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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 8:58 AM

Don't you just love it?

The College Basketball season is hitting full stride as we wind down the month of February and everyone's making a case for their league/conference to get in as many bids as possible for next month's NCAA Tournament.

And what do we think right here and right now?

Well, we're stickin' to our guns and saying the Big East won't get more than seven teams in this 68-team tourney field while the Pac-12 will get five - tops - while the mighty Big 10 figures to get half of its dozen member teams into the "Big Dance".

If there's any league that could be pleasantly surprised it's the Mountain West Conference that could get four teams into the field - while the SEC could be bumming with only four teams selected and ditto for the ACC.

Lots of meaningful hoops between now and Selection Sunday on March 17th, so keep it here at Jim Sez for all the latest!

Now, let's delve into tonight's top tilts featuring #9 Kansas and #3 Gonzaga as they each play conference rivals in key TV games...

#9 KANSAS (21-4, 9-3 Big 12) at #14 OKLAHOMA STATE (19-5, 9-3 Big 12) - 9 p.m. ET, espn2
These clubs collide this evening tied for second place in the Big 12 - Kansas State's on top at 10-3 in league play following on the heels of Monday's 71-61 win against West Virginia - and on the surface it appears the KU Jayhawks have righted the ship with back-to-back wins following that recent ugly three-game losing skid - but here marks a revenge spot for Bill Self's club:

Kansas was an 85-80 loser at home against Okie State back on February 2nd (the Cowboys were 9 ½-point dogs in that clash) as that snapped a 33-game home winning streak at famed Phog Allen Fieldhouse and what really stood out on the court in this first meeting was the 13-2 scoring run late after Kansas had seized a six-point lead.

No doubt Kansas will be paying extra-special attention here to Oklahoma State G Markel Brown who poured in 28 points and remember that Kansas' bench missed eight of its dozen field-goal tries while overall the 'Hawks did nail a healthy 9-of-20 shots from beyond the three-point arc.

Will this now be "get even" time for Kansas?

SANTA CLARA (19-8, 7-5 WCC) at #3 GONZAGA (25-2, 12-0 WCC) - 11 p.m. ET, ESPNU
In case you were wondering, Gonzaga is sporting the highest Associated Press ranking in nine years - the 'Zags were the AP's third-ranked team during the 2003-04 campaign - and now Mark Few's crew looks to make it nine wins in a row since that debacle at Butler.

No question that tilt is long-ago in the team's rear-view mirror and here seven-footer Kelly Olynyk - fresh off a 26-point, 9-rebound game in the 71-61 win against San Francisco last Saturday - will look to combine with underrated star Elias Harris (17 points and 13 boards against the SF Dons) to give Gonzaga its 27th win in its last 29 games against Santa Clara. The teams met back on January 5th when Gonzaga copped an 81-74 victory at Santa Clara as Olynyk scored a career-best 33 points.

The more the 'Zags win, the better shot at landing a very high seed in the NCAA Tournament: It's quite possible that a run-the-table finish and a West Coast Conference Tournament title could - and we say could - have Gonzaga dreaming about a No. 1 seed after all.

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

Here's some quick-hitter previews of some other big games on tonight's NCAA Basketball menu ...

PROVIDENCE (14-11, 6-7 Big East) at #8 SYRACUSE (21-4, 9-3 Big East) - 7 p.m. ET, espn2
Now that the Orange has an all-hands-on-deck deal with F James Southerland back on board, it could be high time to included Jim Boeheim's squad among the real elite and here the Big East's highest-scoring team (74.8 ppg) looks for the clean sweep of the PC Friars following last month's 72-66 win - a game that featured the 'Cuse shooting just 3-of-21 from downtown against a pesky Providence zone defense.

