Everybody get your milk, bread and eggs, because you won’t survive Winter Storm Jonas without some French toast! Jokes aside, it looks like we’re all going to be cooped up in the house this weekend, which means we’ll have plenty of time to watch some college basketball! There have already been some games moved from Saturday to Sunday due to the impending storm. This weekend’s slate is highlighted by a huge Big Ten match-up in East Lansing, where the Maryland Terrapins will look to extend Michigan State’s losing streak to 4 games. The following is a preview of that game, as well as the other major games on the schedule this weekend!
Albany @ Stony Brook
When: Fri 1/22, 9:00 pm ESPNU
Why: These are the top two teams in the America East Conference, and they are two teams that you should learn a little bit about for when you are trying to fill out your bracket in March. Stony Brook has lost the AEC title game 3 of the last 4 seasons, and Albany has defeated the Seawolves in the AEC Tournament in the last three seasons, including two straight AEC title games. So you could say that these two teams have a nice little rivalry building.
Player to Watch: Stony Brook F Jameel Warney – Warney, a 6’8″ senior from Plainfield, NJ, is the leading scorer for the Seawolves, averaging 18.4 ppg, and beyond that, he is one of the most talented all-around big men in college basketball, also averaging over 10 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game. He’s scored in double figures in every game this season, and you can expect him to lead the charge if Stony Brook is going to get the win.
Prediction: I expect these teams to meet in the AEC title game for a 3rd year in a row, and I think that game will be the rubber match for this season. These are both talented teams, but I give the edge to Stony Brook on their home floor.
Georgetown @ Connecticut
When: Sat 1/23, 12:00 noon CBS
Why: Two former Big East rivals taking a break from the conference grind to do battle in Storrs. Georgetown is coming off of its biggest win of the season, on the road over Xavier, while UConn is trying to get itself off the bubble here, still fairly early in the season. These teams are on similar levels talent-wise, so this should be a fun match-up
Player to Watch: Georgetown G D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera – A 6’3″ senior from Indianapolis, Smith-Rivera has been a star since the moment he stepped on campus as a freshman. Looking at the stats for this season, when he plays well, Georgetown performs well. When he doesn’t play well, the Hoyas struggle. Smith-Rivera’s performance will decide this game.
Prediction: I love mixing in non-conference games in the middle of the conference schedule. It’s a fun little glimpse at what the tourney could be like. In this match-up, I think Georgetown will suffer a little bit of a hangover from their big win over Xavier. I like the Huskies to get a nice win to help their tournament resume.
#1 Oklahoma @ #13 Baylor
When: Sat 1/23, 12:00 noon ESPN
Why: Coming off of a loss to Iowa State, Oklahoma knows that it can’t afford to lose two conference games in a row in the highly competitive Big 12. But the schedule makers did them no favors by sending them to Waco to take on a surging Baylor team looking for a major win for their resume.
Player to Watch: Baylor F Rico Gathers – Gathers has the talent and ability to be one of the most dominant big men in the country, and he showed glimpses of that in the beginning of the season. But since the end of non-conference play, Gathers has really struggled. He still averages over 12 points and 10 boards a game, but the Bears could use a huge performance from him if they’re going to pull this one out.
Prediction: Oklahoma is one of the best teams in the country, and they have more talent than Baylor. The Bears have looked less than impressive lately, and they are running into a team that needs to win. I like the Sooners in this one.
#6 West Virginia @ Texas Tech
When: Sat 1/23, 1:00 pm ESPN News
Why: While Oklahoma is trying to avoid back-to-back Big 12 losses, West Virginia is trying to end a 2-game Big 12 losing streak. The Mountaineers are coming off of a disappointing home loss to Texas, and now they are traveling to Lubbock to take on a Texas Tech team that is 1-4 in their last 5 games, and needs a resume-building win.
Player to Watch: Texas Tech G Devaugntah Williams – The senior from Canton, OH has been an integral piece in the Red Raiders’ success this season. In their biggest win of the season, an 82-74 victory over Texas, Williams scored 23 points, including going 13-13 from the free throw line. I’m interested to see how Williams handles the constant pressure from West Virginia’s guards.
Prediction: Texas Tech needs a marquee win, but at the same time, West Virginia can’t afford a 3rd straight conference loss. West Virginia’s defensive pressure will prove too much for Texas Tech, and the Mountaineers will snap their 2-game skid.
