1-3-1 Sports Midweek Review

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.

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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.

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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

1-3-1 Sports Midweek Review

THE 1-3-1 MIDWEEK REVIEW

 

1 Thought From the Games Earlier this Week

South Carolina got exposed by the first RPI top-50 team that they played this season. The one red flag that was attached to South Carolina’s undefeated start to the season was their comical SOS. On Wednesday night, the Gamecocks took on their first remotely borderline tournament-quality opponent in Alabama, and the Tide rolled. Frank Martin’s squad struggled all over the place, including, but not limited to: turning the ball over 17 times, making 3 of 18 attempts from behind the three-point line, allowing 10 offensive rebounds, and going 9 for 17 from the charity stripe. The end result of this debacle was a 23-point defeat and the removal of their 0 in the loss column. Even in the mediocre SEC, I would not be shocked to see this team lose 3 or 4 of their next 8 games after their 15-0 start to the season.

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3 Games to Watch this Week

i. Iowa @ Michigan State (Thursday @ 7 pm EST, TV – ESPN)
The only loss the Spartans have suffered thus far this season was their first conference game in Iowa City against the Hawkeyes (hardly redemption for what happened in football). One big difference in tonight’s game is that Denzel Valentine is healthy this go-round, and as I’ve constantly (and probably obviously) stated, Michigan State is a totally different team with their floor general and emotional leader on the court. Valentine joins Iowa’s Jarrod Uthoff, Maryland’s Melo Trimble, and Michigan’s Caris Levert as Big Ten players on the Midseason Top 25 Watch List for the Wooden Award. These two teams figure to be in the top echelon of the Big 10 the entire season, and this game will go a long way towards shaking out seeding for the conference and NCAA tournament come March.

ii. George Washington @ Dayton (Friday @ 7 pm EST, TV – ESPN2)
Hooray for quality, mid-major, in-conference, televised basketball! The Colonials and the Flyers are both 3-1 in an Atlantic 10 conference that I believe is constantly underrated; I wouldn’t bet against the A10 receiving four bids on March 13th. At 6’9″, George Washington’s Tyler Cavanaugh is one of the rangiest bigs in the country this season, averaging 17.2 points per game while shooting 54% from the field, 42% from behind the arc, and 85% from the free throw line. He has scored in double-figures in every game he’s played this season, so it’ll be interesting to see what Archie Miller dials up on the defensive end to try and slow him down.

iii. West Virginia @ Oklahoma (Saturday @ 4 pm EST, TV – ESPN2)
Huggy Bear’s Mountaineers defensively swarmed Kansas on Tuesday night, causing the Jayhawks to commit 22 turnovers on their way to taking sole possession of the Big 12 in the process. How fitting it is, then, that their next challenge is against the team that is sure to take over the number one spot that Kansas just effectively relinquished with a victory Saturday afternoon. West Virginia’s pressure and athleticism will be tested by the triumvirate of talented guards Oklahoma has in Hield, Woodard, and Cousins. My sports man-crush on Buddy Hield and his unique and gifted abilities is tempered only by his on-court Achilles Hield (a-thank you): turnovers. If West Virginia goes into Norman and wins this game, I would not be surprised to see them receive first place votes in Monday’s AP poll; it would be well-deserved.

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1 Bold Prediction for the Week

Iowa loses by double digits tonight in East Lansing, then wins by double digits against Michigan in Iowa City on Sunday. It’s a perfect storm: with revenge on their minds and their best player back on the court, I think Michigan State rolls over Iowa at home to cover the 9-point spread. This would be the Hawkeyes first in-conference loss of the season, and would send them on a long trip home to sit and rue the game they had just played. If tonight goes as predicted, come Sunday, the Hawkeyes will be at home and hungry to right the ship, while Michigan may come into town a little hungover from their massive victory over Maryland on Tuesday night. I expect these two contrasting emotions to result in an unfortunately ugly game for my alma mater.

– Game 1: Michigan State – 81, Iowa – 69
– Game 2: Iowa – 86, Michigan – 73