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Friday, March 1, 2024

Houston-Kansas, Duke-UNC and extra nice causes to observe this weekend

For a piece of the nation, faculty basketball will start this weekend. With only one extra recreation on the NFL slate and the faculty soccer playoffs full, faculty hoops will take heart stage within the weeks forward.

And what a weekend slate to begin watching.

This weekend’s video games are all concerning the NCAA event stakes, the rivalries, convention championship races and star energy.

DukeNorth Carolina is the anchor. It is the beacon of your complete sport. It doesn’t matter what is going on in faculty basketball in a given 12 months, this one has all the time been a present that transcends the game. And it will not be any completely different this season, with the winner incomes bragging rights and extra believers of their respective Last 4 desires.

Talking of desires, Dalton Knecht performed at Northern Colorado a 12 months in the past and now he is the participant Kentucky must cease to beat Tennessee. Additionally, Wisconsin is enjoyable once more. (No, severely.) And Houston at Kansas would have been the most important recreation within the sport on every other weekend.

This can be enjoyable. Take pleasure in.

All odds from ESPN Wager.

No. 4 Houston (19-2, 6-2 Massive 12) at No. 8 Kansas (17-4, 5-3)

Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN

Maybe this one, and the repeat within the season finale in Houston on March 9, will resolve the ultimate end result of the Massive 12 race. As soon as the league introduced the additions of Houston, UCF, Cincinnati and BYU, this was the date males’s faculty basketball followers circled on their calendars. However we by no means anticipated that the Cougars and Jayhawks would face this type of competitors main as much as it. The Jayhawks enter this matchup behind the Cougars, Texas Tech and Iowa State within the standings. And Kevin McCullar Jr. (19.8 PPG) missed Tuesday’s win over Oklahoma State with a bruised knee.

Kansas, which misplaced to Iowa State final weekend in Ames, faces its hardest begin in league play since going 4-4 within the first eight Massive 12 video games throughout the 2020-21 season. Baylor received the convention title that 12 months. Since their two-game dropping streak final month, in the meantime, the Cougars have been first in adjusted defensive effectivity and held their opponents to a 42.4% clip contained in the arc, per barttorvik.com. However in addition they have made simply 44% of their 2-pointers throughout their present five-game profitable streak.

This is among the most extremely anticipated clashes in faculty basketball this season. And the stakes are excessive for a pair of applications searching for a excessive seed within the NCAA event.

Medcalf’s decide: Kansas 71-68; In opposition to the unfold: Unavailable at time of publication

No. 7 Duke (16-4, 7-2 ACC) at No. 3 North Carolina (17-4, 9-1)

Saturday, 6:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Hubert Davis began every of his first two seasons as a head coach in Chapel Hill with a 15-6 report general and a 7-3 report in league play on the finish of January. Each these seasons had completely different outcomes, nonetheless: the 2021-22 marketing campaign ended with a run to the nationwide title recreation, whereas season noticed the Tar Heels end with out an invite to the NCAA event. This 12 months’s group — led by RJ Davis, arguably the highest guard within the nation — is chasing a high seed after profitable its first 9 video games in ACC play. However the Tar Heels could not keep away from late-January issues earlier than Saturday’s recreation. Tuesday’s loss at Georgia Tech (128th within the NET rankings) has dented the groups’ odds of securing a 1-seed on Choice Sunday.

However the Blue Devils have their very own issues. Jeremy Roach has performed by way of knee and ankle accidents in latest weeks. Kyle Filipowski, a nationwide participant of the 12 months contender and a projected lottery decide on this summer season’s NBA draft, is simply 1-for-10 from the 3-point line in his previous three video games. And Duke was 57th in adjusted defensive effectivity within the month of January, per barttorvik.com. Jon Scheyer’s squad, nonetheless, has extra depth and scoring choices. Let’s face it: Duke has extra expertise, whereas North Carolina has been the higher staff. Get your popcorn prepared.

Medcalf’s decide: Duke, 77-74; In opposition to the unfold: Unavailable at time of publication

No. 5 Tennessee (15-5, 5-2 SEC) at No. 10 Kentucky (15-4, 5-2)

Saturday, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Along with his staff down 59-53 with 41 seconds to play, Tennessee star Dalton Knecht hit a pair of 3s to maintain his staff alive only a bit longer in Tuesday’s eventual loss to South Carolina. That has been the theme for the Vols — and the issue. Knecht is one in every of America’s best scoring threats (20.1 PPG, 40% from the 3-point line) and the anchor for the most effective defensive groups within the nation.

However he is now dealing with Kentucky, a staff that’s stacked with NBA expertise. Antonio Reeves (19.5 PPG, 43% from the 3-point line) has additionally quietly been placing collectively a case to be a first-team All-American. The Wildcats are an amazing crew offensively, however seventy fifth in adjusted defensive effectivity. The latter metric issues as a result of it is typically an indicator of a staff’s ceiling. It is also the rationale the Wildcats have a loss to UNC Wilmington on their résumé.

Medcalf’s decide: Kentucky, 78-74; In opposition to the unfold: Unavailable at time of publication

No. 2 Purdue (19-2, 8-2 Massive Ten) at No. 6 Wisconsin (16-4, 8-1)

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, CBS

You’d assume Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky had been again on the roster with the best way the Badgers have executed on offense. Wisconsin hasn’t completed high 5 in adjusted offensive effectivity on KenPom because the 2014-15 marketing campaign, the 12 months it went to the nationwide recreation. Greg Gard, a disciple of Bo Ryan, has earned his accolades by teaching a Badgers staff that has six top-30 finishes in defensive effectivity throughout his tenure. This 12 months’s group is his greatest offensive staff, registering 5 video games of 80 or extra factors — a formidable mark for a bunch that is one of many slowest within the nation (sub-300 in tempo).

The Badgers will want that offensive juice within the first of their two matchups towards the Boilermakers — video games that may doubtless decide the Massive Ten champion — who’ve hit the 90-point mark in regulation twice in league play. We all know what Purdue is. It is Zach Edey and a gifted group of contributors (see: Braden Smith with 12.1 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 7.0 APG, 44% from 3) which are top-10 in 3-point share (40%). They will nonetheless must deal with AJ Storr (15.9 PPG) and a fleet of six Wisconsin gamers who’re averaging no less than 7.5 PPG.

Medcalf’s decide: Wisconsin, 83-80; In opposition to the unfold: Unavailable at time of publication


Medcalf’s picks straight up: 27-16

In opposition to the unfold: 20-23

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