Texas @ #3 Kansas
When: Sat 1/23, 2:00 pm ESPN
Why: As you can see, tomorrow will be a big day in the Big 12. The Longhorns are coming off one of their biggest victories of the season, on the road over a great West Virginia team, while Kansas is looking to rebound from an extremely disheartening loss to Oklahoma State. Guard play is going to be key in this match-up.
Player to Watch: Texas G Isaiah Taylor – Taylor is a 6’3″ guard from Hayward, CA, and he is new head coach Shaka Smart’s most important player. Taylor struggled big time with the pressure of West Virginia’s guards, and he’s going to have his hands full dealing with the likes of Frank Mason and Wayne Selden.
Prediction: The way this season has gone, I’d be inclined to think that Texas will pull the upset here. But I think Kansas is too tough to beat at home, especially coming off of a loss. Jayhawks should win this one.
#20 Duke @ NC State
When: Sat 1/23, 2:00 pm CBS
Why: It’s kinda unheard of, but Duke is currently on a 3-game losing streak, the last two of which were at home against unranked Notre Dame and Syracuse. The Blue Devils can’t afford a 4th straight loss, but NC State is going to make them work for it. This will be fun to watch if for no other reason than to root for, or in many more cases, against Duke.
Player to Watch: NC State PG Anthony “Cat” Barber – Barber is one of the best players in the country that many people don’t know much about. He leads the ACC in scoring at over 22 points per game, and he also averages just under 5 assists and 5 rebounds a game. He is coming off of his best performance of the year, scoring 31 points in NC State’s first conference win at Pittsburgh, and he’ll need to have another game like that if they’re going to make it two in a row against Duke.
Prediction: NC State has defeated Duke at home two years in a row, and I think they’ll make it three. They’ll play with confidence having finally gotten their first ACC win, and Duke is reeling big time right now. I see nothing from their play that leads me to believe they’ll perform well enough to beat NC State on the road.
Navy vs Army (in New York, NY)
When: Sat 1/23, 2:00 pm CBS Sports Network
Why: This game isn’t just a rivalry in football you know, they play basketball too! And this year, both of these teams are good enough to win the Patriot League and advance to the NCAA Tournament. I don’t admit to know a whole lot about these two teams, but I will definitely have an eye on this game to learn a little bit about them.
Player to Watch: Navy G Shawn Anderson – The 6’4″ sophomore guard from New Castle, VA has gone from a minor contributor during his freshman year, to the Midshipmen’s leading scorer this year, averaging 12.7 points per game. If Navy is able to advance to the tournament, Anderson will probably be most of the reason why.
Prediction: This is technically a home game for Army, but when these two teams meet, fans for both will be present. On a neutral court, I think the more talented team will come out on top. From what I know, Navy is more talented.
UCLA @ Oregon
When: Sat 1/23, 4:00 pm CBS
Why: The Ducks just added another impressive win to their resume last night, with a home win over #21 USC, and tomorrow, they’ll get a chance for another nice win when they host UCLA. The Bruins are squarely on the bubble right now, and could use the boost that a road win over Oregon would give them.
Player to Watch: Oregon F Chris Boucher – Boucher was the 2015 National Junior College Player of the Year for Northwest College, and he is now in his first of two years of eligibility with the Ducks. Boucher is averaging 11.9 points and 7.7 rebounds per game this season, but his biggest impact is on the defensive end, where he is averaging over 3 blocks a game. If Oregon wins this one, Boucher could be a big reason why.
Prediction: The Ducks are 12-0 at home this season. I fully expect them to make it 13-0. UCLA is a good team, but they’re not good enough to beat Oregon in Eugene.
#7 Maryland @ #11 Michigan State
When: Sat 1/23, 6:30 pm ESPN
Why: A marquee match-up in the Big Ten pits a team in Maryland that is underachieving at the moment, losing to Michigan and needing overtime to put away Northwestern, against a Michigan State team that is slumping in a big way, losing three straight games to Iowa, Wisconsin and Nebraska. Both of these teams need this win in a big way.
Player to Watch: Michigan State G Bryn Forbes – It would be easy to put Denzel Valentine or Melo Trimble here, but the more important players in this game will be the supporting casts. Forbes, a senior, spent the first two seasons of his college career with Cleveland State, and since transferring to Michigan State, he has been a big part of their success. He is a great perimeter shooter, and when he struggles, the team struggles. He’s 3-15 from 3-point range during their current losing streak. The Spartans need Forbes to figure it out.
