Far from a STACKED lineup today; nevertheless, it's still an entertaining set of matchups.
#20 Syracuse @ #17 Villanova
Note: I started this post before tip-off, by the time I finished typing it was 12-2 Villanova. Crocodile tears are ready to flow.
Syracuse and 'Nova split last year (each winning by double-digits on the other's home court). While neither may be "bubbling it" come March, both have a somewhat realistic shot at the coveted 4-seed (UCONN, Marquette, Louisville, & Pitt have the inside track). Keys for the road Orange have to center around the healthy of there center (yes, I just said that) Arinze Onuaku and 'Nova will need backcourt balance combined with an ability to force the Cuse into sloppy passes and lazy turnovers.
Call it: 'Nova trades baskets for the first 35 minutes, pulling away mid-way through the second-half for a 8 point victory.
Notre Dame @ #15 UCLA
Notre Dame dropped to 3-7 in conference with a brutal 2nd half showing at Cincinnati. With Louisville, UCONN, and Villanova still on their schedule, the Fighting Irish need to start piling up impressive victories. While this tussle in Pauley Pavilion won't help their conference standing, it'd be a MAJOR boost before Thursday's visit from Rick Pitino and company. Meanwhile, UCLA has been under the radar - even for a West Coast team - and can't afford a slip up against the struggling Irish.
Call It: UCLA withstand an early 3-point barrage and balances their way - on both sides of the ball - to a hard fought 6-point victory.
Miami (FL) @ #2 Duke
Miami has had an up-and-down campaign to say the least. Forcing OT against Tech two weeks back was trivial as they lost down the stretch in OT. However, pounding Wake (Mistake?) Forest has them 4-5 in conference. Unfortunately, they will need another upset - at Cameron of all places - to reach .500 and respectability in conference. Statements wins are the only way the Cannes will be dancing in March.
Call It: Duke rebounds - by shooting the 3 better and Henderson enforcing the middle - and pounds Miami by 20+. It's gonna be ugly.
Indiana @ #13 Michigan State
Remember when this game mattered? Indiana is 1-8 in the Big 10 and you can't blame Tom Creen yet, can you? Seems a lot like Rich Rodriguez over here. Except Kelvin Sampson can take the majority of this blame. It's great he still assumes little to no responsibility.
Call It: Indiana will be competitive, for around 8 minutes, before Michigan State cruises to a W. In the Big Ten, that means they win by 10.
Florida State @ #10 Clemson
A couple ACC friends of mine claim that there will be two spots for Boston College, Virginia Tech, and Florida State. While the Noles and Hokies are 4-3 in conference, FSU still has two shots to beat a top 10-team like Clemson; whereas the Hokies blew a 15-point lead (at home, no less) to the Tigers. While FSU appears to easily be the team "outside" the aformentionmed equation, no time like the present to make a statement. Meanwhile, Clemson is riding high off of perhaps its most impressive regular season showing in the last 10 years.
Call It: The word letdown has to have been talked about in the locker room. It will be close, but it won't happen today. Clemson wins a squeaker by 5.
#19 Minnesota @ Ohio State
I can't figure out either of these teams. If someone much smarter than me can shed some light, I'll owe you. I will enjoy the coaching matchup though. You call it, I'm too scared.
#14 Memphis @ #18 Gonzaga
The WCC is entirely different with St. Mary's sans-Patrick Mills; meanwhile, Memphis may never again lose a Conference USA game. The Tigers haven't seen much - outside of Tennessee I suppose - since a tough home loss to Syracuse. Tyreke Evans has turned it around and Coach Calipari has his few veteran leaders playing much better. Nevertheless, this is a brutal matchup in Spokane and I'm take the home team.
Call It: Memphis has plenty of athleticism and momentum; however, the only thing I love more than semi-colons in this post, is picking the sturdier home team.
Enjoy the matchups.