By Jon Rothstein
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MARQUETTE AT UCONN
It was only one game but it was tough not be encouraged with how the Huskies played on Wednesday night against DePaul. Both Alex Oriakhi and Andre Drummond put up big numbers and Shabazz Napier finally put together the type of game many expected he’d deliver this year on a regular occurrence. Marquette looks like it has their best team of the Buzz Williams era and a feisty seven to eight man rotation that thrives on wearing their opponents down with speed, power, and ferocious defensive traps. It makes perfect sense to pick the Golden Eagles to expose UCONN’s glass jaw on Saturday — only I’m starting to think these Huskies aren’t ready to crack and crumble as easily as they might have a few weeks ago.
PREDICTION: UCONN 76, MARQUETTE 72
UNLV AT NEW MEXICO
The Pit is on my bucket list of college hoops venues I’d like to attend and I’m jealous I won’t be able to be there on Saturday. The Lobos likely ensured that the Mountain West Conference will get three bids to the NCAA Tournament with their win on Wednesday night at San Diego State and they can legitimately make a run at the conference regular season title with a win against UNLV. Dave Rice’s team has been a trendy pick to go deep in the NCAA Tournament but have stumbled recently on the road and suffered a bad loss earlier this week at TCU. In order to win big in March, the Runnin Rebels are going to have to prove they can win big away from Sin City — something I believe you’ll see in Albuquerque.
PREDICTION: UNLV 82, NEW MEXICO 77
OHIO STATE AT MICHIGAN
The Buckeyes responded with a vengeance against Minnesota after falling at home last weekend to Michigan State and resembled a team that looked like it was determined to be the best best in the Big Ten. A trip to Ann Arbor presents another tall task for Thad Matta’s bunch but it’s hard to see how Michigan can compete on the backboards against the Buckeyes. It will take a monumental shooting performance by both Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. to give Ohio State a second road blemish in the same week.
PREDICTION: OHIO STATE 71, MICHIGAN 63
SAINT MARY’S AT MURRAY STATE
The featured game of Bracketbuster weekend has become a must win for the home team. If the Racers don’t beat Saint Mary’s on Saturday and somehow lose in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament, there’s a legitimate chance they won’t be in the field of 68. This game should feature a terrific match up between point guards Isaiah Canaan and Matthew Dellavedova — but what about the other pieces on the floor? Murray State will need big time performances defensively from Ed Daniel and Jewuan Long on Gaels forward Rob Jones, who is quietly putting together a monster season. This game is one that’s likely to come down to the game’s final possession and that’s why I’m taking the team that looks more primed to go further in March.
PREDICTION: SAINT MARY’S 73, MURRAY STATE 71
SYRACUSE AT RUTGERS
Is this game seriously a must watch? Yes because it’s at the RAC — a place where magical things have happened this year. Rutgers has been both inconsistent and frustrating during the past few weeks but they’re still a team that beat both UCONN and Florida at home this season and that’s why their game against Syracuse on Sunday carries so much cache. The Orange haven’t lost with Fab Melo in the lineup and possess ten players that could play anywhere in America. There will be a day that Mike Rice puts a team on the floor that is capable of
beating Syracuse — but it won’t be this weekend.
PREDICTION: SYRACUSE 79, RUTGERS 66
What’s your prediction for SU-Rutgers? Sound off below!