Here is part 2 in the 2-part series of college basketball top 25 picks for Friday, March 10th. If you would like to read the first part of this series, you can view it here.
***Teams are seeded by their number in the tournament, and not their overall mark.***
#5 Seton Hall Pirates at #1 Villanova Wildcats
Seton Hall (+11) at Villanova (-11)
From one strong Wildcats team to another it’s time for Villanova to flex their muscles in the semifinals of the Big East tournament on Friday night when they take on Seton Hall. Villanova just destroyed St. John’s 108-67 in the quarterfinals and did it with some serious scoring on the bench. Their starting guard Mikal Bridges had to leave the game with an illness just a minute into the contest but the bench responded in his absence with a wild 52 points in the blowout.
The Wildcats enter this game with a 29-3 overall record while the Pirates respond with a 21-10 mark of their own. Seton Hall upset fourth-seeded Marquette in their quarter final with a six point win to set up another huge Big East game against Villanova. The Pirates upset the Wildcats last year 69-67 in the finals to grab their third career Big East tournament championship and now Villanova wants revenge as they get ready for another deep March Madness run.
The Wildcats are feeling even more confident after that bench performance. The 52 points came from just three players in Donte DiVincenzo, Eric Paschall and Dylan Painter. Those three will be instrumental in trying to help the Wildcats back into the finals, especially if Bridges is feeling sick again.
It won’t be easy against the Pirates who have won nine of their last 11 games but were beaten by the Wildcats in all their meetings this season. Angel Delgado was huge for Seton Hall as he’s been all year in their win against the Golden Eagles. He dropped 12 points and 16 rebounds and was just one assist shy of the triple double in arguably the best game of his career. It was his 13th straight double-double and he’ll likely need to make it 14 in a row if the Pirates want to upset the Wildcats.
Angel Delgado against Josh Hart. Delgado has somehow flown under the radar this season but has been a terror in the Big East and can single handedly take over games. That won’t be easy against a team as balanced as the Wildcats however and with Josh Hart trying to fill up the basket. Villanova’s star is averaging 18.6 points a game with 6.4 rebounds and 1.6 steals.
The Wildcats are a strong team with a little extra to play for after being beaten last year by Seton Hall and with their strong play all season long against the Pirates we like their chances to cover. Take Villanova on the spread.
#10 Indiana Hoosiers at #4 Wisconsin Badgers
Indiana (+5.5) at Wisconsin (-5.5)
The Badgers have had a rough go of it recently and will need to get their confidence back in a hurry as they get set to take on the Hoosiers in the Big Ten semifinals on Friday night. Wisconsin is the number 2 seed in the tournament but looked anything but that during their final weeks of the regular season. They lost five of six games before taking care of Minnesota in the regular season finale and will hope they can use that win as a launchpad to get back to playing good basketball again.
They’re now 23-8 overall and have been in 18 straight March Madness tournaments. It’s the fifth longest streak of any school and their consistency is their greatest asset. They’ve reached 20 wins in 11 straight years and have had a winning record overall in 17 straight seasons.
Indiana meanwhile is looking strong as of late after a big 95-73 win over Iowan in the quarterfinals. Indiana’s 95 points were just two points less than the tournament record for any game and the Hoosiers will enter their game with the Badgers ready to shoot. They made 12 of 20 three pointers with James Blackmon Jr. leading the way with 23 points on just nine shots.
The Badgers have some depth and experience to contend with though and with Ethan Happ, Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes leading the way it’s tough for any team to zero in their defense. Wisconsin is the second seed in the tournament for the fourth time.
Ethan Happ against James Blackmon Jr. Happ has been one of the best all-around players in the country this season. At one point he led his team in scoring, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals and while his scoring has fallen behind Koenig he’s still the kings of the other categories. Him and Blackmon Jr. will go toe to toe in a huge game for both teams.
Wisconsin hasn’t looked like their dominant selves recently and while they always show up around tournament time the Hoosiers are coming off a big win. We like Indiana’s chances to cover on a neutral court. Take the Hoosiers on the spread.
#5 Duke Blue Devils at #1 North Carolina Tar Heels
Duke (+4.5) at North Carolina (-4.5)
Here. We. Go. It’s still just the semifinals of the ACC but the intensity will be turned all the way up when the Blue Devils and Tar Heels take court in Brooklyn on Firday night. It will be just the fifth time the two teams have met outside of their state but it will be their 21st meeting in the ACC semifinals. The storied rivalry goes back a long time and both these teams know exactly what it takes to win when the stakes are high.
Duke enters with a 24-8 overall record and advanced after a huge win against Louisville 81-77 in the quarterfinal game. North Carolina meanwhile is 27-6 and made easy work of Miami 78-53 in their quarterfinal game. The Tar Heels are looking for their 19th tournament while the Blue Devils are trying to become the first team ever to win the tournament by winning four games in four days.
