(3) Kansas at (1) Baylor
This is a clash among the best of the Big 12 and possibly the country in Kansas and Baylor. For Baylor this is an opportunity to shore up a Big 12 regular-season title and towards the number one overall seed. Jared Butler is leading the way as the guard who sets the tone on the offensive end and will have a key matchup against Devon Dotson. In addition, on the defensive end, Davion Mitchell will be crucial in defending Ochai Agbaji and Dotson throughout the game. Further, the play of Freddie Gillespie will be huge against Udoka Azubuike and limiting his production. Another key will be the scoring ability of MaCio Teague who can change the game on an instance. For Baylor, the versatility of Mark Vital will be key on the defensive end to be able to guard any switches necessary and cause havoc for Baylor.
As for Kansas, they will need to execute against the Baylor defense with being able to penetrate their no middle defense. A major key for Kansas will be the outside shooting of Isaiah Moss as well as Dotson to open the lanes. In addition, Udoka Azubuike will need to have a productive game against one of the best interior defenders with Freddie Gillespie. Next, Agbaji will play a major role in the battle of the wings against Teague throughout. Further, an x-factor for Kansas is Marcus Garrett as he can cause problems for the Baylor guards defensively and add a spark for Kansas. Also, the backcourt battle of Dotson against Jared will be crucial in deciding this outcome. The defensive versatility of Baylor will be the reason they come away with a massive win against Kansas.
Prediction: Baylor 72 Kansas 68
Florida at (10) Kentucky
This is the opportunity for Florida to get off the bubble and secure a spot in the NCAA tournament with a win over Kentucky. In addition, the point guard play of Andrew Nembhard will be critical against Ashton Hagans if he can score effectively match up with him. Next, where Florida could have an advantage is with their wings with Scottie Lewis and Keyontae Johnson using their size and length to get scoring opportunities and disrupt Kentucky’s perimeter offensively. Furthermore, if Florida is going to win this game they must get a high-level game from Kerry Blackshear in the matchup against Nick Richards. Also, Noah Locke and Tre Mann must be able to make big perimeter jumpers to extend the Kentucky defense. Florida will need to be able to have success in the star-studded perimeter of Kentucky.
Kentucky must be able to disrupt the Florida guards from getting in the flow of their offense. In addition, Hagans and Immanuel Quickley will need to be efficient on the offensive end throughout. They will need major production from Tyrese Maxey in transition and in one on one opportunities. Now, the most critical matchup will be Richards against Blackshear if he can be more productive on both ends of the floor. The play of Nate Sestina will be important as well to stretch the Florida defense at times and make timely shots. If Kentucky defends at a high level they will win against Florida. Kentucky’s perimeter will be too good defensively on Florida to win this game.
Prediction: Kentucky 76 Florida 67
(14) Oregon at Arizona
Arizona has a major opportunity to show they’re growing with a high-level game against Oregon. Furthermore, for Arizona, they will need a high-level game from Nico Mannion in the matchup against Payton Pritchard. In addition, the play of Zeke Nnaji will be crucial. If he can take advantage of an Oregon frontcourt that has had an inconsistent play this season. Also, Josh Green will need to be able to produce offensively with getting to the basket consistently and defending Chris Duarte at a high level. The play of Stone Gettings will need to continue consistently to provide energy and rebounding ability. A key for Arizona will be to have Dylan Smith give quality defense against Oregon’s perimeter and make key shots. If Arizona can get a big shooting game from Max Hazzard or Jermarl Baker they can come away with a win over Oregon.
For Oregon, they must be able to show their ability to win big games and be consistent. As for Payton Pritchard, he will need to play at his All-American level. He has to set the tone against Mannion throughout. In addition, the emergence of Will Richardson on the offensive end has been crucial to their success and he must bring his defensive abilities as well. Now, Duarte and Anthony Mathis must be more consistent scorers for Oregon to reach their full potential and will be crucial against Arizona. Next, the key factor for Oregon will be defending Nnaji inside and someone will need to step up whether it is Francis Okoro or Shakur Juiston. If Oregon can make shots consistently and contain Nnaji they will defeat Arizona. Ultimately, the play of Nnaji will take over and give Arizona a huge quality win over Oregon.
Prediction: Arizona 77 Oregon 72
(2) Gonzaga at (23) BYU
Mark Pope will have his biggest game this far as the BYU coach against Gonzaga with an NCAA tournament appearance potentially at stake. To start, BYU will need to be able to defend Gonzaga in the paint and limit its production with Yoeli Childs leading the way. Also, Yoeli Childs will need to have an exceptional game offensively for BYU to win this game. As well as, getting major production from Jake Toolson and his ability to shoot the basketball. Furthermore, Toolson will need to defend Corey Kispert at a high level throughout. In addition, for BYU if T.J. Haws can have a massive game against the backcourt of Gonzaga they will have an opportunity to win. The multitude of bigs for Gonzaga can cause issues for BYU. Therefore, Kolby Lee will need to step up on the defensive end.
As for Gonzaga, they must be able to limit the productivity of Childs inside. Further, with Filip Petrusev and Drew Timme staying out of foul trouble. Next, Kispert must be able to have a high-level game against the BYU perimeter defense. Also, the backcourt of Ryan Woolridge and Admon Gilder must play well in the matchup against Haws which will help determine this outcome. Now, if Joel Ayayi can have a big game with his versatility on both ends that would be a major boost. For Gonzaga, they must dominate the interior against BYU to come away with a win. Gonzaga will come away with a huge road win and Corey Kispert has an exceptional game.
Prediction: Gonzaga 82 BYU 74
(7) Maryland at (25) Ohio State
Maryland has the ability to continue their success with another big game against Ohio State on the road. Now, Anthony Cowan must have a great game against an inconsistent backcourt of Ohio State. In addition, Jalen Smith will need to utilize his athleticism against Kaleb Wesson. Also, Darryl Morsell needs to be able to defend the Ohio State perimeter of Daune Washington and Andre Wesson effectively. Next, Eric Ayala and Aaron Wiggins both need to be productive on the offensive end. Further, they need to apply major pressure on Ohio State’s defense. Also, Donta Scott will play an important in staying in his role and being a productive defender against Kyle Young in this game. Maryland will win this game if they can get their offense going early with Aaron Wiggins making key shots.
Now, for Ohio State can they get consistency from their backcourt against Maryland? They will need Duane Washington to make big perimeter jumpers throughout and CJ Walker matching the play of Anthony Cowan. In addition, Andre Wesson will need to provide solid offense, but more importantly, defend Aaron Wiggins at a high level. Further, they will need Luther Muhammad to play extremely well against Eric Ayala. The biggest matchup is Kaleb Wesson against Jalen Smith. If Wesson can use his physicality against Smith and get him in foul trouble Ohio State will have an opportunity to win this game. The defense of Ohio State will play well for them to defeat Maryland. The consistency of Maryland will continue against Ohio State and come away with another solid Big Ten win.
Prediction: Maryland 75 Ohio State 68
Images Courtesy of, Bleacher Report, Lexington Herald-Leader, Our Daily Bears
You can “Like” The Game Haus on Facebook and “Follow” us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles written by other great TGH writers along with James!
“From Our Haus to Yours”