Tonight there are eight games involving ranked teams taking on conferences foes, including five Top 10 teams. There should be plenty of quality basketball on tonight and here is a breakdown of six of the games happening tonight.
Two to Focus On
No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats (26-1, 12-0) at Mississippi State Bulldogs (19-8, 6-6): 9:00 p.m. ET ESPN
Key to the Game: Anthony Davis versus Arnett Moultrie
Kentucky has been a dominant force this season, cruising to a 26-1 record while posting an average scoring margin of plus-19.8.
Mississippi State has struggled a bit this year, specifically recently, dropping its last three contests.
However, both teams feature dominant inside presences and the battle between them will determine the outcome of this.
Everybody knows about freshman Anthony Davis and how he leads the Wildcats in basically every statistic, and has just completely overwhelmed opposing teams while building up hype as National Player of the Year.
There is another newcomer to the SEC, though, that has also been making his name known in the paint, and that’s the Bulldogs' Arnett Moultrie.
Moultrie is a transfer from UTEP that is averaging a double-double for Mississippi State, leading the team in points and rebounds.
Both of these players will have their hands full in what will be a clash of titans.
Moultrie has struggled recently during the Bulldogs' three-game losing streak, scoring below his season average in all three. If Mississippi State is to stand a chance tonight, it will need Moultrie to contest Davis.
While Davis and Moultrie will be the key matchup tonight, there are plenty of others to keep an eye on. All three of Kentucky’s primary ball-handlers are underclassmen, including freshman Marquis Teague and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Mississippi State has senior Dee Bost at the point who is a talented all-around player that ranks tied for 34th in the nation in steals per game. If Bost can disrupt the play of the Wildcats guards, then this should be close.
When all is said and done, Kentucky should be able to pick up a win in this one. It’ll be close, as Mississippi State has a lot of talent, but Kentucky is one of the best in the nation.
The last time the nation’s leading shot-blocker played in this game, Jarvis Varnado put up a triple-double for Mississippi State in a 69-64 win against Kentucky. If history repeats itself, expect Davis to obliterate opposing shots all night.
Final Score Predication: Kentucky 71, Mississippi State 65
Kansas State Wildcats (18-8, 7-7) at No. 3 Missouri Tigers (25-2, 12-2): 7:00 p.m. ET ESPN2
Key to the Game: Can Kansas State slow down Missouri again?
The last time these two played, Kansas State embarrassed Missouri with a 75-59 victory. The most startling thing about this victory was how the Wildcats were about to completely shut down the Tigers offense.
Missouri is second in the nation—50.3 percent—in field-goal percentage. Against Kansas State, they shot only 32.7 percent for the game and only 22.7 percent in the first half, which allowed the Wildcats to build a 44-25 lead at halftime.
This performance by Kansas State was no fluke. They play excellent defense under Frank Martin and are limiting opposing teams to 39.6 percent, which is 28th in the nation.
In their victory over Baylor on Saturday, they limited the Bears to 38 percent from the field, improving their record to 13-0 this season when holding opposing teams to under 38.5 percent.
Missouri has been rolling since their loss in Manhattan, only scoring below 70 points twice. As I’ve discussed before with Missouri, the three-pointer is a big part of their offense. They shot 40 percent from three against Texas A&M on Saturday, improving their record to 12-0 when shooting 40 percent or better.
Missouri is the most experienced team in the Big 12 and third-most experienced in the nation. The way they have rebounded from losses and improved really shows this. They have had the same starting lineup in every game and it features four seniors. The resilience of this group is incredible.
The Tigers won’t make the same mistakes they did last time against the Wildcats. After losing to Oklahoma State, they beat them by 18 in the rematch. I don’t expect a similar result to that tonight, but I fully expect Missouri to avenge their early season loss to Kansas State.
Final Score Predication: Kansas State 65, Missouri 70
Three to See
No. 8 Georgetown Hoyas (20-5, 10-4) at Seton Hall Pirates (18-9, 7-8): 7:00 p.m. ET ESPN3
Seton Hall has managed to maintain a solid record throughout the season, but is still below .500 in the Big East and lack a marquee win. The Pirates are 0-4 against the RPI Top 25 and still squarely on the bubble. Georgetown is in contention for a No. 1 seed, but that would still require them winning the Big East conference tournament, which is completely feasible.
Seton Hall recently had a six-game winning streak and are now 3-7 in their last 10. That is something that is very ugly on a résumé.
Seton Hall should be able to keep this game close by limiting the three—29.5 percent against, 23rd in the nation—but ultimately, Georgetown is a far superior team. A loss for the Hoyas would seal their chances of a getting a one seed, so they want this just as much as the Pirates.
No. 13 Michigan Wolverines (20-7, 10-4) at Northwestern Wildcats (16-10, 6-8): 8:00 p.m. ET BTN
This is a similar game to the above one in the Big East. Northwestern really could use a résumé-booster like this, whereas Michigan is looking to stay in the hunt for one of the top seeds.
Will Seton Hall make the 'Big Dance'?
The last time these two played, it went right down to the wire in overtime, with the Wolverines nudging out a 66-64 victory.
John Shurna’s performance will be important if Northwestern is going to pick up this upset at home. The senior is averaging over 20 points a game and will need a big performance tonight.
Michigan has struggled on the road this season, posting a 2-6 record. This could be a trap game for a Wolverines team coming off a big victory over their rival and on a three-game winning streak.
Michigan should still a find a way to win this, but don’t be surprised by any result from this game.
No. 21 New Mexico Lobos (22-4, 8-2) at Colorado State Rams (16-9, 5-5): 10:00 p.m. ET MTN
New Mexico is really rolling right now and finally starting to get some respect. I predicated the Lobos to take down the San Diego State Aztecs last week, but didn’t expect them to dominate the UNLV Rebels the way they did. The overall message from this seven-game winning streak is that New Mexico is one of the best teams in the nation.
Unfortunately for Colorado State, they have to step in front of this train that beat them by 33 last time.
The Rams are another team that managed to defeat San Diego State, and they are 29th in the RPI despite their average record. Make no mistake about it though: Colorado State is a bubble team right now.
New Mexico needs to avoid a letdown here, as their four remaining games are cake and should lead to a regular-season Mountain West title. Colorado State is beginning a stretch where they will face all the top three teams in the conference. The Rams have been impressive at home this season—12-1—but the Lobos are equally as good on the road—7-1—and as hot as any team in the country right now with Drew Gordon and Kendall Williams.
I see another double-digit victory for this team.
Evansville Aces (14-13, 8-8) at Creighton Bluejays (23-5, 12-4): 8:00 p.m. ET ESPN3
I would have liked to gone with a different game—Xavier at UMass—but no other mid-majors are getting any television love tonight. So we will talk about a mid-major that should be very familiar to many by now.
Creighton recently had a three-game losing streak which involved a loss to Evansville right in the middle of it. Both are coming off BracketBuster victories as the ‘Jays barely escaped against Long Beach State and the Aces smashed Western Illinois. Evansville plays very tough defense, something that really threw off Creighton last time. Colt Ryan was actually very cold for Evansville despite their victory.
This should be another close game, but I think Creighton takes it because of the home-court advantage. If they can keep Ryan off his game again, then they should be able to avenge one of their few losses.
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