To do so Duke will basically need to beat two Final Four caliber teams in less than 24 hours. If anyone is capable of achieving the feat its coach Mike Krzyzewski and his Blue Devils but the Tar Heels have other plans in mind. North Carolina is enjoying an incredible season so far and would love nothing more than to cap it off with an ACC title.
Luke Kennard against Justin Jackson. Watching these two play is worth the price of admission. Jackson has been unreal for the Tar Heels this season with 18.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists while leading his team in minutes per game. Kennard emerged as the star of Duke this season and is finding his rhythm at the perfect time. He’s averaging 20.2 points with 5.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists and it’s anyone’s guess as to who gets the better of who on Friday night.
Duke can beat anyone, especially on a neutral court, but the four point spread isn’t enough for us to have confidence in a team that just hung on against Louisville and will be tired against the Tar Heels. Take North Carolina on the spread.
#7 Tulsa Golden Hurricane at #2 Cincinnati Bearcats
Tulsa (+15) at Cincinnati (-15)
It’s another quarterfinal matchup when the Bearcats and Golden Hurricane square off in the American Athletic Conference tournament in Connecticut. The Bearcats are ranked 15th in the nation and second in the tournament and may be playing with a slight chip on their shoulder after feeling like the all-conference team left some of their players off the list.
Cincinnati finished second in the conference during the regular season to earn themselves a bye in the tournament but not a single Bearcat was named to the first All-AAC team and just two names found their way on to the second team. Tulsa meanwhile is just happy to be where they are. The Golden Hurricane entered the tourney as the seventh seed but knocked off Tulane 66-60 in the opening round on Thursday.
Friday’s winner will move on to battle Houston, UCONN or South Florida in the semi finals on Saturday and with all three of those teams being beatable opponents this game takes on a little extra meaning. The Bearcats will be especially confident after sweeping all three of those teams during the regular season. They’re confident and well-rested after not playing since the end of the regular season back on Sunday and will be icthing to get back on the court.
Junor Etou against Jacob Evans. Neither player is a prolific scorer but both are capable of taking over games. Etou is the only Tulsa player to average double digit scoring with 12. 8 points a game. He averaged almost 16 during the last five games of the year and had 22 the last time he played the Bearcats. Cincinnati responds with Evans who has had a big year with averages of 13.4 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.3 steals. Cincinnati has a balanced offense but it still starts and ends with Evans.
The Bearcats have a point to prove and are well-rested. They are a far superior team than the Golden Hurricane and we fully expect them to show that on Friday night. Take Cincinnati on the spread.
#7 Vanderbilt Commodores at #2 Florida Gators
Vanderbilt (+6) at Florida (-6)
The Gators have been one of the strongest teams in the country all season long but for whatever reason they can’t seem to solve Vanderbilt. They’ll get their chance on Friday night in the SEC quarterfinals in Nashville when the two square off. Florida has lost twice in the regular season to Vanderbilt and the Commodores are looking strong against after a 66-41 rout of Texas A&M just a few hours after the Gators said in a press conference that they hope to play Vanderbilt.
The Commodores are 18-14 overall this season and swept the regular season showdown with the Gators by just two points each time. There’s a little more on the line in this meeting as Vanderbilt can basically locked up a ticket to March Madness with another win. Many of the Commodores feel like they should already be in the tournament but will have to earn their way in this year and that means a win against Florida could go a long way.
The Gators are just trying to improve their seeding heading into the tournament while the Commodores are coming out of nowhere to make a final push. Vanderbilt won six of their last seven including some quality wins and know they have all the momentum heading into Friday’s game.
Canyon Barry against Luke Kornet. Kornet was named to the first team All-SEC after averaging 13.5 points this season and dropped a career high 24 against Florida in their last meeting. He’ll be up against sixth man of the year Canyon Barry who has been dynamite off the bench for the Commodores with 12.5 points this season.
The Gators are itching to avenge their losses to the Commodores but Vanderbilt is playing some of their best basketball of the season and obviously know how to beat Florida. We think the Gators are going to get their revenge, but Vanderbilt makes it close. Take the Commodores on the spread.
#8 TCU Horned Frogs at #4 Iowa State Cyclones
TCU (+5) at Iowa State (-5)
For Monte Morris there’s a lot more on the line than just advancing in his conference tournament. Iowa State’s point guard is quickly emerging as arguably the best floor general in the country right now. He’s comes close to a triple double in two of his last three games and in the Cyclones’ most recent victory he dropped 21 points, ten rebounds and nine assists.
After the Jayhawks were upset by TCU and player of the year Frank Mason III packed his bags early the window opened up for Morris to steal the spotlight. Despite his gaudy numbers Morris was never considered for the Bob Cousy award that goes to the nation’s top point guard. Now he’s out to prove a point and his first step comes against the Horned Frogs who just upset the Jayhawks.
