If you didn’t already know, it is March. This is the month in which college basketball creeps out of its cave and lets everyone know that it still exists. We are starting the days of madness with small conference tournaments already starting. By the end of the week, Tier 2 conference such as the WCC will have their tournaments in swing as well. Let’s take a look at a quartet of games, starting with some big ones tonight.
Ohio State at Indiana (Tuesday)
The Big 10 loaded the late schedule with great games and tonight has another battle between the Hoosiers and Buckeyes. Indiana got a win in Columbus on Feb. 10 by 13 points, so they should have a nice edge at Assembly Hall. The Hoosiers had three 20-point scorers in the game with Victor Odalipo, Cody Zeller, and Christian Watford combining for 70 points (the rest of the team scored 11). The team will have to have a bit more balance to come away with a season sweep. Odalipo has been rising up NBA draft boards because he is continuing to hit 63.4% of his field goals and 49% of his 3-pointers. Zeller is coming off a 22-point game against Iowa. He has only hit the 20-point plateau four times in Big 10 play. Watford has only scored 13 points in his last two games. He might be a nice bargain.
The Buckeyes have won three straight including wins over Minnesota and Michigan State. They finish with Indiana and Illinois in this last week of the regular season. Deshaun Thomas has not scored 20 points in his last four games. He did score in the 20s in eight of his first 12 Big 10 games, including 26 points against Indiana. The question for Ohio State has always been who is going to complement Thomas. Aaron Craft had 12 points in the win against the Spartans, but in his four other most recent games has provided a combined 20 points. He had 16 points in the loss to Indiana. Lenzelle Smith Jr. has shown flashes of scoring ability and had 24 points, including six 3-pointers in the win over Northwestern last Thursday. Smith only had six points against the Hoosiers.
Arkansas at Missouri (Tuesday)
The Razorbacks and Tigers have been somewhat disappointing this year. I had very high expectations for Missouri, but maybe Year Two of Frank Haith is showing some cracks in the armor. Missouri took a two-point loss at Arkansas on Feb. 16. Transfers Keion Bell and Earnest Ross combined for 41 points. That game finished a three-game run for Bell in which he scored 70 points to remind people of his Pepperdine days. He has scored 52 points in his last four games, so his run of success may be over. Ross has also been inconsistent and has scored 38 points in his last four games. Laurence Bowers is coming off a 23-point effort against LSU, but that was his first 20-point game of the SEC schedule. Phil Pressey did not attempt a shot on Feb. 28 in the win over South Carolina. He bounced with 15 points against LSU.
Arkansas has lost two of its last three and every game except one on the road in the SEC. Marshawn Powell and B.J. Young combined for 42 points in the win over Missouri. Powell has since cooled off and has provided 12.5 points in his last four games. The forward has hit 38.6% of his 3-pointers this season, but has gone 3-of-16 in his last four games from long range. Young, meanwhile, has cooled off badly (and taken some fantasy season with him). The sophomore guard was limited to single digits in three straight games before going for 13 points in the win over Kentucky. Keep an eye on Coty Clarke who has been scoring well. In his last five games, the junior college transfer has averaged 12.0 points, including 13 against the Tigers.
Oklahoma State at Iowa State (Wednesday)
From a former Big 12 team in Missouri to two of the ten teams still in the conference. Oklahoma State took out Iowa State on Jan. 30 by a slim two-point margin. As is usually the case, Marcus Smart was the difference between the two teams. The 6-4 freshman guard had 21 points in the win (to go along with six rebounds and seven assists). He has only scored 12.5 points in his last four games, including just nine in the win over TCU on Feb. 27. Markel Brown has continued to score well, although he had just seven points in the win over the Horned Frogs. Brown has scored 20 points four times in Big 12 play. Who is that other guy scoring? Why, it’s Le’Bryan Nash. In his last five games, Nash has provided at least 16 points four times and had a season-high 28 points in the win over TCU. He’s back!
The Cyclones are solidly in the middle of the Big 12. Whether that is good enough to make the NCAA tournament is another question. The Cyclones have lost four of their last seven games. They have balanced scoring with six players averaging 9.3 to 14.6 points. Utah transfer Will Clyburn leads the with 14.6 points. Clyburn has been held to single digits in three of his last seven games. Chris Babb led the way against Oklahoma State with 19 points and Georges Niang had 16 points. Babb went scoreless on Saturday against Oklahoma. He did have five 3-pointers in the Cyclones’ last win against Texas Tech. Niang has scored in double digits in four of his last five games and had 19 points in the win over TCU on Feb. 16.
Wisconsin at Michigan State (Thursday)
And we return to the Big 10 to close out the weekday games. It’s pretty amazing that one conference can have two such excellent games and there are many other teams that we haven’t mentioned this time out. Michigan State squeaked out a two-point win over the Badgers on Jan. 22. In the game, Keith Appling had 19 points and Branden Dawson had 18 points. Dawson has disappeared offensively and has scored in single digits in four straight games. Appling has also fallen off and has scored a combined 18 points in his last three games. He has missed his last nine 3-point shots. The Spartan to target is Adreian Payne. The 6-10 junior has provided 15.3 points over his last four games.He has hit five 3-pointers in his last three games.
The Badgers took a second home loss in conference last Sunday against Purdue. The Badgers continue to tick along and will get in the NCAA tournament once again. They have not missed the Big Dance since 1998. Like Iowa State, the Badgers spread the ball around and have four players averaging 9.6 points or more (but no one more than 11.6 points). In the loss to the Spartans, only Mike Bruesewitz scored in double digits with 10 points. The redhead has not scored in double digits since. Jared Berggren is a much better value. He has scored in double digits in five of his last seven games (but none more than 16 points). The Badger center has only hit two of his last 12 3-pointers. Ryan Evans has had a horrible season from the free throw line, but has managed to scored 24 points in his last two games.
Perry Missner keeps on keeping on. He can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Plus, he gives 111%. Feel free to write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @PerryMissner.