By Jon Rothstein
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FAIRFIELD AT IONA
With the MAAC being a one bid league, this showdown between the Stags and the Gaels could feature a preview of the league championship game a few weeks down the line in Springfield. Sydney Johnson’s team has played considerably better since the last time these two teams played and Boston College transfer Rakim Sanders looks more and more like the dominant player he was brought in to be. Still, Tim Cluess’ team looks like a squad that’s on a mission and we can’t see Fairfield answering them shot for shot in New Rochelle.
PREDICTION: IONA 84, FAIRFIELD 75
VANDERBILT AT KENTUCKY
John Calipari has never lost at Rupp Arena since he’s been the head coach at Kentucky and that trend will likely continue on Saturday against the Commodores. Vanderbilt entered the season with heightened expectations and a trio of NBA prospects in John Jenkins, Jeffery Taylor, and Festus Ezeli but have yet to show tangible proof that they’re any different than the teams we’ve seen the past few years lose in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats meanwhile showed a tremendous amount of grit in Tuesday’s come from behind win at Mississippi State and look like they’re more ready than ever for a deep run in March.
PREDICTION: KENTUCKY 79, VANDERBILT 70
MISSOURI AT KANSAS
The battle for a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament plus a chance to play in Saint Louis for the right to go the Final Four could be stake when these two teams meet for the second time this season. Missouri took Jeff Withey out of the game when the Jayhawks played in Columbia a few weeks ago and it will be interesting to see if he can stay on the floor Saturday in Lawrence. With or without Withey, Bill Self still has two proud veterans in Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson and that should good enough to will the Jayhawks to win.
PREDICTION: KANSAS 74, MISSOURI 68
GEORGE MASON AT VCU
The Patriots hope for an at large bid to the NCAA Tournament were likely lost when they fell Wednesday night at Northeastern and it will only get harder for them to get into the field of 68 if they fall to the Rams in Richmond. While George Mason was able to beat Shaka Smart’s team last week off a buzzer beater by Sherrod Wright, VCU looks more than ready to serve up some pay back. Keep an eye on the pressure Rams freshman guard Briante Weber puts on Patriots’ floor general Bryon Allen — that alone will be worth the price of admission.
PREDICTION: VCU 77, GEORGE MASON 62
SYRACUSE AT UCONN
Shabazz Napier didn’t just save UCONN’s season on Monday night when he made a near half court shot to beat Villanova in overtime, he gave the Huskies something they haven’t had in quite some time — momentum. Without Jim Calhoun, this group of Huskies hasn’t resembled the type of unit many including yours truly expected when practice started in October. Syracuse presents a great challenge with their depth, size, and athleticism — but they can be beaten. UCONN has more than enough fire power to trade blows with the Orange and as we get closer and closer to deciding who’s in and out of the NCAA Tournament, the Huskies can end any debate over their place in the field of 68 if they beat Syracuse on Saturday. It says here they will.
PREDICTION: UCONN 74, SYRACUSE 70
What’s your prediction for UConn-SU? Sound off below…