Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, February 15, 2013 at 10:21 AM
Have you already circled the date March 17th on your handy-dandy calendar?
As College Basketball fans know, that's Selection Sunday as the NCAA Tournament folks name this year's 68-team field and so that means we're just a full month away from one of the great days in sports ... can't wait!
Obviously, there's loads of great hoop games before we get to 3-17-13 and in today's edition of Jim Sez we dig into a pair of key Saturday clashes and a big one come Sunday but first this very important reminder:
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers get you wall-to-wall College Basketball and NBA Winners each and every day when you check in with us either right here online or else at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453. Note that the check-in times are after 1 p.m. ET for all the Monday-through-Friday weeknight action and after 10 a.m. ET on Saturdays/Sundays/Holidays.
Pile up all the profits this busy hoops month and gear up for all the March Madness straight ahead - let America's #1 Handicapper point you straight to the winner's circle each and every day and that includes the Side/Totals winner this Sunday in the NBA All-Star Game from Houston!
Okay, so let's get rollin' with this weekend's NCAA Basketball Previews and note the distinct ACC and Big 10 flavor:
On Saturday, it's ...
PURDUE (12-13, 5-7 Big 10) at #1 INDIANA (22-3, 10-2 Big 10) - 2 p.m. ET, espn2
There's no debate about who is the king of the Hoosier State these days as Tom Crean's IU Hoosiers sit neatly on top of the Associated Press Top 25 poll following back-to-back blowout wins this week at Ohio State (last Sunday) and home to Nebraska (this past Wednesday) and so Indiana heads into this weekend in-state clash winners of seven of its last eight games and knotted with Michigan State on top of the Big 10 pack.
Now, Indiana guns for the clean sweep after plastering Purdue 97-60 back in late January when seven-foot C Cody Zeller snapped out of a mini slump with 19 points and 11 rebounds and don't forget the Hoosiers canned a dozen trifectas in that tilt while shooting a sweet 19-of-20 from the free-throw line.
If Zeller isn't bodied in the paint here than he'll terrorize the Boilermakers one mo' time but keep a close eye on Indiana G Jordan Hulls who nailed just 2-of-7 triple tries in that first meeting with Purdue as he could be a forgotten man on the perimeter here - you've been warned, Boilers!
#2 DUKE (22-2, 9-2 ACC) at MARYLAND (17-7, 5-6 ACC) - 6 p.m. ET, ESPN
Let's just say that if the Duke Blue Devils wanted to play the perfect game for head coach Mike Krzyzewski's 66th birthday this past Wednesday night than they fell far short - but all of those free-throw misses by archrival North Carolina allowed the Dookies to bang out the 73-68 non-cover win at Cameron Indoor and Coach K's hoping for better interior defense, smarter ball-handling and for big man Mason Plumlee to steer clear of foul woes here in this game-after-Carolina bash.
Note that Duke notched an easy 84-64 win in Durham against the Terrapins back on January 26th as do-it-all freshman Rasheed Sulaimon poured in 25 points while the aforementioned Mason Plumlee added 19 points and 7 boards but the Blue Devils can expect a much fiercer test here providing Terps C Alex Len (12.5 ppg and 8.0 rpg) can steer clear of picking up cheap fouls and note Mark Turgeon's team - very much one of those "bubble teams" out there in mid-February - need to defend the three-point shot well here as maybe Maryland can take a cue from North Carolina's first-half three-point "D" the other night.
On Sunday, it's ...
#13 OHIO STATE (18-6, 8-4 Big 10) at #20 WISCONSIN (17-8, 8-4 Big 10) - 1 p.m. ET, CBS
No doubt it will be quite interesting to see where these Big 10 powers show up on the NCAA Tournament Selection Show "big board" in a month from now - could either/both be as high as #2 seeds or is it more likely they'll be fighting to the finish for someplace along the #3 or #4 seed lines? Do stay tuned.
What we can tell you right here and right now is that both clubs were in veritable fistfight games on Thursday night with the O-State Buckeyes securing a 69-59 non-cover win against 17 ½-point pup Northwestern as Deshaun Thomas scored half of his 22 points in the game's final seven minutes as Thad Matta's squad easily won the board battle 37-to-16 and yet needed things to break right late to get a little separation.
On the flip side, the Wisky Badgers came up 58-53 overtime losers at Minnesota as Bo Ryan's crew shot a dismal 18-of-59 from the floor and didn't fare too well at the free-throw line either with 7 misses in 17 charity stripe attempts ... yuck!
Let's see if Wisconsin has gotten its mind right for this Big 10 clash in Madison where bottling up OSU's Thomas is key - of course - but it may be a bigger challenge to get in the grill of Buckeyes' point guard Aaron Craft and cut him off before he gets into the paint. It's worth noting that Wisconsin now has played three consecutive overtime games - when does the gas tank come up empty?
COLLEGE BASKETBALL UPDATE:
WHO'S DONE THE WORST COACHING JOBS IN THIS 2012-13 SEASON?
Here's a memo for anyone out there - and we mean you, ESPN's Dick Vitale and Bill Raftery - who believe that college basketball coaches walk on water and do no wrong. Well, here's our counter to that way of thinking as here's the three worst coaching jobs done in the country this current campaign - the good news is there is still some time to turn this around if you happen to be on this short list:
RICK BARNES, Texas - No doubt that the Longhorns (11-13, 3-8 Big 12) are loaded with youth but isn't that part of the responsibility of a head coach (especially a veteran one at that) not to get caught in a season with a slew of freshmen and few, if any, veteran players? The 'Horns have botched up this transition year big-time and an offense that ranks just ninth in conference play (just 64 ppg) can't seem to get any real traction. Note that save for the double-OT win against Iowa State earlier this week, Texas has scored fewer than 70 points in a game in eight of its previous nine games.
CRAIG ROBINSON, Oregon State - Hey, we hate to pick on President Obama's brother-in-law (and especially because we do consider him a rock-solid game coach) but this 2012-13 campaign has not been Robinson's "finest hour. The Beavers are 13-12 overall and a listless 3-9 inside the Pac-12 and we were expecting Oregon State to be in the mix for an NCAA Tourney berth this year and maybe even a Top 25 ranking. Robinson's club ranks a rotten 115th nationally in scoring defense while allowing 69.8 ppg and unless things take a turn for the better - and quickly - in/around Corvallis than we'll stick to our guns and say this has been a rotten year for Oregon State hoops.
PATRICK CHAMBERS, Penn State - It simply doesn't make any sense that the Nittany Lions are 8-16 overall and winless (as in 0-12) in the Big 10 with what many in-the-know consider one of the country's best backcourts but that's the case as we dig deeper into mid-February and you have to believe that Chambers won't be around for a 2013-14 campaign. The Nittany Lions simply don't play smart down the stretch in close games - and who are you gonna blame for that?
NOTE: Stay tuned for our NBA Report Card Grades in tomorrow's edition of Jim Sez.