(8) Michigan State at (6) Duke
The inexperience for Duke will be tested in this marquee game against Michigan State. Furthermore, the best matchup in this game will be Jalen Johnson against Aaron Henry’s defense as it’s a big test for the freshman. The emergence of Foster Loyer at the point for Michigan State is important allowing Rocket Watts to play off the ball. Also, the Duke point guard position is up for debate as well with Jordan Goldwire and Jeremy Roach splitting the duty. The off guard scoring ability of Rocket Watts against D.J. Steward will be an important part of this game. Additionally, the interior play will be important for with Matthew Hurt and Joey Hauser having some of the same skill sets. The depth in this game will be important as both go eight or nine deep giving potential for someone to emerge. Lastly, this will be a competitive game, but the scoring of D.J. Steward and Jalen Johnson will lead Duke to a win over Michigan State.
Matchup to Watch: Aaron Henry Defense vs Jalen Johnson
Prediction: Duke 84 Michigan State 80
(7) Kansas vs (20) Kentucky
Both of these teams are coming off a loss during the first week of the season and are looking for a big bounce-back performance. B.J. Boston has shown his ability to score the basketball at a high level and rebound well. He will need to continue to be the lead scorer for Kentucky moving forward. Olivier Sarr will have a major advantage in this game if David McCormick is out for Kansas. The play of Christian Braun has been very good giving Kansas a perimeter scorer. Marcus Garrett will need to be better offensively for Kansas and need to defend at a high level against the Kentucky guards. This could be a game where Isiah Jackson for Kentucky has a massive impact with the limited talent in the frontcourt for Kansas in this game. Lastly, Kansas will potentially play a lot of five-out leading to an inability to rebound and score in the paint consistently. Kentucky will bounce back in this game with Olivier Sarr having a big-time performance.
Matchup to Watch: Kansas Frontcourt vs Olivier Sarr
Prediction: Kentucky 78 Kansas 70
Western Kentucky at Louisville
Western Kentucky has gotten off to a strong start this season with going 2-1 in the Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic. The play of Taveion Hollingsworth has been great, as he has been scoring the basketball at a high level. The matchup between Hollingsworth and Carlik Jones will be one to watch. The interior presence of Charles Bassey can not be understated. Therefore, for Louisville Jae’Lyn Withers needs to have a big performance in this game. The efficiency of David Johnson will be very important for Louisville to win this game. The ability for Western Kentucky to control the paint will overwhelm Louisville in this matchup.
Matchup to Watch: Louisville Frontcourt vs Charles Bassey
Prediction: Western Kentucky 74 Louisville 69
(11) West Virginia vs (1) Gonzaga
This will be a battle of an interior presence for both of these teams. Drew Timme will need to be at his very best against Oscar Tshiebwe and Derek Culver. West Virginia will need to make shots in this game to beat Gonzaga, so Sean McNeil and Taz Sherman will be critical towards winning. The perimeter matchup of Miles McBride against Joel Ayayi will be massive if West Virginia can get a flow going offensively. West Virginia’s transition defense will be huge in containing 3-pointers and rim runs. The matchup where Gonzaga will take advantage, is at the point. Jalen Suggs and Andrew Nembhard are better distributors than West Virginia will have. The toughness Suggs will bring on both ends will set the tone for Gonzaga against a tough West Virginia team. The offensive firepower for Gonzaga will be too much for an even improved West Virginia offense to keep up with.
Matchup to Watch: Drew Timme vs Oscar Tshiebwe & Derek Culver
Prediction: Gonzaga 85 West Virginia 77
(2) Baylor vs (5) Illinois
First off, the guard play of Jared Butler and Ayo Dosunmu will be terrific. The ability for one of these guards to have a better game will give their team a great advantage. The defensive ability of Davion Mitchell will be tested against Ayo Dosunmu. The matchup where Baylor could have an advantage is on the wing with MaCio Teague against Adam Miller. The frontcourt for Baylor will be important against the presence of Kofi Cockburn being a problem. Therefore, Jonathan Tchamwa-Tchatchoua will be very important in giving Baylor a defensive presence against Kofi Cockburn. The scoring ability of Adam Flagler off the bench for Baylor will be important. Continued, the ability of Mark Vital to defend the ball screen ability of Ayo Dosunmu will be important in this game. The interior dominance of Kofi Cockburn will be too much for Baylor to handle.
Matchup to Watch: Davion Mitchell Defense vs Ayo Dosunmu
Prediction: Illinois 82 Baylor 78
Images Courtesy of, Duke Chronicle, Sports Illustrated, USA Today
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