It appears as though Christian Watford is back off the milk carton. And when he makes shots, IU's offense spreads out nicely around Cody Zeller. It feels like this is the breakout game for Zeller vs. the Gophers' more athletic Trevor Mbakwe.
Expect Zeller to post underneath Mbakwe. And if Mo Walker comes in, Zeller will take him out 17 feet from the hoop. IU by 8.
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Wisconsin will attempt to be very physical with Illinois, though this Badgers team will only be tough when allowed to be.
Tracy Abrams should be able to pressure up on Traevon Jackson (son of Ohio State legend Jim Jackson). Freshman stud Sam Dekker can help on offense, but whom will he guard on defense? Jackson/Ben Brust are miscast at the point. Wisconsin doesn't shoot it as well as you would think from 3. Illinois wins late in a game in the 60s.
Le'Bryan Nash uses a mismatch at the four and exploits OU's big men out on the floor. Oklahoma State by 5.
Jarvis Summers has been solid for Ole Miss, while Marshall Henderson and Murphy Holloway have been outstanding. Missouri playing without Laurence Bowers really hurts. And though Mizzou can really score, especially with Jabari Brown getting comfortable, it isn't a lock-down defensive team. Ole Miss has the athleticism to at least contain some of the ball-screen action of Phil Pressey, who continues to struggle with his jumper.
Colorado State is riding a seven-game win streak (granted, those were all weak opponents). But with Minnesota transfer Colton Iverson wearing out the inside and solid older wing players like Pierce Hornung, Dorian Green and Wes Eikmeier on the perimeter, the Rams can go under ball screens and force San Diego State to make jumpers.
Duke had a major drop-off playing without Ryan Kelly against Lehigh in the NCAA tournament, and this injury will hurt them equally. Duke is the third-best 3-point shooting team in the country, but a lot of that is the spacing that Kelly creates and his shot-making. NC State can offer far more help now on Quinn Cook's penetration.
One possible potential win for Duke is that this is finally a spot where Alex Murphy can get the minutes that he so desires, but this feels like a bad spot against a Pack team that can really score with its weaponry.
Aaron Craft vs. Trey Burke will get the hype, but Burke will use ball screens and Ohio State will try to force him away from those ball screens. The Buckeyes have never been a great ball-screen defensive team, anyway, and this will likely engage Deshaun Thomas on defense. Still, Michigan has shooters and enough interior defense to decently match up with the inside-outside Thomas. I'll take Michigan by 6.
The toughest game in altitude is the second game, and UCLA hung on to beat Utah on Thursday. Expect Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker, two L.A. guards, to expose UCLA's backcourt and for the Bruins to hit the wall in the second half.
West Virginia's home-court advantage has lost vigor in the past year. And though Bob Huggins' bunch showed a ton of guts coming back to beat Texas in overtime, Kansas State's Wildcats seem to be finding themselves over the last month. Will Spradling and Rodney McGruder have to hit shots, but the Cats have more firepower than the point guard-less Mountaineers, who cannot shoot (27 percent from 3 as a team -- 331st nationally).
Maybe the most underrated, no-one-is-watching-but-we-basketball-nuts game is Sunday night. Arizona State, which swept the Colorado schools and beat Oregon State on the road, travels to Oregon, which is fresh off its win over Arizona.
Jahii Carson is a blur, and ASU's use of pro sets (thanks in large part to Herb Sendek trusting his NBA-experienced assistants) makes this Arizona State team a good watch. The extra day helps ground the Ducks, who are sky-high after hanging on to beat Arizona. They can use Arsalan Kazemi, Carlos Emory and E.J. Singler together in some zone or switching man-to-man looks that might confuse Carson. Oregon wins, but not by a lot.