Winners, Losers, and What to Watch
Here’s a look at this week’s winners and losers and Saturday’s premier match-up.
Winner: St. John’s Red Storm
If St. John’s had a chance to make the NCAA Tournament this year, their performance this past week would go a long way in sealing their bid. Congratulations to the Red Storm for defeating #4 Duke and #1 Villanova over the course of the last week. Last place St. John’s, losers of their last eleven games before their win over Duke, will likely only make the “Big Dance” if they win the Big East Tournament. Sophomore Shamorie Ponds finished with 33 points and 7 rebounds against the Blue Devils and followed that up with 26 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists in the upset of the top-ranked Wildcats. The Red Storm will look to build a three-game win streak when they host Marquette on Saturday at noon.
Loser: Kentucky Wildcats
Just when Kentucky fans thought their team was growing up, the young Wildcats proved to be even more unpredictable that most thought. Kentucky lost at Missouri last Saturday and home to Tennessee on Tuesday for the first time since 2006. After averaging 81.3 points per game over the course of their three game win streak, Kentucky averaged just 60 points per game in their last two losses. The Wildcats’ leading scorer, Kevin Knox, averaged only 7.5 points per game in the two losses this past week. If Kentucky hopes to make a deep run in March, Knox will need to step it up. The Wildcats will travel to College Station, TX to take on Texas A&M on Saturday at 8:15pm.
Premier Match-Up: #3 Purdue at #4 Michigan State (4pm ESPN)
Saturday’s premier match-up features a Big Ten battle between two of the nation’s top five teams. Purdue enters the game coming off a heartbreaking loss to #14 Ohio State on Wednesday—this snapped their program-record 19 game win streak. The Boilermakers were leading 63-62 until an offensive rebound put-back by Keita Bates-Diop with 3 seconds to go powered the Buckeyes past Purdue. The Boilermakers will look to rebound from Wednesday’s loss with a big win over Michigan State on the road. Purdue is the only team in the top five in both offensive and defensive efficiency in the country and have four players (Carsen Edwards, Vincent Edwards, Isaac Haas, and Dakota Mathias) averaging double figures in scoring this season. Purdue will face their toughest test to date on the road in the Breslin Center versus the Michigan State Spartans.
The Michigan State community has been under fire in the wake of the Larry Nassar trial, but the basketball team has given the school something to smile about recently. Michigan State is on a seven-game win streak and, most recently, defeated Iowa 96-93 on Tuesday. With all five starters (Miles Bridges, Nick Ward, Joshua Langford, Cassius Winston, and Jaren Jackson Jr.) averaging double figures in scoring, the Spartans have a chance to tie the Boilermakers in the Big Ten standings and pick up a win that would give them an edge to claim a one seed in March. If Michigan State is able to keep turnovers to a minimum, they will have a chance to beat Purdue. Purdue will be prepared for Michigan State and eager to avenge Wednesday’s loss. I expect the Boilermakers’ defense to be the difference in a close game.