|Le’Bryan Nash & Marcus Smart|
With most teams finally getting conference play under their belts this weekend, it would only be right that I take a look at some of the key match-ups this weekend in the NCAA.
Cincinnati Bearcats (12-2) vs. (18) Memphis Tigers (10-2)
This should be a great match-up between two very good AAC teams.
Cincinnati is coming into this game with three big wins thus far, upsetting North Carolina State, Pittsburgh and a solid SMU team in their first conference game this year. Cincinnati’s numbers on the offensive side of ball are nothing to brag about (rank 185th in points, 208th in assists, and 264th in field goal percentage), but their defense is allowing only 56.5 points per game, which ranks 5th in the NCAA and 1st in their conference. The Bearcats are led by Senior PG, Sean Kilpatrick, who is averaging 18 points per game to go along with four rebounds and two assists. Justin Jackson is another Cincinnati player to keep an eye on. He averages 12 points along with seven rebounds and a very hefty 3.2 blocks a game (which ranks him 15th in the NCAA).
As opposed to Cincinnati, the Memphis Tigers rank in the top 65 in all major offensive categories (points, rebounds, assists and field goal percentage). Memphis has had two big victories this season, one being over Marcus Smart’s Oklahoma State and the other against the LSU Tigers. On offense, the Tigers are led by senior G, Joe Jackson who is averaging a very respectable 15 points a game, to go along with three rebounds and three assists. Memphis has an inside defensive presence in Shaq Goodwin, who is good for 1.8 blocks a game.
Prediction: Memphis by 7
(5) Michigan State Spartans vs. Indiana Hoosiers
We could very well see a shoot-out with this match-up, as both teams rank in the top 30 in points scored.
Michigan is one of the most, if not the most unselfish teams in the NCAA. They rank 2nd in assists, just a shade over 19 a game. The Spartans also rank in the top 31 in all major offensive categories, including rebounding (15th) and scoring (20th), respectively. The Spartans are led by a bunch of players, and you cannot simply point out one and say he is the heart and soul of the team. But if there is one player to focus on from this Spartans team, it would be sophomore guard, Gary Harris, he can do a bit of everything for this team, as his stats indicate and he could very well be a lottery pick, if he decides to declare for the 2014 NBA Draft.
The Indiana Hoosiers are led by two very good players in freshman, Noah Vonleh and sophomore, Yogi Ferrell. Vonleh is having a very solid freshman season for the Hoosiers, averaging 12 points to go along with nine rebounds a game, while shooting a cool 55% from the field. Not bad for an 18 year old. In this game, Vonleh will most likely be guarded by a very good defender in Payne. Ferrell is another player that is having a breakout a season with the Hoosiers, averaging 17 points a game to go along with three rebounds and four assists. Michigan State defenders CANNOT fall asleep on Ferrell because he is making 44% from behind the arc.
Prediction: Michigan State by 5
(17) Connecticut Huskies vs. Southern Methodist Mustangs (SMU)
UConn is 11-2 this year, but the two games they have lost, have been by a total of only six points! On offense, the Huskies are led by very talented senior guard, Shabazz Napier. During the 2013/2014 season, Napier is averaging 16 points, six rebounds and six assists a game. The one aspect of Napier’s game I am most impressed with is the fact that his field goal and three point percentages have improved in his four years at UConn. This season, Napier is shooting a blistering 48% from behind the arc and has some game winners to his name. At only 6’1, Napier is also UConn’s leading rebounder, which explains why they rank 200th in the country. Rebounding used to be a staple to the Huskies game. SMU will also need to keep an eye on Boatright. A junior who can also hit the three ball (41% for the season).
SMU has had a good start to this season going 10-3 so far, with losses to Arkansas, Virginia and Cincinnati all very respectable NCAA teams. On offense, SMU is led by sophomore guard, Nic Moore, who is averaging 13 points to go along with four assists a game. Moore also ranks 17th in the NCAA in three point percentage. SMU does not score a lot of points-only 73.5, which ranks the 162nd in the NCAA-but the school will no doubt get a huge boost next year, when the #2 recruit in the country, Emmanuel Mudiay joins the program. It should also be noted that SMU does rank 6thin field goal percentage.
Prediction: Connecticut by 6
(6) Oklahoma State Cowboys vs. Kansas State Wildcats
The Cowboys are led by two potent stars in Marcus Smart and Le’Bryan Nash. Smart is one of the most explosive guards in the country, and will no doubt be a top five, maybe even a top three pick in the NBA Draft, if he chooses to declare. The sophomore guard is averaging career highs in field goal percentage (46.7%), three point percentage (32.8%) and points per game (17.2). Smart also ranks tied for 13th in the NCAA with 2.62 steals per game. Nash is a great player to compliment Smart, as he does a lot of his work inside the paint. OK State ranks 7th in points per game and 8th in field goal percentage in the country.
K-State is a program that has been on the rise for the last several years and this year they are proving that they are here to stay. The biggest win K-State has had this year, would probably be the win vs Gonzaga, but they have also lost to some less notable teams, such as University of Northern Colorado and Charlotte. The Wildcats are led by freshman guard Marcus Foster, who is having a very good first season averaging just a shade under 14 points and three rebounds. This team does a great job of slowing down opponents and allowing them to score only 57.8 points a game, which ranks 8th in Division 1.
Prediction: Oklahoma State by 10
Ogi is a graduate of Humber College’s Sport Management program. He is the founder of Blago Blogger Sports.