Prediction: The first College Gameday of the season will be live from East Lansing, so the crowd will be into this game in a big way. Tom Izzo will have his team ready to play, and I expect Michigan State to snap their losing streak, and get a big win over the Terrapins.
#12 Arizona @ California
When: Sat 1/23, 8:30 pm ESPN
Why: A big time battle in the Pac 12 will pit an Arizona team riding a 3-game winning streak despite losing star freshman Allonzo Trier for an extended period of time against a young Cal team that is looking for a big win to enhance their tournament resume.
Player to Watch: California G/F Jaylen Brown – Brown is a star freshman from Marietta, GA, and he is a top NBA prospect. Pro scouts love Brown’s size, as he’s 6’7″ with guard skills. The one interesting thing, though, is that when Brown scores 20 or more points, his team is 0-3. The team struggles when Brown has to carry the load, so look for him to be effective in making the rest of the team better. If that happens, Cal can pull this one out.
Prediction: This game is a major opportunity for this young Cal team, and they are terrific on their home floor. The Golden Bears are 12-0 at home this year, and I think they are good enough to knock off Arizona and stay undefeated at home.
#16 Providence @ #4 Villanova
When: Sun 1/24, 1:00 pm TBD
Why: This game was originally scheduled for Saturday, but has been pushed back due to the impeding snowstorm. Villanova has been surviving the Big East so far, as they are 7-0, but with a lot of close wins. Providence is a team that many people still have a lot of questions about. Some of those questions could be answered with a win on the road over the Wildcats.
Player to Watch: Providence F Ben Bentil – Kris Dunn gets a lot of the publicity for this Friar team, but you could argue that Bentil is the more important player. Bentil is a dominant presence in the paint and on the perimeter, and he is a terrific scorer. He has scored in double figures in all but two games this season. Villanova is a great defensive team, so Providence will need Bentil to have a huge game if they’re going to get the victory.
Prediction: Providence is 4-0 in true road games this year, including wins at Butler and Creighton. That is very impressive, but they haven’t played a team as talented as Villanova on the road yet this year. I like Villanova to improve to 8-0 in the Big East.
#22 Purdue @ #9 Iowa
When: Sun 1/24, 1:00 pm Big Ten Network
Why: Maryland-Michigan State isn’t the only major match-up in the Big Ten this weekend. The Hawkeyes are arguably the hottest team in the country right now, and they’re going to get a major test in the form of the Purdue Boilermakers. Purdue is led by their frontcourt, which is possibly the best in the nation. This will be a great basketball game.
Player to Watch: Purdue C A.J. Hammons – No team is led by their big men more than Purdue, and the best one they have is Hammons. At 7-feet tall, Hammons is an imposing presence in the paint, and Iowa center Adam Woodbury will have his hands full with him. Purdue will need Hammons to help them dominate the inside if they want to pull off the upset.
Prediction: I think this will be the best game of the weekend, and a nice clash of styles. Iowa does a lot of their damage on the outside, while Purdue has a major paint presence. This will come down to whichever team executes their plan better, and the way Iowa is playing right now, I think they’ll get the job done.
Syracuse @ #13 Virginia
When: Sun 1/24, 7:00 pm ESPN2
Why: Another game postponed by the storm, Syracuse will look to continue its momentum against the Cavaliers. Virginia has lost three of its last five games, but those were all on the road. They are very good in Charlottesville, and if Syracuse can come out victorious, they will put themselves right back in the tourney conversation.
Player to Watch: Virginia PG London Perrantes – Syracuse runs a 2-3 zone defense, and that can create all sorts of problems for opposing offenses. Perrantes is the leader of this offense, and one of the best ways to beat the zone is to make open perimeter shots. Perrantes is a terrific outside shooter, and he’ll need to knock down some open 3’s if Virginia is going to get the win.
Prediction: Syracuse is on a nice little roll right now, and they’re coming off a huge road win over Duke. But Virginia at home is nearly impossible to beat, and I think they’ll be able to navigate the zone enough to get the win.
And that concludes this weekend’s preview. Hopefully this storm doesn’t knock out the electric, because we all have lots of quality basketball to watch! Have a good weekend everyone, stay warm and safe!