TCU’s win over Kansas created a wide open scenario for the tournament title and especially for Iowa State but they’ll obviously need to be careful against the Horned Frogs. TCU shot 49. 2 percent from the field and improved to 19-14 overall this season. They’ve been underdogs all season long but now have a real shot of making some noise.
They might need to win the entire conference tournament to make it into the Madness in March but they have all the confidence to get it down now. They held off a late Kansas run to lock up the three point win and know exactly the level of play it takes to win meaningful games in March.
Monte Morris against Alex Robinson. Morris can do it all for the Cyclones as evidenced by his near triple double in his last outing and will have to be sharp again against the strong ball movement of Robinson. The Horned Frog drops 5.6 assists a night to lead his team and will be eager to get the ball moving early.
As incredible as the win over Kansas was Iowa State has looked strong all season long and are rounding into form with a point guard who has a point to prove. The spread is only four and we think the Cyclones will take care of business and put an end to TCU’s run.
#6 Northwestern Wildcats at #3 Maryland Terrapins
Northwestern (+2) at Maryland (-2)
It’s the first game of the tournament for the Terrapins when they take on the Wildcats on Friday night in the Big Ten Conference. Northwestern is just trying to get into the tournament after a big win against Rutgers on Thursday 83-61. They’re 22-10 overall and have had some huge wins this season but have yet to make the NCAA tournament in their history.
Northwestern lost their only game to Maryland 74-64 earlier in February despite getting 19 points off the bench from Isiah Brown. Now they need to try and avenge that loss against a well-rested Terrapins team playing in a familiar stadium. Northwestern has what it takes though and their Cinderella season is a testament to that.
The Terrapins will be rested and waiting but they’ve shown flashes of inconsistency down the stretch. They’re 24-7 overall including a 12-6 mark in the Big Ten but lost three straight games before winning against Rutgers and Michigan State to finish the season. They’ll be leaning heavily on recently emerged Ivan Bender. The center has grabbed more time after Mikal Cekovsky was lost for the season to injury and has reached double digit scoring in two of his last four games. He’s an excellent passer which takes some of the pressure off Melo Trimble to run the offense.
Melo Trimble against Bryant McIntosh. Trimble is an All-American guard who is thriving again this season and just hit the game winning three pointer in his team’s regular season finale against Michigan State. He’s averaging 16.9 points 3.6 rebounds and 3.7 assists and dropped 32 points on Northwestern this year. He’ll have to worry about McIntosh though who knows how to get the ball moving. The Wildcats’ point guard is averaging 5.3 assists per game and leads the team in scoring.
Northwestern may not have what it takes to get past a well-rested Maryland team but they certainly have enough to make it close. Take the Wildcats on the spread and hope they play with a little extra fire as they try to lock up a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever.
#5 California Golden Bears at #1 Oregon Ducks
California (+9) at Oregon (-9)
The Ducks welcome the Bears in their next game after looking a little bit shaky against Arizona State on Thursday before taking over in the second half. Oregon led by just three points at half but wound up winning 80-57 after turning on the jets in the second frame. The win was their tenth straight and improves their record to 27-4 on the season while California enters with a 21-11 mark.
The Golden Bears held a steady lead over Utah for the majority of the game but with the minutes winding down were watching their 11 point lead evaporate. They held on to win 78-75 but will need to be much stronger down the stretch if they want to get past Oregon. If they can somehow upset the Ducks, the Bears will surely punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament but as of now are still on the bubble despite having 21 wins in the Pac-12 this season.
It won’t be easy to try to find a win against this Ducks team after Oregon swept the season series winning both games. They dominated in the first matchup but won by just three points in late February and know how tough this California team can play when they’re locked in.
Both teams are similar with strong play at the guard positions led by Charlie Moore and Jabari Bird in California and Dillon Brooks and Tyler Dorsey in Oregon. The Golden Bear’s duo lit it up in their last win against Utah with 47 combined points on 15 of 26 shooting including six three between the two of them. Not to be outdone the Ducks’ guards were equally impressive with 43 points on 15 of 7 shooting.
Both teams are also strong on the glass and it’s going to be a grind it out type of game if the shots aren’t falling early. Cal badly wants to show the rest of the country that they belong in the NCAA Tournament and we can hardly wait for this game to tip off.
Ivan Rabb against Jordan Bell. Rabb is the key to Cal’s excellent rebounding this season and is currently averaging a double-double with 14.2 points and 10.7 rebounds on the season. Bell will have the unenviable task of guarding him but he can fill it up as well with 10.8 points and 7.9 rebounds. If this game is decided on the glass these players are going to have a big say in it.
