Illinois at (9) Penn State
Penn State must continue to push through the Big Ten with an important game against Illinois. To start, the backcourt play of Penn State has been exceptional with the backcourt stepping up in the absence of Myreon Jones being their lead scorer with his shot-making and playmaking. Also, Jamari Wheeler has emerged as a strong defender for their perimeter and provides timely scoring. Further, the interior will define this game and Lamar Stevens should be able to capitalize against the frontcourt for Illinois using his athleticism. Next, the matchup of Mike Watkins against Kofi Cockburn will be a vital matchup for Penn State. Myles Dread must continue to play well against the Illinois backcourt on both ends. Penn State must continue to shoot the basketball well from deep to win against Illinois.
As for Illinois, if they are without Ayo Dosunmu others will need to step up again. This starts with, Alan Griffin being able to provide some volume scoring along with Trent Frazier running the show at the point and still getting his own looks. Next, the interior for Illinois must be better with Cockburn and Giorgi Bezhanishville providing more production on both ends. In addition, Andres Feliz must continue to be the scorer he can be and he must defend the Penn State wings effectively. For Illinois, they must be able to contain Lamar Stevens if there going to win this game. Penn State will continue its strong play in the Big Ten with a win over Illinois.
Prediction: Penn State 80 Illinois 70
(15) Creighton at (19) Marquette
Marquette has an opportunity to make a statement in the Big East with a huge win over Creighton. The emergence of Sacar Anim and Brendan Bailey has been vital for Marquette’s success. Furthermore, both have the ability to stretch the defense with great size and versatility with shot-making ability. Next, Markus Howard will need to have a massive game in a high-scoring game against the Creighton backcourt, as well as, Koby McEwen having a big game getting to the basket and defending the likes of Ty-Shon Alexander and Marcus Zegarowski. The interior defense will be key for Marquette against Damien Jefferson. Marquette will need to have multiple shot makers to help Markus Howard to win this game.
Now for Creighton, the play of Denzel Mahoney has been a huge piece to their success off the bench with his size and scoring ability. Next, Mitch Ballock must be able to make big shots in this game for Creighton to win and he must defend Sacar Anim effectively. Also, the backcourt of Creighton must be dynamic with Alexander and Zegarowski each making shots and getting to the basket. The key for Creighton could be Damien Jefferson with his versatility inside. Marquette will win a very close game against Creighton at home.
Prediction: Marquette 79 Creighton 76
(10) Kentucky at LSU
LSU has the opportunity to prove they are a legitimate team in the atop of the SEC and nationally against Kentucky. LSU must contain the backcourt of Kentucky and that starts with the defense of Skylar Mays and Ja’Vonte Smart applying major pressure. Their interior defense will be key against Nick Richards who is playing extremely well. Therefore, Emmitt Williams and Trendon Watford must be able to defend him effectively. Next, the offensive boards will be very key for LSU as that is a key source of their offense. The ability for Smart and Mays to then score against the Kentucky perimeter will be crucial as well. Next, a key factor for LSU could be Watford’s ability to stretch the Kentucky defense and create more space for him and driving lanes. Now, LSU will need its best day on the offensive end to win this game.
Kentucky’s success is predicated on the lead play of Ashton Hagans who sets the tone and must shut down the perimeter of LSU offensively. Further, Immanuel Quickley and Tyrese Maxey must score at a high level in this game. Next, Richards must continue to be a force in this game and is a difficult matchup for LSU. Lastly, the key contributions will be needed from Keion Brooks and E.J. Montgomery to provide quality depth for Kentucky. Kentucky will go on the road and come away with a tight win versus LSU.
Prediction: Kentucky 76 LSU 74
(21) Butter at (16) Seton Hall
Seton Hall must get back on track against Butler after losses to Creighton and Providence this past week. There needs to be a secondary scorer for Seton Hall who emerges aside Myles Powell. Therefore, Quincy McKnight must be able to make shots more consistently along with Jared Rhoden. In addition, Romaro Gill must be a major rim protector for Seton Hall against Butler to takeaway drives from Kamar Baldwin, as well as giving production with rebounds and put-back opportunities. Next, Sandro Mamukelashvili must give Seton Hall versatility as a scorer from inside and out being more consistent. Furthermore, Seton Hall will need to defend Baldwin and limit the 3-point ability of Sean McDermott.
As for Butler, they need to have more consistency as well throughout their team. To start, Jordan Tucker and Sean McDermott must provide key 3-point shooting to stretch the Seton Hall defense. In addition, the interior with Bryce Golden and Bryce Nze must play well against the size of Gill inside. Further, Baldwin will need to be a star in this game score effectively throughout the entire game. Now, they must defend Powell at a high level to have an opportunity to win this game. Seton Hall will come away with a much-needed win over a stifling Butler team.
Prediction: Seton Hall 75 Butler 69
(14) Oregon at Arizona State
Arizona State is on the bubble right now and a win over Oregon could push them on the right side. For Arizona State, they need to be led by Remy Martin with his scoring ability against Payton Pritchard. Next, Kimani Lawrence will need to have a big day against the Oregon wings defending Chris Duarte and Anthony Mathis. Also, Alonzo Verge Jr. must continue to develop into a scoring problem for opposing teams making Arizona State a more dynamic team. The interior for Arizona State will need to perform well with Romello White being effective against the size of Oregon inside. Further, an x-factor for Arizona State could be Rob Edwards on the offensive end. Arizona State will need to contain Payton Pritchard to win this game.
Oregon must be able to show consistency game to game for them to make a major run in the NCAA tournament. Now, Pritchard will be leading the way with his craftiness and scoring ability against Remy Martin. The perimeter scoring of Will Richardson will need to be there with the inconsistency of Anthony Mathis. Also, Duarte needs to be a volume scorer throughout Oregon. The interior is where Oregon could have a big day with the size and athleticism of Chandler Lawson, Shakur Juiston and C.J. Walker. Oregon will keep their momentum going with a very solid win against Arizona State.
Prediction: Oregon 73 Arizona State 65
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