savvy Spartans. Look for reserve big man Evan Ravenel to play a big role for the Buckeyes defensively on Draymond Green while Deshaun Thomas carves up the Michigan State defense. A match up nightmare all season, Thomas has been waiting for his seminal moment on a big stage. It says here this will be it.
THE SKINNY: OHIO STATE 74, MICHIGAN STATE 66
KENTUCKY AT VANDERBILT
There was a time early in the season where this game looked like it would feature the two best two teams in the SEC. However, Kentucky has lived up to its annual monumental expectations while Vanderbilt has been somewhat disappointing due to a lack of consistency and a lack of offensive production off the bench. In order for the Commodores to pull the upset, they’re going to need their three stars — John Jenkins, Jeffery Taylor, and Festus Ezeli to be at their best and that’s a daunting task considering the way the Wildcats have protected the rim. John Calipari’s teams have always featured tremendous talent but this unit might be the best defensive squad he’s ever assembled — a fact Vanderbilt will learn first hand on Saturday night in Nashville.
THE SKINNY: KENTUCKY 77, VANDERBILT 65
BAYLOR AT MISSOURI
After Wednesday’s performance at home against Kansas, this game is more about desperation than anything else for the Bears, who will need a win in Columbia if they have any hopes of competing for a Big-12 regular season championship. The first time these two teams met this season, Tigers big man Ricardo Ratliffe dominated the paint and Phil Pressey played one of his best all-around games of the season. With a raucous crowd expected for Missouri at home, expect there to be a strong chance of history repeating itself.
THE SKINNY: MISSOURI 79, BAYLOR 73
What’s your prediction for Cincinnati-Marquette? Sound off below…