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Andy Wittry | NCAA.com | January 5, 2021

Predictions for Michigan vs. Northwestern and 7 other huge matchups this week

College basketball rankings: Northwestern is legit, plus more Power 36 notes

On this week's episode of the March Madness 365 podcast, Andy Katz and Chad "March Chadness" Aycock broke down and predicted the winner for some of the top college basketball games on the schedule. Katz was joined on the podcast by NCAA Senior Vice President for Basketball Dan Gavitt and Missouri's Mark Smith.

Katz was 3-3 with his predictions last week, so his overall record is now 22-12. So, let's get to it.

Here are Katz's predictions and final results for his games to watch this week in college basketball. Katz went 3-5 on the week.

No. 19 Northwestern at No. 10 Iowa | 9 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Dec. 29 | FS1

Northwestern sits alone atop the Big Ten standings entering Tuesday's matchup, thanks to the Wildcats' 3-0 conference record. Iowa, meanwhile, was one of the preseason favorites to win the Big Ten's regular-season title and the Hawkeyes split their first two conference games.

Northwestern already matched its conference win total from last season — seriously! — so the Wildcats have already made significant strides, and a road win against Iowa would hammer home that point even more. But can Northwestern's much-improved offense keep pace with the potent Hawkeyes?

Katz's pick: Iowa

Result: Correct! Iowa, 87-72

LAST MARCH: Here's how March Madness contenders are playing compared to last spring

No. 7 Tennessee at No. 12 Missouri | 9 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Dec. 30 | SEC Network

There are four undefeated teams left in the SEC through Dec. 28 and two of them will square off in Columbia, Missouri, on Dec. 30 in this matchup between top-15 teams. The Volunteers, led by a defense that ranks third nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, per kenpom.com, will put to the test the notion that "defense travels," when they face the Tigers, who have a top-30 defense of their own.

Katz's pick: Missouri

Result: Wrong! Tennessee, 73-53

No. 21 Minnesota at No. 6 Wisconsin | 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 31 | BTN

This border battle will feature two of the nine (!) Big Ten teams that are ranked in the latest AP poll. Both schools will bring a 2-1 conference record into the matchup and they're among the four teams that were tied for fourth place in the conference entering Tuesday. Wisconsin ranks in the top 10 nationally in offensive and defensive efficiency, but Minnesota has already upset Iowa, proving its capable of knocking off the Big Ten's best teams.

Katz's pick: Wisconsin

Result: Correct! Wisconsin, 71-59

No. 8 Texas at No. 3 Kansas | 12 p.m. ET on Saturday, Jan. 2 | ESPN2

Kansas is riding an eight-game winning streak since its season-opening loss to No. 1 Gonzaga. Texas' only blemish is a four-point loss to Villanova. These aren't just two of the best teams in the Big 12, they're two of the best teams in the country. If you like defense, this is the game for you. Texas ranks fourth in defensive efficiency and Kansas ranks sixth. Points will come at a premium in Lawrence on Saturday.

Katz's pick: Kansas

Result: Wrong! Texas, 84-59

No. 12 Missouri at Arkansas | 12 p.m. ET on Saturday, Jan. 2 | CBS

Three days after facing Tennessee, the highest-ranked team in the SEC, Missouri goes on the road to play Arkansas in Bud Walton Arena, traditionally one of the strongest home-court advantages in the country. The Razorbacks are undefeated this season, but have yet to beat a team that's ranked in the top 100 on kenpom.com through Dec. 28. A win over No. 12 Missouri would make a statement for Arkansas.

Katz's pick: Arkansas

Result: Wrong! Missouri, 81-68

No. 10 Iowa at No. 14 Rutgers | 2 p.m. ET on Saturday, Jan. 2 | ESPN2

When more than half the teams in a conference are ranked, you're bound to have a lot of top-25 matchups. This one, between Iowa and Rutgers, should be a good one. The high-powered Hawkeyes take on a Scarlet Knights squad that has a top-15 defense. Come for National Player of the Year candidate Luka Garza, stay for Ron Harper Jr., who's a potential All-America candidate in his own right.

Katz's pick: Rutgers

Result: Wrong! Iowa, 77-75

No. 24 Virginia Tech at No. 23 Virginia | 4 p.m. ET on Saturday, Jan. | ACC Network

These two in-state rivals will be fighting for positioning in the ACC standings and the AP poll. A loss could potentially knock either team out of the AP Top 25. Virginia Tech won its conference opener against Clemson, while through Dec. 28, Virginia is one of two teams in the conference, along with Wake Forest, that hasn't played an ACC game this season. Through its first six games, Virginia lost to the two best teams it played (Gonzaga and San Francisco), and the third-best team it has faced (Kent State), took the Cavaliers to overtime.

Katz's pick: Virginia

Update: Game postponed

No. 20 Duke at No. 18 Florida State | 8 p.m. ET on Saturday, Jan. 2 | ESPN2

This is a matchup between the ACC team that's the highest-ranked in kenpom.com (Duke) and the reigning ACC champion (Florida State). It could very well help decide who finishes the season atop the conference standings. These two schools have played some exciting games in recent years, including Duke's five-point win last February in Durham and the Blue Devils' two-point win on Cam Reddish's game-winning 3-point in 2019.

Katz's pick: Florida State

Update: Game postponed

No. 19 Northwestern at No. 16 Michigan | 7:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, Jan. 3 | BTN

Northwestern will put its first-place standing on the line in its next two Big Ten games as the Wildcats face Iowa and Michigan on the road in a six-day span. Michigan, which is also undefeated in conference play through Dec. 28, has a top-10 offense thanks to its elite 2-point efficiency and its ability to make more than 77 percent of its free throws. Meanwhile, Northwestern is a top-15 3-point shooting team thanks to its 40.9-percent accuracy from outside. This one might come down to whether Northwestern's ability to make threes can keep pace with Michigan's tendency to get easy looks inside.

Katz's pick: Northwestern

Result: Wrong. Michigan 85, Northwestern 66.

No. 25 Ohio State at No. 21 Minnesota | 5:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, Jan. 3 | BTN

As of Dec. 29, kenpom.com projects this game to end in a 75-74 win for Minnesota at home, so expect a good one in Minneapolis. Ohio State's offense ranks eighth nationally in terms of efficiency, thanks to a group that takes care of the ball, crashes the offensive glass and gets to the free-throw line with regularity. Minnesota will counter with an All-Big Ten-level performer in Marcus Carr, who's making 40 percent of his threes and assisting on nearly 40 percent of his team's baskets while he's on the floor.

Katz's pick: Minnesota

Result: Correct! Minnesota 77, Ohio State 60.

 
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