Tennessee-Kentucky and Ranked Big 12 Matchup are the Games to Watch This Weekend.
Kentucky hosts Tennessee and Iowa State visits Kansas State in the headliners Saturday.
1 Tennessee (23-1, 11-0 SEC) vs. 5 Kentucky (20-4, 9-2 SEC)
In what will be by far Tennessee’s biggest test in conference play this season, the Vols head to Rupp Arena to face a Kentucky team that has quietly climbed up the polls to number five.
The Wildcats lost to LSU at home last Tuesday on a questionable no call in the final seconds. It appeared that the ball was still on the cylinder when Kavell Bigby-Williams tipped it in for the game-winning basket. Unfortunately, the play wasn’t reviewable.
The numbers favor Tennessee in this game, the Vols average more than 85 points per game on 51% shooting, compared to Kentucky’s averages of 78 points per contest and 47% from the field.
The Vols are balanced offensively: five players average in double figures, led by Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield at 19 and 16 points per game respectively. At 6’7, Williams gives Tennessee an offensive weapon in the paint.
But the achilles heel for the Vols is they are not a very good three-point shooting team, making just 36 percent from beyond the arc. They’ll have to knock down outside shots to win on the road.
Meanwhile, Kentucky features four players who score in double digits, led by multi-faceted forward PJ Washington at 14 points and eight rebounds per game.
Prediction: While this is certainly not one of John Calipari’s best Kentucky teams, this year’s squad is a scrappy bunch that’s won a number of close games in SEC play. Expect the Wildcats to make just enough plays down the stretch to hand Tennessee their first conference loss of the year.
23 Iowa State (18-6, 7-4 Big 12) vs. 18 Kansas State (19-5, 9-2 Big 12)
If Kansas State wants to keep a solid lead atop the Big 12 Standings, this is a game the Wildcats have to win at home. Just two games separate the top five teams in the conference, which includes Iowa State.
In the era of the one-and-done in college basketball, all four of Kansas State’s top scorers are upperclassmen.
While Bruce Weber’s squad is limited in shooting the basketball (the Wildcats shoot 43% from the field and 33% from three), they are an elite defensive team, holding opponents to 59 points per game, the fourth best mark in all of college basketball.
But those defensive numbers will be put to the test against an Iowa State team that averages 79 points per game.
Prediction: This game will be decided by which team can impose its will on the other. Iowa State is powered by a high-scoring offensive, while Kansas State wants to slow the game down and smother its opponent on defense. Kansas State is the more experienced team, returning everyone from an Elite Eight run a season ago, and the Wildcats are at home. I like KState to pick up the W.
24 Maryland (19-6, 10-4 Big Ten) vs. 6 Michigan (22-3, 11-3 Big Ten)
These weekend previews have apparently become Michigan previews, as it feels like I’m writing about the Wolverines every week. They find themselves in yet another matchup with a ranked team, this time in the form of 24th ranked Maryland.
The Terrapins were picked sixth in the Big Ten in Ken Pomeroy’s preseason rankings, but with a month to go before the conference tournament, Maryland is just a game behind first place.
Michigan is an elite defensive team, third in college basketball in points allowed at 57 points per game. But Maryland’s size inside could give the Wolverines problems. Two of Maryland’s top three scorers, Bruno Fernando and Jalen Smith are both 6’10, while Michigan has only one player above 6’7 that plays significant minutes.
Prediction: Look for Maryland to exploit its size advantage in the paint and score a surprise road upset.
Graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism. Fan of all sports and a long-suffering Jets fan who will defend Sam Darnold at all times. Also, an above average golfer.