Wildcats and Vols part two is the lone ranked matchup of the day, but other games to watch include Ohio State visiting number 14 Purdue and top ranked Gonzaga traveling to St. Mary’s.
4 Kentucky (24-4, 13-2 SEC) vs. 7 Tennessee (25-3, 13-2 SEC)
First Meeting: Kentucky won 86-69 at home on February 16.
What’s at Stake: Three teams (Kentucky, Tennessee, and LSU) sit at 13-2 in the SEC. A Tennessee loss would all but eliminate the Volunteers from contention for the SEC regular season title, as it would mean they got swept by Kentucky and lost their only meeting with LSU.
A Kentucky win would put the Wildcats in the driver’s seat to win the conference regular season with two games to play.
Tennessee’s 17 point loss to Kentucky two weeks ago cost the Volunteers the number one ranking.
With Zion Williamson still out, Kentucky tops the list of teams I wouldn’t want to play right now. John Calipari’s club will have a ton of confidence heading into Saturday’s rematch after dismantling Tennessee earlier this month.
Two stats tell the story of the first game: scoring distribution and free throw attempts.
Four of Kentucky’s five starters scored in double figures. While Tennessee’s three best players (Grant Williams, Admiral Schofield, and Jordan Bone) combined for 52 points, the rest of the team scored just 17 points. The Vols will need a bigger contribution from their bench on Saturday.
Kentucky also attempted 15 more free throws than Tennessee in the first meeting. The Wildcats guards have the ability to get to the basket and draw foul calls. Tennessee’s guards, Bone and Schofield, will need to get to the line more if the Vols are going to win.
Prediction: Tennessee shouldn’t be lacking for motivation after getting embarrassed in the first meeting. I expect the Vols to bounce back at home and keep pace in the race for the SEC regular season title.
Ohio State (18-10, 8-9 Big Ten) vs. 14 Purdue (21-7, 14-3 Big Ten)
First Meeting: Purdue won 79-67 on January 23.
What’s at Stake: Ohio State can improve its case to make the NCAA Tournament with a quality road win over a top 15 team. Finishing at least .500 in conference play will be enough for the Buckeyes to make the dance. Northwestern and ranked Wisconsin remain on the schedule after Purdue.
Purdue is currently tied with Michigan State at 14-3 atop the Big Ten standings with Michigan a game back at 13-4. The Boilermakers’ can’t afford a slip up against OSU if they want to win the Big Ten regular season.
In the first meeting, Ohio State cut a 10 point halftime lead for Purdue to three points with seven minutes left before the Boilermakers pulled away late for the win.
Ohio State shot well enough to win the first matchup, 52% from the field and 45% from three, but the Buckeyes defense couldn’t hold up at home. Purdue shot 50% from beyond the arc and 84% from the line on nine more free throw attempts.
Prediction: Ohio State’s been up and down all season. The Buckeyes beat Iowa earlier this week by 20, after a 10 point loss at Maryland (and before that a 14 point win over Northwestern). Purdue has the more talented roster and Mackey Arena is a tough place to play. I don’t have enough faith in Ohio State to show up two games in a row. Purdue wins and sweeps the season series.
1 Gonzaga (27-2, 14-0 WCC) vs. St. Mary’s (19-10, 10-4 WCC)
First Meeting: Gonzaga won 94-46 on February 9.
What’s at Stake: A loss likely knocks Gonzaga out of contention for a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament. This is also Gonzaga’s only serious road test in conference.
In the first meeting St. Mary’s shot 25% from the field, including 1-13 from three. On the other side, Gonzaga shot 58% including 80% from the line.
Prediction: Home court advantage will do little to help St. Mary’s against a Gonzaga team that’s legitimately Final Four good. The Zags roll to another WCC regular season title.
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.