Ten Questions to Consider: A Weekend of Important Match-ups

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on February 9th, 2018

As the second weekend of February approaches, it also means the days until March are getting fewer. Here are 10 things I am looking at around college basketball this weekend.

Purdue Looks to Regroup After a Heartbreaking Loss to Ohio State (USA Today Images)

  1. Can Michigan State make it two losses in a row for Purdue? Michigan State and Purdue are the only two teams in America with offensive and defensive efficiency rankings among the top 20. While Sparty owns the best two-point defense in college basketball, they will be tested by Purdue’s elite three-point shooting (42.7%, first nationally). Michigan State has already allowed six Big Ten opponents to shoot 40 percent or better from distance this season.
  2. Can Creighton stay perfect at home against Xavier? Creighton is 13-0 at the CenturyLink Center this season with double-figure home wins against both Butler and Seton Hall. In the Bluejays’ loss to Xavier earlier this year, Creighton logged its season-high turnover percentage and suffered a season-low of just two points from Khyri Thomas.
  3. Will the three-point line be the difference again in North Carolina vs. N.C. State? In the recent overtime thriller between North Carolina and North Carolina State, the Tar Heels shot 4-of-19 on their three-point attempts while the Wolfpack nailed 15-of-30. The 33-point resulting difference was enough for the Wolfpack to overcome their inability to slow North Carolina from scorching shooting inside the arc (64% 2FG).
  4. Can Tennessee stay hot in the SEC? Tennessee has won six straight games and nine of its last 1o, and now sits just a game out of the SEC lead with Auburn’s loss earlier this week. Lamonte Turner’s ability to give Tennessee starter minutes and production off of the bench allows the Volunteers a very capable third option alongside Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield. The Volunteers’ defense will be tested by Alabama’s Collin Sexton.
  5. Will Kentucky be ready to play on the road? Kentucky is 3-3 in true road games this season and 4-5 in all games away from Rupp Arena. The Wildcats will need more production from three of its four leading scorers as Kevin Knox, Hamidou Diallo and PJ Washington have combined for just 31 points on 0-of-12 from three-point range in Kentucky’s last two games.
  6. Will there be a pair of Pac-12 sweeps in the desert? The Arizona and Los Angeles schools are only playing each other once this season, which means Saturday’s match-up will be key for each team. For Arizona and USC, Saturday’s game means one team is seeking to avoid a three-game losing streak. For UCLA, a sweep in the desert would all but assure the Bruins an eventual NCAA Tournament spot.
  7. What must Gonzaga do to get even with Saint Mary’s? To get the split against Saint Mary’s, Gonzaga must improve upon its 6-of-22 showing from distance in the first match-up. Additionally, Gonzaga must find a way to try and at least slow Jock Landale down as the senior All-American was completely dominant in their first match-up.
  8. Will Villanova get back on the right track? Coming off of a shocking home loss to St. John’s this week, Villanova must now deal with a Butler team that has beaten the Wildcats three straight times. Villanova had no problems scoring against the Bulldogs in their most recent loss at Hinkle Fieldhouse, but its defense cratered in that game. After leading the Big East in defensive efficiency during each of the past three conference seasons, Villanova currently ranks eighth.
  9. Is Maryland in a “must-win” situation on Saturday? Maryland’s existing NCAA Tournament resume includes just one win against a KenPom top 80 team. At 5-8 in Big Ten play and opportunities dwindling, a win against Northwestern would be the first win of several that the Terps need the rest of the way.
  10. Will Grayson Allen regain some of his missing production against Georgia Tech? While Duke’s freshman quartet is capable of carrying Duke deep into March, regular production from Grayson Allen turns Duke into a favorite. After averaging 17.4 points per game through December, Allen has scored just 9.8 points per game since the start of January. His biggest drop-off has come from behind the three-point line where he is shooting a career low 26.0 percent in conference play (2-of-8 against North Carolina last night).
Matthew Eisenberg (143 Posts)

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