Wednesdays are always big nights in college basketball. Here are some predictions for this evening’s games (I’m including my take on Kansas State-Kansas in case you missed it at the bottom of my game preview):
No. 20 Marquette at No. 9 Georgetown
The Golden Eagles bounced back from a home blowout against Vanderbilt by beating Villanova 81-77 on New Year’s Day. Still, Buzz Williams’ team is struggling without 6-foot-11 center Chris Otule. Georgetown was far from impressive in a 49-40 victory over Providence one day earlier. Both teams are very well-coached and are considered contenders for the Big East title. The Hoyas get the nod here, but only because they’re at home. This could be the game of the night.
Prediction: Georgetown 60-57
No. 3 Duke at Temple
The Blue Devils have won their past three games by an average of 32.3 points, but Temple should provide a much stiffer test. Fran Dunphy’s squad has won three straight since a Dec. 17 setback at Texas, but the Owls don’t have enough firepower to upend a Final Four contender.
Prediction: Duke 82-69
Notre Dame at Cincinnati
The Bearcats have gone 6-0 without suspended center Yancy Gates, who will return tonight. The Bearcats have been playing with a four-guard lineup, so it will be interesting to see how they alter their game plan with Gates. Notre Dame is in rebuilding mode and will be hard-pressed to beat Cincinnati on the road.
Prediction: Cincinnati 75-66
Illinois at Northwestern
If John Shurna and the Wildcats want to have any chance of earning the first NCAA tournament bid in school history, they’ve got to win games against similar opponents at home. Stopping Illinois standouts Meyers Leonard and D.J. Richardson won’t be easy, but I think Northwestern can pull it off.
Prediction: Northwestern 68-67
Iowa at Minnesota
If the surging Hawkeyes can beat a good Wisconsin team in Madison, I’ve got to think they’ll have a chance at Minnesota, which is 0-2 in the Big Ten after road losses against Illinois and Michigan. This would definitely qualify as an upset, but not a huge one.
Prediction: Iowa 72-66
No. 1 Syracuse at Providence
The Friars lost by 24 points against St. John’s and then scored only 40 in a setback at Georgetown. Syracuse should roll.
Prediction: Syracuse 85-66
Wichita State at Evansville
Just two games into the conference season, and the Shockers are already in a difficult position following a home loss to Creighton on New Year’s Eve. They can’t afford a road loss to an Evansville team that upset Northern Iowa on New Year’s Day.
Prediction: Wichita State 74-68
No. 22 Kansas State at No. 15 Kansas
Kansas State has lost its past five games at Allen Fieldhouse by an average of 18 points. Kansas is as vulnerable as it’s been in years, but Kansas State relies on several young players -- namely freshmen Thomas Gipson and Angel Rodriguez -- who have never experienced this kind of environment. The Jayhawks will win tonight but don’t be surprised if the Wildcats return the favor when Kansas visits Manhattan.
Prediction: Kansas 75-63
Upset of the night: Texas Tech over Oklahoma State
Gallagher-Iba Arena is traditionally one of the toughest places to play in the Big 12. But Oklahoma State fans may not be as excited about this season’s team. Two more players -- Fred Gulley and Reger Dowell -- have decided to transfer in recent weeks. Third-leading scorer J.P. Olukemi tore his ACL last weekend and is out for the season, and highly touted freshman Le’Bryan Nash has been a disappointment. Texas Tech is rebuilding under first-year coach Billy Gillispie, who may have the conference’s top freshman in forward Jordan Tolbert.
Prediction: Texas Tech 66-59