By Jon Rothstein
» More Columns
MEMPHIS AT TENNESSEE
This is the Tigers’ last opportunity for a quality win before they begin play in Conference-USA and even though Tennessee isn’t at full strength, they represent a stern test for Memphis. Cuonzo Martin has built a culture of toughness and discipline in the short time he’s been in Knoxville and it’s yet to be determined if Josh Pastner’s team can respond well in what’s sure to be a hostile environment. The Volunteers are still without Jeronne Maymon but they’re getting good mileage out of both Yemi Makanjuola and Jordan McRae. The Tigers need a quality BCS win, but we don’t think they’ll get it in Knoxville.
PREDICTION: TENNESSEE 59, MEMPHIS 55
OHIO STATE AT ILLINOIS
Do the Buckeyes have a second scorer next to Deshaun Thomas? They’ll need to if they want to get a road win against the Illini. Ohio State was picked in the top five nationally to start to start the season and while they may have been ranked a touch too high, this is still a team that should challenge for a Big Ten title. Illinois meanwhile is coming off a tough loss on Wednesday night to Purdue, but the good thing for the Illini is that they’re lack of interior strength won’t affect them against the Buckeyes. Ohio State is still searching for someone to step forward in the paint and while sophomore Amir Williams had a strong showing against Nebraska (eight points, seven rebounds), he’s far from a finished product. Still, the Buckeyes will have the best player on the floor in Thomas and a savvy floor general in junior Aaron Craft. That duo should propel Thad Matta’s team to a quality road win.
PREDICTION: OHIO STATE 73, ILLINOIS 68
BUCKNELL AT MISSOURI
Are the Bison going to be a trendy pick to upset a team in the NCAA Tournament? We’ll have a better idea after they play Missouri. Bucknell has a solid power forward/center combination combo in Joe Willman and Mike Muscala but the most underrated thing about this team is their ability to shoot the ball from deep. The Bison are shooting just under 37% from three-point range and have the personnel to avoid offensive droughts. Missouri is coming off a devastating loss at UCLA last week and appears to have all the requisites to win the SEC. The Tigers’ power game is going to be a tall order for Willman and Muscala but we don’t see them backing down. Bucknell will play well, but ultimately not well enough to win.
PREDICTION: MISSOURI 68, BUCKNELL 63
GEORGETOWN AT MARQUETTE
Depth wins in the Big East and right now that’s something the Hoyas lack. Georgetown has two potential All-Big East players in sophomores Otto Porter and Greg Whittington but we’re a little concerned about the Hoyas’ bench. A road game at Marquette will be a battle of attrition and the Golden Eagles proved in their come from behind win over UConn on Monday night that they’re almost two deep at every position. Keep an eye on Marquette sophomore guard Todd Mayo. The talented combo guard may very well be this team’s best chance for a dynamic scorer.
PREDICTION: MARQUETTE 73, GEORGETOWN 70
TEMPLE AT KANSAS
Fran Dunphy’s team shocked the nation a few weeks ago when they upset Syracuse at Madison Square Garden. Are the Owls capable of beating another powerhouse? Not at Phog Allen Fieldhouse. Temple will again challenge for an Atlantic 10 title but winning a road game at Kansas is highly unlikely. The Jayhawks are dominant at home and for the Owls to even have a chance at an upset, they’d need monumental shooting performances from both Khalif Wyatt and Scootie Randall. We just can’t see that happening against the best team in the Big 12.
PREDICTION: KANSAS 79, TEMPLE 67
What’s your can’t-miss game? Let us know in the comments!