(21) Ohio State at (14) Illinois
Illinois will look to play more consistent basketball against a physical Ohio State team. The interior battle of Kofi Cockburn and E.J. Liddell will be a big part of the outcome of the game. The ability for Ayo Dosunmu and Andre Curbelo to take advantage of a backcourt without C.J. Walker will be key. Continued, the ability for Illinois to defend consistently will be important for them to win this game. Furthermore, they must be able to get more production from Trent Frazier and Da’Monta Williams in this game.
For Ohio State, they must establish the physicality inside against Cockburn with Liddell and Kyle Young. Also, Duane Washington must be the lead guard in this game with his scoring ability. Further, Justice Sueing must utilize his driving ability against the Illinois wings. The depth for Ohio State will be key to keep providing the pressure on Ohio State. The ability for Ayo Dosunmu to take over this game will get Illinois the big win.
Matchup to Watch: E.J. Liddell vs Kofi Cockburn
Prediction: Illinois 76 Ohio State 70
North Carolina at Florida State
Florida State has the opportunity to take the claim as the best team in the ACC. The backcourt of Florida State with M.J. Walker and Rayquan Evans must take advantage of an inexperienced North Carolina perimeter. Additionally, Balsa Koprivica will need to be at his best defensively against the frontcourt of North Carolina. The depth of Florida State could be a big factor in this game with players like Nathanael Jack and Malik Osborne. The versatility and size of Scottie Barnes will need to attack the North Carolina perimeter consistently.
As for North Carolina, they need to dominate the interior in this game to have a chance to win. Therefore, this starts with Garrison Brooks and Armando Bacot setting the tone with Day’Ron Sharpe off the bench. Continued, the play of Caleb Love and R.J. Davis will be vital for North Carolina to win and need to produce on both ends. Next, Leaky Black will be very important in guarding Scottie Barnes and will need to very well. The depth and athleticism of Florida State will be too much for North Carolina in this game.
Matchup to Watch: Leaky Black vs Scottie Barnes
Prediction: Florida State 80 North Carolina 73
(7) Michigan at (23) Minnesota
Minnesota has an opportunity to come away with their best win of the season against Michigan. Now, the ability for Minnesota to be efficient against the Michigan defense will be crucial. Further, Liam Robbins must play well offensively against Hunter Dickinson and stretch him away from the basket. Also, Marcus Carr will need to be dynamic and handle the defense from Mike Smith and Eli Brooks. Additionally, the wing defense of Both Gach will be important against Isaiah Livers. Either Gabe Kalschuer or Brandon Johnson will need to step up offensively.
Michigan will need to continue their dominance on the defensive end. Therefore, it will start with the ball pressure provided by Brooks and Mike Smith. Along with, the rim protection ability of Hunter Dickinson will be important. Next, the offensive ability of Hunter Dickinson is vital for Michigan to get into a flow offensively. Also, the wing scoring and playmaking of Livers and Franz Wagner will be a major part of Michigan’s success. The tempo of Mike Smith and the scoring of Brooks will bring stability for Michigan offensively. Michigan is playing at too high of a level on both ends to lose this game.
Matchup to Watch: Hunter Dickinson vs Liam Robbins
Prediction: Michigan 77 Minnesota 68
(18) Virginia at (12) Clemson
Clemson has a massive opportunity to prove they are one of the best teams in the ACC against Virginia. For Clemson to continue their success Nick Honor needs to keep his bench production. Also, Aamir Simms must continue to grow into the versatile forward he can be and attack Jay Huff. Additionally, Al-Amir Dawes and Clyde Trapp are vital for their success on both ends and will need to against Kihei Clark. The depth of Clemson with P.J. Hall and John Newman gives this team another element to deal with. Clemson’s ability to have success against the Virginia set defense will be essential.
Virginia must continue with their flow offensively. This starts with the frontcourt of Sam Hauser and Jay Huff with their shooting ability. Kihei Clark will need to be the playmaker he is capable of being and defend at a high level. A key for Virginia could be Trey Murphy and Casey Morsell who can provide additional perimeter scoring. Virginia will go on the road and come away with a really good win against Clemson.
Matchup to Watch: Aamir Simms vs Jay Huff
Prediction: Virginia 72 Clemson 68
(2) Baylor at (15) Texas Tech
Texas Tech could be having a massive week if they can beat Baylor after defeating Texas. Now, the defense of Texas Tech will be vital in containing the guards of Jared Butler and Davion Mitchell. Furthermore, the ability for Mac McClung to make big-time shots and plays at the rim will be needed throughout, as well as having Terrance Shannon make key perimeter shots with his driving ability. Kyler Edwards could play a huge role with his shooting, but also defensively against MaCio Teague as well. Kevin McCullar is really important for Texas Tech’s defense and can provide consistency on the boards. The guard playmaking in this game will be crucial against Baylor.
Baylor will look to contain the basketball against the perimeter of Texas Tech. Therefore, this starts with the defensive ability of Davion Mitchell and Mark Vital. Furthermore, having Butler play a high level offensively will be key for Baylor to flow offensively. Next, Teague could have a big game in this game on both ends with his size and scoring. The most important factor for Baylor could be their frontcourt with their athleticism defensively and ability to make plays at the rim on offense. Baylor will go into Texas Tech and come away with a massive road win.
Matchup to Watch: Davion Mitchell vs Mac McClung
Prediction: Baylor 74 Texas Tech 71
Images Courtesy of, Stadium, The Athletic, The Daily Illini
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