(9) Alabama at (24) Oklahoma
These two teams are playing extremely good basketball right now and have offensive firepower. Starting with Oklahoma it begins with Austin Reaves who is a big-time shot-maker and brings an edge to Oklahoma. Additionally, De’Vion Harmon will have to be really good defensively and be efficient offensively for Oklahoma to beat Alabama. Elijah Harkless has been the glue guy for Oklahoma and will be key on both ends throughout. An ultimate x-factor for Oklahoma is Umoja Gibson who changes the game off the bench with his clutch shot-making. The offense for Oklahoma will need to be clicking on all cylinders against Alabama.
Alabama is playing as well as any team in the country right now. This starts with Herbert Jones whose versatility is crucial as he is a matchup problem for teams on both ends with his scoring, rebounding and playmaking. Also, Josh Primo and John Petty have been very effective on both ends and will need to keep up the efficiency. Furthermore, Jaden Shackleford is key for Alabama, as when he plays well they will be extremely difficult to defend. They have great depth with Jahvon Quinerly and Keon Ellis. The improved defense is making Alabama a factor to be a top seed in the NCAA tournament. As for this game, Alabama’s ability to get more stops and being more explosive offensively will get the job done.
Matchup to Watch: Austin Reaves vs Herbert Jones
Prediction: Alabama 80 Oklahoma 74
Arkansas at Oklahoma State
Both of these teams are having very solid seasons and are looking to add good wins to their resume. Now, for Oklahoma State, if they have Cade Cunningham return he will be leading an improving Oklahoma State offense. Furthermore, the toughness and versatility of Issac Likekele are key with his ability to be a ball-handler and post up. He helps in all areas will be important against the Arkansas guards. The emergence of Matthew-Alexander Moncreiffe has been impressive with his ability to be efficient offensively and rebound consistently will be massive against the Arkansas frontcourt. The scoring guards with Avery Anderson and Rondel Walker add another element for Oklahoma State’s success.
For Arkansas, their ability to handle the improved frontcourt will be important needing Justin Smith and Connor Vanover to handle their athleticism. Additionally, Arkansas rides their guards, which means Moses Moody needs to perform at a high level. They also need to get scoring from JD Notae and Davonte Davis off the bench. Also, they will need to handle the size of Cade Cunningham needing Jalen Tate to defend him effectively. Arkansas’ team defense will be imperative in them winning this game. Overall, the forward play of Oklahoma State will make a big impact in this game to win against Arkansas.
Matchup to Watch: Matthew-Alexander Montcrieffe vs Justin Smith
Prediction: Oklahoma State 82 Arkansas 78
Auburn at (2) Baylor
The battle between Sharife Cooper versus the backcourt of Jared Butler and Davion Mitchell will be extremely fascinating. Furthermore, the individual defense of Mitchell is elite and against the playmaking of Cooper will be vital in determining this game. Furthermore, for Auburn to have a chance in this game they will need the continued growth of J.T. Thor and his versatility on offense against the Baylor bigs. Also, Adam Flanigan will be an important role with his scoring and size on both ends that he can utilize. Additionally, Devan Cambridge will be massive with his ability to make big shots off the bench for Auburn to keep up with Baylor’s offense. Next, the Auburn defense will play a key role in this game needing to get key stops against Baylor. Most specifically their ability to guard Jared Butler with Jamal Johnson will be imperative.
For Baylor, the backcourt duo of Butler and Mitchell must impose their offense against Baylor as well containing Cooper throughout. Also, MaCio Teague will be important in making shots against the Auburn inexperienced wings. Additionally, the versatility defensively of Mark Vital will be key in switching throughout against a potent Auburn offense. Continued, the bigs of Baylor in Flo Thamba and Jonathan Tchamwa-Tchatchoua will be important defending Auburn. The ability to have Adam Flagler come off the bench will continue to be key with what he brings on both ends. Overall, Baylor’s ability to be great on both ends will win this game.
Matchup to Watch: Davion Mitchell vs Sharife Cooper
Prediction: Baylor 87 Auburn 79
(18) Tennessee at (15) Kansas
These two teams are looking to get back on track and have a great opportunity to do so. First off, Kansas will need to establish David McCormick inside using his size and strength against the athleticism of Yves Pons. Next, Christian Braun will have a major role in Kansas’ offensive success with his shot-making. Additionally, Jalen Wilson will be key with his offensive ability, and size advantage against the Tennessee wings will be vital. Continued, Marcus Garrett is going to be a major factor in defending the Tennessee perimeter shutting them down, and getting in the lane effectively. Further, Kansas’ will need their best player in Ochai Agbaji to be great with his shot-making and perimeter defense.
For Tennessee, their ability to be effective on offense and making shots is their key. Therefore, Victor Bailey has the ability to lead them on the perimeter and they need Keon Johnson to step up. They also need Santiago Vescovi setting the tone for the Tennessee offense and Jaden Springer getting to the basket. The defense of Tennessee has been great and must be moving forward with their offensive limitations. Overall, the offense of Kansas makes enough shots to outlast Tennessee in this matchup.
Matchup to Watch: Christian Braun vs Victor Bailey
Prediction: Kansas 72 Tennessee 67
(8) Virginia at (20) Virginia Tech
This is a big opportunity for Virginia Tech to establish themselves as a factor within the ACC. Now, Keve Aluma will be the biggest factor for Virginia Tech. Next, Nahiem Alleyne will continue to produce for Virginia Tech especially without Tyrece Radford. Additionally, Justyn Mutts has stepped as well providing offense and will need to do so. Furthermore, the bench production from Hunter Cattoor is key with his 3-point shooting ability. Also, the Virginia Tech defense will need to be big as Virginia is in a great rhythm offensively. The backcourt of Jalen Cone and Wabisse Bede will be set key defending Kihei Clark.
For Virginia, their offensive identity has evolved going to five-out concepts built around the shooting of Jay Huff and Sam Hauser. Continued, their duo will be key in attacking the Virginia Tech bigs from the perimeter. Additionally, the playmaking ability of Kihei Clark will be massive on offense and establishing the Virginia defense. Also, Trey Murphy is a huge factor for Virginia with his scoring on the wing and will keep improving. Next, the growth of Reece Beekman has been important with his ability to be a factor in all aspects of Virginia. Overall, the flow of the Virginia offense will lead to a big win over Virginia Tech.
Matchup to Watch: Jay Huff vs Keve Aluma
Prediction: Virginia 75 Virginia Tech 69
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