College Basketball Top 25 Sunday March 5th
It’s the last day of the regular season for college basketball and while we’re sad to see it come to a conclusion we also can’t wait for the conference tournaments to start with march madness just a week away.
It’s amazing how fast the season flies by and each year it feels shorter and shorter but here we are with four games left to wager on before the big ones start. With almost everything decided there’s a lot less to play for today but still a lot to bet on and as always we’ve got you covered from every angle. Let’s get to it!
#18 Cincinnati Bearcats at Connecticut Huskies
- Cincinnati (-5) at Connecticut (+5)
Remember at the start of the season when these two teams were projected to finish at the top of the AAC and duke it out for the regular season championship? They were going to fight to the bitter end in an epic battle on the last day of the regular season and carry on their rivalry that has stretched from the Big East conference. It couldn’t have been a better situation.
And yet here we are with the number 18 ranked Bearcats visiting the unranked Huskies with little to no anticipation for a meaningful game. The Huskies have been far less competitive than anyone thought this season and started right out of the gate with losses to Wagner and Northeastern followed by a long list of injuries that crushed the team’s hopes of a productive season.
The Bearcats meanwhile are 26-4 overall with a 15-2 record in the AAC and are locked into the number two seed when the conference starts on Thursday in Connecticut. They trail only the SMU Mustangs into the tourney after SMU finished off a brilliant 15-1 season with a win against Memphis.
Cincinnati has one of the most balanced attacks we’ve seen this season and are led by Kyle Washington, Jacob Evans, Gary Clary and Troy Caupain. They lead the AAC in scoring differential with a +14.3 mark and keep locking it down on defense with 7.7 steals a night.
After their loss to the Mustangs back in February Cincinnati has won four of their last five losing only to Central Florida. The Bearcats recoverd from that defeat with a big win against Houston and remained undefeated on their home court for the fourth time.
Connecticut isn’t out of it just yet, but their chances keep slipping away. They can still earn a number 5 seed in the tourney if they beat the Bearcats and would then need to win three straight to capture the title and squeak into the NCAA Tournament.
They’re led by Jalen Adams who has a well rounded game with averages of 14.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 6.4 assists and 1.1 steals and with his team hurting so much he’ll need to step up in a major way to try and keep the Huskies’ season alive.
Jalen Adams against Troy Caupain. Both players run their respective offenses and considering neither team has a true scoring star that just takes over their game both these players’ passing abilities will be leaned on heavily to help put some points on the board.
The Huskies are really only playing for pride with how injured and banged up their team is and with virtually no shot of making the postseason the five points the Bearcats need to cover don’t seem like that much. Take Cincinnati on the spread.
#16 Purdue at Northwestern Wildcats
- Purdue (-3.5) at Northwestern (+3.5)
The Boilermakers have nothing left to play for when they enter their finale against the Wildcats on Sunday but pride is still a huge factor for a team enjoying a strong season. Purdue is 24-6 overall and 13-4 in the conference this year and have already clinched the number one seed for the conferened tourney which will tip off later in the week.
They’re on the road to wrap up the Big Ten conference against the Wildcats who own a 21-9 mark overall with a 10-7 record and would like nothing more than to improve their record heading into the final game of the season before the conference tournament starts.
Northwestern already has a lot to cheer about as this wildcats team has the most wins this season in school history and are looking for their third win over a ranked team this season so they can improve their status for the NCAA Tournament. A win would certainly help Northwestern lock up a spot in the March Madness tournament.
The Wildcats definitely have momentum on their side after their incredible win last game. Nathan Taphorn threw a full court pass to Dererk Pardon in the closing seconds on Wednesday to help beat Michigan at the buzzer in one of the most memorable wins in school history.
Purdue meanwhile has been consistent all season and comes in riding a string of seven wins in their last eight games. They lost by 12 to the same Michigan team that Northwestern beat during that stretch and have three road losses in eight games in the Big Ten this year so there’s hope for the Wildcats yet.
Purdue has a balanced attack like few other teams in the counter with five different players all averaging double digit scoring. They’re led by Caleb Swanigan who is a strong candidate for Big Ten player of the year. He averages 18.6 points a game with 12.5 rebounds and is trying to become the first player to lead the conference in both categories since 2009-2010.
Caleb Swanigan against Dererk Pardon. Pardon is coming off a big play of his own and leads his Northwestern team with 8.2 rebounds a game but will need some help on defense to try and control Swanigan who has been feasting all year on the glass.
