By Jon Rothstein
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MICHIGAN AT WISCONSIN
The Wolverines have proven all season long that they’re one of the better offensive teams in the country. Michigan has the nation’s best back court in Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., along with a capable supporting cast. Now the question is, can they beat a desperate team on the road? We’ll find out on Saturday. John Beilein’s team lost when they traveled to both Ohio State and Indiana — and Wisconsin needs this game extremely more than those teams did. The Badgers may be one marquee win away from clinching an NCAA berth. It says here that they’ll get it on Saturday.
PREDICTION: WISCONSIN 64, MICHIGAN 61
LOUISVILLE AT NOTRE DAME
Rick Pitino’s team has weathered their mid season slump, and that’s bad news for the rest of college basketball. The Cardinals were breathtaking in the second half of their win earlier in the week at Rutgers, especially on the defensive side of the floor. Notre Dame meanwhile, just doesn’t have the same type of chemistry without Scott Martin. The Irish aren’t as cohesive without their injured veteran, and even though they’re playing this game in South Bend, we can’t see them outlasting the size, athleticism, and power of Louisville.
PREDICTION: LOUISVILLE 82, NOTRE DAME 73
KANSAS AT OKLAHOMA
As crazy as this sounds, the Sooners need this game more than the Jayhawks. Kansas may have had their worst loss in program history at TCU on Wednesday night, but Lon Kruger’s team needs another marquee win if they hope to play in the NCAA Tournament. Oklahoma has already beaten Oklahoma State, but winning against Kansas would go a long ways in their hopes for March. The Sooners are much better defensively than they showed in their loss on Monday to Iowa State and should be ready in front a raucous home crowd in Norman.
PREDICTION: OKLAHOMA 68, KANSAS 64
NEW MEXICO AT UNLV
This is as close to a must win as you can get for the Runnin Rebels. UNLV has lost two straight after road games at Boise State and Fresno State, and needs a victory to keep pace with the rest of the Mountain West. Dave Rice’s team is 4-4 in league play and Mike Moser has only scored six points in his last three games. The Runnin Rebels are a team that’s still lacking cohesion, but we think they’ll find a way to grind one out on their home floor against the Lobos.
PREDICTION: UNLV 73, NEW MEXICO 69
INDIANA AT OHIO STATE
I never thought I’d be writing this, but I’m really starting to believe in the Buckeyes. Aaron Craft and Deshaun Thomas are two known commodities while Lenzelle Smith has scored in double figures in four of his last five games. Ohio State has gotten better as the season has progressed, and they’re appearing to be a more formidable out than we anticipated. It will take a monumental effort for this team to beat Indiana, but in Columbus the Buckeyes will be more than ready for the challenge.
PREDICTION: OHIO STATE 69, INDIANA 66
THIS AND THAT:
– The hearing regarding the eligibility of Syracuse senior James Southerland will take place today (Friday), per a source. Southerland has missed the Orange’s past six games and hasn’t played since January 9th. The 6-8 forward was averaging 13.6 points and 5.2 rebounds per game while shooting 37.5% from three-point range.
– I’ve never seen a team regularly go through excruciating losses in league play like Iowa. The Hawkeyes have had leads late against Michigan State, Purdue, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, only to lose in the game’s closing minutes or in overtime. Fran McCaffery’s squad is much better than their 3-7 mark in Big Ten play. This team will make a move during the second half of their conference schedule.
– Michael Cobbins has officially become the unsung presence for Oklahoma State. The 6-8 forward has averaged 8.0 PPG and 8.6 RPG over his last five outings and has really emerged as a “Glue Guy” for the Cowboys. Travis Ford’s team is 6-3 in Big 12 play and will next play at Texas on Saturday.
– Arizona would not have beaten Stanford on Wednesday night without sophomore forward Angelo Chol. The 6-9 bruiser has been lost in the Wildcats’ shuffle a bit this season, but Chol responded with six points and eight rebounds in 24 minutes against the upstart Cardinal. This team’s greatest strength might be their overwhelming depth in the front court. Sean Miller has five capable interior players he can put into a game with Chol, Solomon Hill, Grant Jerrett, Brandon Ashley, and Kaleb Tarczewski.
– The light appears to be going on for Will Clyburn. Iowa State’s skilled forward is playing like an All-Big 12 player as of late, and is averaging 21.3 points and 7.3 rebounds over his last four games. The Cyclones are starting to hit their stride offensively and are a dangerous team to play because they can score the ball from every position on the floor. Credit Fred Hoiberg for making this team competitive with transfers for the second year in a row.
– Pitt freshman big man Steven Adams is just scratching the surface. The 7-footer has grabbed 43 rebounds in his last four games and is gradually getting more comfortable on the offensive end of the floor. The Panthers have yet to feature Adams in the low post but he’s finding ways to make a contribution offensively without being a focal point. Pitt is 19-5 and will travel to Cincinnati on Saturday.
– How did Temple score 89 points against Charlotte on Wednesday night? The Owls got 22 points from Jake O’Brien and 11 from Dalton Pepper. Fran Dunphy told me before the season that he needed Pepper to be a reliable reserve off the bench as a scorer and perimeter defender. We’ll see he can continue a high level of productivity moving forward in the Atlantic 10.
– Ohio State’s sophomore class is quietly improving. LaQuinton Ross had 16 points, five rebounds, and five assists in the Buckeyes’ loss at Michigan on Tuesday, and it was the first time that Ross scored in double figures in league play. Amir Williams is also having an impact as he’s blocked 15 shots in Ohio State’s last five games. Don’t sleep on this group. They’re getting better.
– Harvard could start to regularly use Steve Moundou-Missi and Kenyatta Smith together in the front court. The Crimson had went to a smaller lineup during the non-conference portion of their schedule, but they may need more size defensively to guard the low post. The 6-7 Moundou-Missi has shown signs of late, grabbing 16 rebounds in his last two games. Tommy Amaker’s team is 12-6 overall and 3-0 in league play.
– Drexel coach Bruiser Flint said Chris Fouch is expected to meet with doctors over the next few days about the broken ankle he suffered in early November. There is still a small chance that if Fouch gets cleared to play, he could be back for the CAA Tournament in March. Flint also said that Fouch could apply for a sixth year of eligibility with the NCAA. The 6-2 guard was averaging 16.7 PPG and shooting 48% from three-point range in the three games he played for the Dragons early in the season before he was injured. If Fouch returned this season, Drexel could all of a sudden have a much different look in what should be a wide open CAA Tournament. The Dragons are currently 5-6 in league play and 9-14 overall.
Your predictions? Let’s hear ’em in the comments!