WASHINGTON (14-12, 6-7 Pac-12) at #12 ARIZONA (21-4, 9-4 Pac-12) - 11 p.m. ET, espn2
The Pac-12's highest-ranked team - and one of only two Pac-12 teams currently inside the AP Top 25 (see Oregon at #23) - hasn't exactly been at the top of its game lately as the 'Zona Wildcats followed up back-to-back losses with a tight 68-64 non-cover win at Utah last Sunday afternoon after initially blowing a 13-point second-half lead. Arizona G Mark Lyons registered nine of his team's final 15 points late to help topple a gritty Utah bunch and note here history is not on Washington's side as the Huskies have lost seven straight games to Top 25 opponents. However, the Huskies are encouraged by the fact they smoked Oregon State on the boards 41-28 in last Saturday night's 72-62 home win - now if C.J. Wilcox (averaging a team-high 17.6 ppg) can get in a groove here, the Dawgs could make life tough for an Arizona bunch that may have peaked months ago.

#22 COLORADO STATE (21-4, 8-2 MWC) at UNLV (19-7, 6-5 MWC) - 10:15 p.m. ET, CSBC
Don't look now but Colorado State has won its last six games in a row and - with head coach Larry Eustachy preaching "greatness" these days - the Rams shoot for the clean sweep over rival UNLV one game after G Dorian Green (22 points) led all five starters in double-figure scoring with an 89-86 win at Air Force (and how about the aforementioned starting five shooting a delicious 27-of-48 from the field in that one?).



The NFL Draft is still two months away but there's widespread speculation as to whom will be the top quarterbacks chosen - now here's an early-bird look:

GENO SMITH, West Virginia - The 6-foot-3, 220-pounder blazed a big-time trail at the start of the 2012 season but quickly faded badly and was a bust in the snow in the Mountaineers' late-December Pinstripe Bowl loss to Syracuse and so there's some concern that his stock has dropped ... but it has not. The fact of the matter is Smith will indeed be the first quarterback plucked off the draft board as his size, arm strength and general mobility puts him at the head of this QB class and don't be shocked if someone trades up with Kansas City at #1 to get 'em. The Chiefs - who do need a quarterback - are not in love with Smith and so will be willing to wheel-and-deal. How about the #1 pick to archrival Oakland for veteran QB Carson Palmer? Now that would be blockbuster Draft Day news, wouldn't it?

MATT BARKLEY, USC - The shoulder injury that kayoed this Trojans slinger from late-year action (including the Sun Bowl loss versus heavy-duty dog Georgia Tech) won't be a big factor in determining where this senior goes on Draft Day and all reports seem to indicate he will wind up a Top 10 pick with either Arizona at #7 or Buffalo at #8 most interested but you could see aforementioned Oakland in there for Barkley with the third overall pick and than dealing off Palmer to one of these other QB-needy teams such as the Cardinals or the Bills. One major plus for the 6-foot-2, 230-pound Barkley is that he played in a pro-type offense throughout his college career and - we believe - he has a stronger-than-advertised arm although his decision-making must improve.

MIKE GLENNON, N.C. State - At 6-foot-7, 220 pounds this strong-armed slinger is your prototypical pocket passer but he threw a ton of bad passes the past two years for the turnover-prone Wolfpack and there's reports he stares down his primary receiver way too much. If Glennon is to find his way into Round One of this NFL Draft, than it could be someone trading down to get him such as Buffalo or Kansas City - we could see Glennon getting nabbed somewhere in the 20s or he could fall out of the first round entirely and still wind up in KayCee or Buffalo in Round II.

TYLER WILSON, Arkansas - Last year's lost season notwithstanding, the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Wilson sported excellent credentials in his college career including 45 overall touchdown passes the past two seasons and his smooth delivery and accurate arm could catapult him into a high draft slot than most everyone predicts at this current time. If Wilson escapes Round One - and he probably will - don't be entirely surprised if he goes somewhere in the middle of Round Two with the New York Jets a distinct possible landing spot.

RYAN NASSIB, Syracuse - There appears to be a major split on how well this 6-foot-2, 223-pounder will fare on this "next level" as some in-the-know folks believe his arm strength and general mechanics are terrific but his decision-making has been questioned and he often throws into coverage which has several NFL teams scared off. The likelihood is that Nassib will go somewhere late in Round Two and might even slip into the early portion of the third round.

NOTE: Get more College Basketball News & Notes in tomorrow's edition of Jim Sez.

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