The college basketball season is off to a great start. If you thought the first week of the 2020-2021 college basketball season was fun, just look ahead to this week: six top-25 match-ups, three top-10 games and two top-5 contests.
On this week's episode of March Madness 365, Andy Katz and Chad "March Chadness" Aycock preview some of the best games and Katz makes his predictions for the second week of college basketball. Katz also talks to Gonzaga's Jalen Suggs, Baylor head coach Scott Drew and Ohio guard Jason Preston.
Andy Katz is 5-2 with his predictions after week one. Here are his predictions for this week of the 2020-2021 college basketball season (all times Eastern).
Texas comes home from the Maui Invitational to host Villanova in the Big East-Big 12 Battle. Villanova's Jeremiah Robinson-Earl will be the player to watch. He leads both squads in points (20) and rebounds (9). Texas will be able to throw Jericho Sims and Greg Brown at 'Nova to try and slow Robinson-Earl down, but Katz likes the Wildcats. Although they fell to Virginia Tech in their last game, the talent they have with Robinson-Earl and the veteran presence at guard with Collin Gillespie should be enough to push 'Nova over the Longhorns.
Katz's pick: Villanova
Xavier faces bitter rival Cincinnati on Sunday. Xavier has started the season 4-0 with wins over Oakland, Bradley, Toledo and Eastern Kentucky. Cincinnati will only have one game under its belt before taking on its cross-town rival. The Bearcats play Lipscomb on Wednesday, Dec. 2. Katz likes Xavier because they will have played more games. The Musketeers have four players scoring in double-digits, led by Zach Freemantle at 18.3 points per game.
Katz's pick: Xavier
Here are Andy's picks from earlier this week and how they did:
No. 1 against No. 2 this early in the season is always fun. In what could be a national championship preview, the Zags will meet the Bears after both teams finish a tough match-up earlier in the week — No. 5 Illinois for Baylor and No. 11 West Virginia for Gonzaga. The Bulldogs will lean heavily on leading scorer Drew Timme (26.5 ppg). Baylor will look to athletic guards Jared Butler, Mark Vital and Davion Mitchell. Katz sees Gonzaga squeaking by due to late-game heroics from Corey Kispert.
Katz's pick: Gonzaga
The other Jimmy V Classic match-up might be just as exciting. Two top-five teams in Baylor and Illinois battle it out in what could be a preview of a late tournament game this March. The Illini have one of the most lethal guard-forward combos in the country with Ayo Dosunmu (25.7 ppg this season) and Kofi Cockburn (11.7 rpg), but Katz thinks Baylor's athleticism and length will be too much for Illinois to handle.
Katz's pick: Baylor
Result: Correct! Baylor 82, Illinois 69
Outside of the Champions Classic, there is another basketball event showcasing some high-profile teams — the Jimmy V Classic. Gonzaga vs. West Virginia tips off Wednesday in Indianapolis with both teams undefeated heading into the match-up. Katz gives the edge to Gonzaga, but they'll have to fight for it. WVU's frontcourt, with Oscar Tshiebwi and Derek Culver, can match up pretty well against Drew Timme and Anton Watson, but the difference comes in the Zags' backcourt with new transfer Andrew Nembhard. Katz thinks he'll be the difference-maker in this game.
Katz's pick: Gonzaga
Result: Correct! Gonzaga 87, West Virginia 82
In a typical season, any team entering Cameron Indoor Stadium in a non-conference game would have its back up against the wall. The Blue Devils are 295-9 in non-conference home games since Coach K took over in 1980. But this is not a typical season. Katz thinks the Spartans will continue to roll in the first game of the Champions Classic because of their strong start to the season and with no Cameron Crazies in attendance for the Dec. 1 match-up. MSU beat Eastern Michigan and Notre Dame in their first two games of the season.
Katz's pick: Michigan State
Result: Correct! Michigan State 75, Duke 69
In the second Champions Classic match-up, we have another battle between college basketball powerhouses — No. 7 Kansas against No. 20 Kentucky. Unlike the previous Champions Classic game, this one will be played at a neutral site in Indianapolis. Both teams already have one loss. The Jayhawks lost to No. 1 Gonzaga, 102-90, in their first game of the year, and the Wildcats were upset by a veteran-led Richmond squad, 76-64. Katz thinks Kansas' ability to score early in the season — putting up 90 points against the Zags, and then 94 points against St. Joe's — will be its ticket to victory.
Katz's pick: Kansas
Result: Correct! Kansas 65, Kentucky 62.
In a bonus pick, Katz and March Chadness broke down the match-up between No. 4 Wisconsin and in-state foe Marquette. They'll face off Friday night at Marquette's home court, but Katz thinks this will be another example of how the home team won't have the advantage they're used to because of no fans. Also, Wisconsin has been rolling and might emerge as the Big Ten Champion at the end of the season.
Katz's pick: Wisconsin
Result: Wrong. Marquette 67, Wisconsin 65