THE 1-3-1 MIDWEEK REVIEW
1 Thought From the Games Earlier this Week
The Big 12 conference race is the epitome of wide open. As of the writing of this article, six of the ten teams in the Big 12 are within one game of first place. Often times an occurrence like this can be misleading, as some teams have particularly soft schedules to start their conference slate (Ahem, Indiana). However, in this instance, having seen all six teams play, I would not be surprised to see any of them ending up on top of the Big 12 standings at season’s end. Sure, Texas is probably a long-shot and Oklahoma might be the distinct favorite, but the gap between these two teams and the others is not as large as some college basketball pundits might have you believe.
3 Games to Watch this Week
i. Iowa @ Maryland (Thursday @ 7 pm EST, TV – ESPN)
After Indiana’s overtime loss to Wisconsin on Tuesday night, Iowa remains the lone team without a blemish in conference in the Big 10. That could change tonight, as the Hawkeyes have to make the 900 mile trip to College Park to take on fellow AP top-10 member Maryland. I believe experience is one definitive reason for Iowa’s success, as their best five players are all upperclassmen. Jarrod Uthoff is one of these upperclassmen, and his innate ability to stretch defenses with his shooting on the offensive end, while also protecting the rim at the defensive end, is something that is very rare at any level of basketball.
ii. Iowa State @ Texas A&M (Saturday @ 2 pm EST, TV – ESPN)
While the final game listed in my three to watch is considered the marquee matchup in the Big 12/SEC challenge in terms of pedigree, this game is likely to be just as entertaining. Iowa State has one of the quickest, most efficient offenses in the country; their offensive efficiency (7th) and adjusted tempo (29th) both rank in KenPom’s top 30. This is a stark contrast to the Aggies, as they rely on their stingy defense to win games. Another fun and interesting thing about this game is it pits two former Murray State head coaches against each other. Billy Kennedy of Texas A&M was the head coach for the Racers from 2006 through 2011, at which point Steve Prohm, his primary assistant, took over the program for four seasons before leaving for Ames.
iii. Kentucky @ Kansas (Saturday @ 7 pm EST, TV – ESPN)
These two basketball blue bloods face off for the second time in as many seasons. Last year, the Wildcats completely embarrassed Kansas in the Champions Classic, coasting to a 72-40 victory, while holding every Jayhawk to single digits in scoring. Bill Self’s squad should be primed for revenge and hungry for victory, as they need one to right the ship, having gone 2-3 in their last five games. Even with ESPN shoving it down my throat, I actually have not had the opportunity to watch Kentucky yet this season; not a better time to start than a marquee game against another perennial powerhouse.
1 Bold Prediction for the Week
The Big 12 will win the Big 12/SEC challenge by a score of 7 to 3. Writing a blurb about each individual team for this topic would require another entire article on its own. Instead, I’ll take a crack at picking all 10 games (Wouldn’t that be a hell of a parlay?) that will be taking place throughout the day on Saturday:
Game 1: West Virginia – 72, Florida – 68
Game 2: Texas – 78, Vanderbilt – 72
Game 3: Iowa State – 77, Texas A&M – 72
Game 4: Tennessee – 81, TCU – 74
Game 5: Kansas State – 76, Ole Miss – 67
Game 6: Arkansas – 75, Texas Tech – 69
Game 7: Oklahoma – 82, LSU – 71
Game 8: Baylor – 85, Georgia – 73
Game 9: Kansas – 83, Kentucky – 75
Game 10: Auburn – 80, Oklahoma State – 77