Oregon has morphed into one of the best teams in the country quickly but California knows what it takes to beat them and lost by just three points in their last game. The Bears are still searching for that first win against the Ducks this season and while we don’t think it comes in this game we think they do enough to cover. Take Cal on the spread.
#6 Kansas State Wildcats at #2 West Virginia Mountaineers
Kansas State (+6.5) at West Virginia (-6.5)
Talk about a change in momentum. West Virginia will need to be at their best when they take on Kansas State in the second semifinal of the Big 12 Tournament. The Mountaineers are ranked number 11 in the country but barely beat Texas in an ugly 63-53 win and now need to take on a Wildcats team that is riding a huge high.
Kansas State just knocked off Baylor with a 70-64 win and locked in their spot in the NCAA Tournament. They’ve got all the momentum heading into Friday’s game and have what it takes to match up with the Mountaineers’ frantic defensive pace. The Mountaineers are shoe-in regardless of the outcome for a high seed in the NCAA tournament thanks to a big regular season but want to remain as high as possible with a Big 12 tournament win.
They’ll need to get by Barry Brown and the Wildcats first. Brown was huge in the win over Baylor with 21 points and will be playing with a little more confidence after seemingly locking up a tournament spot. Both teams are just two wins away from the tournament championship and know how important momentum is heading into the big dance.
Barry Brown against Jevon Carter. Brown has been playing well lately and is second on the team in points per game at 11.8. He also leads the squad in steals per game at 2.4 and while that number is impressive it’s still not as high as Carter’s 2.7 per contest. Carter also leads the Mountaineers in scoring at 13.2 points per game but it’s both players’ defense that will be the key on Friday night.
Kansas State has shown a resilience and energy that is almost unrivaled in the conference right now but if anyone can match it it’s “Press Virginia”. We expect the Mountaineers to come out and handle business and lock down the Wildcats on defense. Take West Virginia on the spread.
#3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish at #2 Florida State Seminoles
Notre Dame (+2) at Florida State (-2)
Both of these teams barely made it to the semifinals of the ACC Tournament after two close wins but they’re here now and that’s all that matters. The Fighting Irishb are trying to make their second trip in the last three years to the ACC final while Florida State is playing in their fourth semifinal already since joining the conference.
The two teams split the regular season series and will have a rubber match to determine who can call themselves the better squad. Notre Dame lost by three points back in January to Florida State but handed them a 12 point loss last month. Both winners in each game scored at least 80 points and chances are you can expect another high scoring affair when these two take the court.
Bonzie Colson against Jonathan Isaac. While Dwayne Bacon leads the Seminoles in points it will be up to Isaac to try and stop the destructive force that is Bonzie Colson. Colson dropped 21 points and grabbed ten boards on Thursday night and has been the best player for Notre Dame all season long with averages of 17.1 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 2.6 steals+blocks. He does it on both ends for the Irish and Isaac will need some help containing him.
This game essentially amounts to a pick em’ with both teams playing strong basketball as of late and splitting their regular season games. We love the way Colson and the Irish are playing we like them to make another trip to the finals. Take Notre Dame on the spread.
#3 UCLA Bruins at #2 Arizona Wildcats
UCLA (-2.5) at Arizona (+2.5)
Our last game of the night may be our best as the Bruins and Wildcats clash on Friday night in the Pac-12 semifinals. The two teams split their regular season games with each winning on the road and will now try to settle the score once and for all on a neutral court. This will undoubtedly be the biggest game in Pac-12 semifinal history with both teams still gunning for a number 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament when it kicks off next week.
UCLA is ranked third in the country with a 29-3 record overall while Arizona is ranked 7th at 28-4. Arizona handled the Bruins on the road 96-85 in their first meeting but the Bruins bounced back with a 77-72 win over their own on the road, and on Senior Night no less. There’s no love lost between these two teams and the game should be fireworks from start to finish.
The Bruins barely beat USC 76-74 in their quarter final while Arizona made easy work over Colorado but either way both teams will be prepared and eager to get going. UCLA has won ten straight games with two wins over USC, a victory over Tucson and a huge win over Oregon. T.J. Leaf made his return for UCLA on Thursday after an ankle injury and dropped 14 points with six rebounds and five assists and will be critical to any chance of beating Arizona.
Allonzo Trier against Lonzo Ball. Trier just keeps improving after missing the first 19 games of the season thanks to a suspension and now leads the team in scoring with 16.6 points a game. He feels he has a lot to make up for after missing the first giant chunk of the season and knows how big a win against UCLA would be for his team. He’ll need to help lock down Ball though if that’s going to become a realization. Ball is averaging 7.8 assists to go along with 14.8 points and is the engine that makes the country’s best offense run. Giddy Up.
UCLA had a shakier ride to this game but it’s always close when they play USC and they could be more mentally prepared for what it’s going to take to beat the Wildcats. Take the Bruins on the spread and hope Ball balls out.
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