(3) Baylor at (6) West Virginia
West Virginia could continue to add to their resume with a massive win over Baylor. The play of Derek Culver must lead the way offensively against Baylor with a great matchup against their frontcourt. Furthermore, Miles McBride will need to use his size to operate against the Baylor backcourt to get his best shot opportunities. Taz Sherman is going to be really important adding the perimeter scoring and capabilities to make plays off the dribble. Having Sean McNiel is massive given his 3-point shooting ability. The ability for West Virginia to guard Jared Butler will be the key for West Virginia to win this game.
For Baylor, Butler must lead the way offensively because when he is not great, Baylor becomes beatable. Additionally, Davion Mitchell will be imperative on both ends adding scoring and defending McBride. MaCio Teague will be important in attacking the wings on West Virginia where he has the advantage. The versatility of Mark Vital will be important adding the defensive ability for Baylor. The x-factor for Baylor is Adam Flagler adding big-time scoring off the bench. West Virginia has momentum and will get a massive win over Baylor.
Matchup to Watch: Miles McBride vs Davion Mitchell
Prediction: West Virginia 78 Baylor 72
(4) Illinois at (2) Michigan
Illinois will have a massive test on the road at Michigan. They will be without Ayo Dosunmu. Andre Curbelo will be key in establishing the Illinois offense. Kofi Cockburn will need to be great offensively and on the defensive end against Hunter Dickinson. The wings for Illinois will be most important in deciding the outcome, as they will have to defend Isiah Livers and Franz Wagner. Therefore, Adam Miller and Damonte Williams will be crucial. Having Trent Frazier make huge shots throughout will be a part of the outcome.
Michigan’s ability to slow down the pace of Illinois will be important throughout. Now, Mike Smith’s pace will be key especially offensively against Curbelo. Also, Eli Brooks will be key in defending the Illinois perimeter effectively. Dickinson has a major matchup against Cockburn and will need to be great at both ends. Livers and Wagner must be great at both ends. Michigan’s ability to be elite on both ends will lead Michigan to the win.
Matchup to Watch: Hunter Dickinson vs Kofi Cockburn
Prediction: Michigan 75 Illinois 66
(25) Wisconsin at (23) Purdue
Wisconsin needs to get a win on the road at Purdue to get some momentum back for the stretch run. Therefore, the backcourt of Brad Davison and D’Mitrik Trice must be consistent throughout offensively. The Badgers need Aleem Ford to be a consistent threat and to bring it defensively. The defense on Trevion Williams will be imperative needing Micah Potter to be at its best. The overall consistency for the Wisconsin offense is key for them to play up to their best potential.
For Purdue, the frontcourt of Williams and Zach Edey must be the focal point for Purdue. Also, Jaden Ivey’s development has been key and will need to be good against the veteran Wisconsin guards. Additionally, Sasha Stefanovic is the x-factor for Purdue with his 3-point shooting. The consistency of Purdue on both ends will lead to the win over Wisconsin.
Matchup to Watch: D’Mitrik Trice vs Jaden Ivey
Prediction: Purdue 70 Wisconsin 65
(14) Creighton at (10) Villanova
The battle over the two best teams in the Big East coming off losses will be key for seeding purposes. As for Villanova, Collin Gillespie will be crucial in this matchup against Marcus Zegarowski as this battle will be key to the outcome. Additionally, Justin Moore has the ability to have a big game with a bigger Creighton perimeter who could struggle to guard him throughout. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl must have a good game against Christian Bishop in an intriguing matchup. Also, the wings of Jeremiah Samuels and Caleb Daniels will be vital going against Damien Jefferson and Denzel Mahoney. Therefore, the defense by Villanova especially on the perimeter will be key in this game.
For Creighton, this is a massive opportunity to add a signature win to their resume. The biggest factor for Creighton is the play of Zegarowski as he must be at his best against Gillespie. The shot-making of Mitch Ballock will be vital to give Creighton big-time shots. The frontcourt must attack Villanova effectively with Bishop and Jefferson. Overall, Villanova will bounce back in a big way against Creighton.
Matchup to Watch: Collin Gillespie vs Marcus Zegarowski
Prediction: Villanova 77 Creighton 70
(15) Texas at (16) Oklahoma
It’s another Big 12 showdown for both teams and another opportunity to add to their resumes. For Oklahoma, the play of Austin Reaves is most important with his scoring and playmaking ability. Having guards in De’Vion Harmon and Elijah Harkless being able to go downhill against the Texas guards will be key. The 3-point shooting of Ujo Gibson and Brady Manek is what takes the Oklahoma offense to the next level. The biggest factor for Oklahoma will be their interior defense against the Texas frontcourt.
Texas’ backcourt must defend Reaves at a high level throughout. Matt Coleman is the catalyst in setting the tone on both ends and must be efficient in this game. Greg Brown’s consistency is really important for Texas to take the next step. Jericho Sims and Kai Jones need to take advantage of a not-so-strong Oklahoma frontcourt. The shooting of Courtney Ramey and Andrew Jones will be massive for Texas to win this game. Oklahoma will come away with a big win over Texas.
Matchup to Watch: Austin Reaves vs Courtney Ramey
Prediction: Oklahoma 78 Texas 72
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