My friend Blake already did a great job taking care of tonight’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge match-ups. Let’s look at some other, less heralded match-ups of significance…
#14 Pittsburgh (5-1) at Duquesne (3-2)
Pittsburgh has been under the radar and a bit of a disappointment to some early this season, due in large part to their home loss to Long Beach State. If you look closely though, Pitt has looked better recently, thanks to the additional playing time given to heralded freshman Khem Birch. Birch has responded by averaging 11.5 points and 10.5 rebounds in the last two games. Duquesne will be no slouch, especially at home. The Dukes have a win over Akron and played Arizona tough on the road.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 76, Duquesne 66
Tulsa (4-3) at Oklahoma State (3-2)
This in-state rivalry game will likely come down to the wire. Tulsa is a solid team that has thus far been unable to beat another solid team. They lost close games to Northwestern, St. Joseph’s and Missouri State. Oklahoma State hasn’t been much better. Held out as a Big 12 sleeper pick by many, OSU has struggled to incorporate five-star freshman Le’Bryan Nash into the mix and have been much like Tulsa in their inability to beat a formidable opponent, to date. Look for the Golden Hurricane to pull off a bit of an upset in Stillwater tonight.
Prediction: Tulsa 69, Oklahoma State 67
#22 UNLV (6-0) at UCSB (2-1)
UNLV, of course, is coming off of a huge upset win over North Carolina, in which the Rebels took advantage of UNC’s defensive deficiencies and shot a healthy 40% from three point range. This could be a bit of a trap game, as Dave Rice’s squad now heads into UCSB to face what looks to be a pretty good team. The Gauchos crushed a decent Santa Clara team and lost by a point to San Diego State in overtime. It will be no small feat for UNLV to come out of Santa Barbara with a win tonight, but look for the Rebels to find a way to get it done.
Prediction: UNLV 78, USCB 75
#23 Creighton (5-0) at San Diego State (7-1)
In what just might be the non ACC/Big Ten game of the night, an intriguing Creighton squad goes on the road to face their stiffest competition yet. The Bluejays, led by All-America candidate Doug McDermott (23.4ppg, 7.8rpg) have yet to be tested this season. That will surely change tonight when they face an SDSU team whose only loss was at Baylor and has beaten the likes of Arizona and Long Beach State. If Creighton can escape San Diego with a win tonight they will be on their way to claiming the coveted “best mid-major” crown.
Prediction: Creighton 79, San Diego State 73
Notre Dame (5-2) at #19 Gonzaga (4-0)
Yes, Notre Dame lost their best player, Tim Abromaitis, to a season ending injury and yes, that will hurt Notre Dame’s already slim chances of being an NCAA Tournament team. But, one thing I’ve learned over the years is never to underestimate Mike Brey. Brey always seems to get the most out of his talent, so I have no doubt that the Irish will continue to play hard and ultimately be a competitive team this season. For Gonzaga, this will still be their most challenging game of the season, as their schedule has been cupcake heavy so far. Look for the Zags’ talent to overwhelm the Irish tonight.
Prediction: Gonzaga 73, Notre Dame 62
What are your thoughts on tonight’s games?