College basketball is nearing March, the best time of the year. However, there’s still plenty of tough conference matchups over the next couple weeks, and this weekend that are sure to bring some surprises. On this edition of What to Watch For, we give you a game of the weekend that you can’t miss, a player to watch for, a team on upset alert, and a pick the best line of the weekend to help you win some cash.
GAME OF THE WEEKEND –
Doug Wattley: #3 Purdue @ #4 Michigan State (Feb. 10th) — The biggest game of the weekend by far. The two best teams in the Big Ten battle in East Lansing for a chance to move up the standings. Purdue, coming off their first loss in the Big Ten against Ohio State, needs a bounce back win and has the balance and 3-point shooting to do so. On the other hand, Michigan State already has two conference losses, and a third on Saturday will hurt their resumé. This will not be a bad loss for the loser, but it will be a HUGE win for the victor.
Chase Swaringen: #12 Gonzaga @ #11 Saint Mary’s (Feb. 10th) — This is a classic matchup in the West Coast Conference. Gonzaga has typically dominated, but the Gaels surprised the Bulldogs and took the last game in Spokane. Jock Landale has been an absolute monster for Saint Mary’s. Whoever wins this game will have a high quality win on their tournament resume, which is hard to find in the WCC.
Ryan Larsen: #5 Xavier @ Creighton (Feb. 10th) — Xavier has been the most dominant team in the country not named Purdue or Virginia. Either way, this game will be tough for the Musketeers. Creighton and Marcus Foster can catch fire at any time and knock off even the best teams in the country especially at home.
PLAYER TO WATCH –
Doug Wattley: Trevon Bluiett, Guard, Xavier — Xavier is one of the hottest teams in the nation, and it’s only right to give credit to their leader, Trevon Bluiett. In their last two games, Bluiett has been averaging 28.5 points per game while shooting 12/19 from deep. Oh, and the Musketeers have won those two games in OT, thanks to Bluiett. On Saturday, they take on Creighton in a Big East heavyweight matchup; expect Bluiett to shine.
Chase Swaringen: Joel Berry II, Guard, North Carolina — Berry was electrifying in North Carolina’s win over Duke, and he will have to be at the top of his game again this time around against NC State. Berry scored 21 points against Duke, but shot the ball poorly (7-20 FG). If the Tar Heels are going to beat their two in-state rivals in back-to-back games, Berry will need to become more efficient and continue to distribute the ball as he does normally.
Ryan Larsen: Dean Wade, Guard, Kansas State — The Wildcats have a very good opportunity to pick up a quality home win against a ranked team on Saturday when Texas Tech comes to Manhattan. Texas Tech has quietly been one of the best teams in the country all year long, and Bruce Weber knows he’ll need his guard Dean Wade to have one of the best games of his life. Wade is a very capable scorer and, if the game is tight at the end, look for him to have the ball in his hands late.
UPSET ALERT –
Doug Wattley: #21 North Carolina @ NC State (Feb. 10th) — The Tar Heels already lost at home to the Wolfpack, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they end up getting swept against their in-state rival. UNC just beat Duke in a tough game and that hangover will carry on to Saturday. NC State has been under the radar this year, already beating UNC, Duke, Arizona. Expect the Tar Heels to come out slow and never come back.
Chase Swaringen: #24 Kentucky @ Texas A&M (Feb. 10th) — Kentucky finally caught a little rhythm, and then lost it with two straight conference losses. Drawing Texas A&M for their next game is a bit of a downer as well. The Aggies have been wildly inconsistent, but are tough to beat at home. They also picked up a solid victory in their last matchup against Auburn.
Ryan Larsen: #8 Auburn @ Georgia (Feb. 10th) — It pains me to say this, but Bruce Pearl is a coach of the year candidate, and deservedly so. What he’s done with this Auburn program in a few short years is remarkable. However, Auburn just took a bad loss at home to Texas A&M, and Georgia has a potential SEC player of the year candidate in Yante Maten. Maten is a very athletic big who plays extremely aggressive in the paint. Some hustle plays, a loud crowd, and, forty-minutes later, we could see an upset in Athens.
EASY MONEY – (4-1 ATS) (lines subject to change)
Doug Wattley: Oklahoma (-4) @ Iowa State — Take Oklahoma
Chase Swaringen: Kansas (-1) @ Baylor — Take Kansas
Ryan Larsen: Miami (-2) @ Boston College — Take Miami