With Purdue’s fate sealed the Boilermakers will likely elect to rest some of their stars, including Swanigan. That could open the door for a Wildcats team who desperately wants to win their final game to try and improve their tournament stock. Take Northwestern on the spread and hope their Cinderella season continues.
#21 Wichita State Shockers at Illinois State Redbirds
- Wichita State at Illinois
The regular season has already come and gone for some conferences and that’s the case when the Shockers and Redbirds meet in the championship of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. The Selection Committee will be keeping a close eye on this game as the loser may still be able to earn a spot in March Madness but the chances are slim with so many power conference teams being taken over mid-majors.
That will only ramp up the stakes for the third meeting between this two teams. Wichita State is already ranked but enters the game as the number 2 seed with a 29-4 record overall this season while the Redbirds enter with a 27-5 record overall but earned the number one seed in the tournament. Illinois State looked ready to go after their last big win over Southern illinois by 13 points. They led by 31 at one point and the game was never close after they dropped 13 three pointers on the night and held their opponent to just 32.2 percent shooting from the field.
The last time these two teams met the Shockers definitely got the better hand though. Wichita State destroyed the Redbirds 86-45 and while Illinois beat Wichita earlier in the season by 14 they only have the taste of the last loss in their mouth. Now the Shockers are a top 25 team and itching to prove they belong with the big boys after a big win the championship game.
Marcus McDuffie against Malcolm Hill. The Shockers have been successful this season wit an incredibly balanced attack and that means low point totals from their players but strong teamwork. McDuffie only averages 11.7 points a game but also leads the team in rebounds at 5.8 and his 1.2 steals a game are key as well. He’ll need to lend a hand locking down Hill who pours in 17.2 points a game and we can’t wait to see if Illinois’ star can beat Wichita State’s team.
Take the Shockers on the spread. Despite the conference rankings Wichita State has separated themselves from the rest of the pack and should be able to pick up their conference championship with a win on Sunday.
Minnesota Golden Gophers at #22 Wisconsin Badgers
- Minnesota at Wisconsin
It’s senior night in Wisconsin which means a long list of festivities for players like Nigel Hayes, Vitto Brown, Bronson Koenig and Zak Showaler before and after the game at the Kohl Center. The Badgers have a long history of honoring their seniors and Sunday night will be no different as the Badgers wrap up their regular season against the visiting Gophers.
Wisconsin won’t be focused on all the extra activity though as they have started to plummet down the standings and need to desperately right their ship before the tournaments start. They’re 22-8 overall with an 11-6 mark in the Big Ten this season but have been faltering as of late. They gave up a nine point lead to Iowa in their last outing and have now lost a brutal five of six heading into the culmination of their year.
There are still big implications for both these teams on the final day of the regular season. If Wisconsin wins they will lock up the number two seed and get the much needed double bye status in the upcoming tourney but a loss could realistically shoot them all the way down to 7th.
The Gophers, on the other hand, are rolling and are now 23-7 with an 11-6 mark in the conference. They’ve won eight straight games after beating Nebraska in their last outing by 15 at home. They lost their last meeting to the Badgers in overtime and know they can hang with Wisconsin no matter what the circumstances are.
If Minnesota wins, (an accomplishment that hasn’t taken place in seven years) the Gophers would give themselves a chances at the number 2 seed I the tournament as long as Michigan State lost to Maryland. There’s a laundry list of things that can occur for both teams and while a win would certainly help each of them, a los could have some catastrophic results. Wisconsin is already a lock to make the tournament but if they want a strong seed entering it they’ll need to take care of business at home.
Ethan Happ against Nate Mason. Happ no longer leads the team in scoring after Koenig recently passed him but the Badger still does everything for his team and is by far the most important player on the club. He’s averaging 14.0 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.2 blocks and is gunning for a player of the year award in the conference. He dropped a career high 28 points on the Gophers in their last meeting and Nate Mason will need to take notice.
He averages 15.4 points for Minnesota with 3.6 boards, 5.3 assists and 1.3 steals and is the engine that runs this suddenly potent Gophers’ offense. If he can’t get checked Minnesota could run out to an early lead and ultimately extend their win streak to nine.
This game is going to be close, but the Badgers get to play at home where they’ve been excellent this year and try to prove to the selection committee and their fans that they’re for real. It won’t be easy but we still like Wisconsin’s chances on the spread.