Games of the day for 2/18/21. Will a projected one seed lose?

LSU Tigers (13-6) Ole Miss Rebels (12-8) (Ole Miss favored by one per KenPom)

An intriguing SEC matchup for numerous reasons, the Tigers look not fall closer to the bubble, while Ole Miss tries to climb up the bubble.

Kermit Davis’s Rebels have now gathered in four consecutive victories in three tough matchups, Mizzou, Tennessee, then on the road against Auburn & South Carolina. Going from 8-8 to 12-8 in the blink of an eye. 

You know what you’re getting with Will Wade’s Tigers at this point, a face-paced offensive-oriented team with subpar defense, a polar opposite of Ole Miss. 

That offense starts with the two guards, Cam Thomas & Javonte Smart. Speaking of the star freshman, Thomas, the talent is so evident. The only thing about it is he’s a shooter, for better, or for worse; if he’s 0-12, he’s going to keep shooting; if he’s 8-12, you better bet he’s going to KEEP shooting. Thomas can erupt for 30 any given night. It’ll be something to monitor here. 

I’m enamored with the matchup between strong point guard’s Javonte Smart for LSU & Devontae Shuler from Ole Miss, two fantastic scorers & facilitators. Smart is having a career season in all categories, similar to Shuler. The Ole Miss guard took on the role Breein Tyree left and ran with it, averaging 16-3-3. The player that prevails in this matchup could be the deciding factor in this one. 

LSU’s post-defense is going through dramatic struggles this season, allowing the opposition to score at a 52% clip from inside-the-arc. Facing a trio of efficient bigs in Romello White, Robert Allen & K.J. Buffen could create problems for Will Wade’s team.

Look for Jarkel Joiner to potentially get it going in this game; the CSUB transfer hasn’t had a great season after coming in with high expectations. Joiner’s a versatile scorer but is shooting just 21% from deep this season; It could be a get-right opportunity. 

Keys to the game:

Kermit Davis will need a better shooting performance than usual. The team shoots 28% from deep; they’ll have to improve that to compete with the high-powered LSU offense. 

LSU’s struggles on defense mostly come inside; find a way to contain the Rebs’ bigs here.

Players to watch:

LSU: Javonte Smart

Ole Miss: Devontae Shuler 

Prediction:

LSU: 81

Ole Miss: 74

Ohio State Buckeyes (17-4) Penn State Nittany Lions (7-10) (OSU favored by five per KenPom)

This matchup may not be overly exciting on the surface, but there’s a fair amount at stake. The Buckeyes are currently a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, which could change with a loss. 

The Buckeyes can score from anywhere on the floor. You get shooting from Duane Washington Jr (36%), Justin Ahrens (46%), Seth Towns (37%), having shooters like that combined with the inside scoring capabilities of guys like E.J. Liddell along with Justice Sueing & Zed Key; there’s a ton of offensive punch on this team. The defense can lack at times, however.

The Nittany Lions don’t offer a ton of paint presence, with John Harrar contributing in a limited capacity. The shooters of the team are what makes this team. The star of the team, Myreon Jones, shoots 39% from deep, with Sam Sessoms shooting 38% & Myles Dread at 34%. The Nittany Lions struggles to coincide with Seth Lundy’s struggles, a player that was firing on all cylinders to begin the season. Now, Lundy’s fallen so far down the totem pole that he isn’t starting anymore. Lundy is 2 for his last 24 from deep, those being in five games; in that same stretch, Lundy hasn’t scored more than eight points. For Penn State to have a shot, Lundy will have to appear like the Lundy of earlier this season. 

The gameplan for containing the Buckeyes slew of the bigs won’t be easy, but John Harrar will have to stay on the floor, along with potentially finding a path for Abdou Tsimbila some more minutes.

Keys to the game:

Buckeyes are getting their efficient bigs flowing early; that would be significant.

There’s virtually no chance for Jim Ferry’s crew to pull ahead without consistent shooting from deep.

Players to watch:

OSU: Zed Key

Penn State: Seth Lundy

Prediction:

OSU: 72

Penn State: 76

Iowa Hawkeyes (15-6) Wisconsin Badgers (15-7) (Wisconsin favored by one)

Fresh off an absolute gut-punch of a collapse on Sunday, Wisconsin looks to re-gain form against Iowa. I don’t entirely trust either team by any means; I think both have significant problems that leave them susceptible to an upset in March. 

There’s a noticeable problem with Wisconsin that appeared against Michigan. At all times, either Nate Reuvers or Micah Potter was on the floor, combining for 40 total minutes. How many rebounds did the two haul in combined? Zero, not a single rebound in forty minutes. Absolute disaster. The lack of strength from the two was obvious. The way Hunter Dickinson simply overpowered two for rebounds was so obvious; Luka Garza & Jack Nunge both are tremendous rebounders also. If the Badgers’ bigs can’t haul in rebounds, there will be issues in this game. 

Greg Gard has to get future-star freshman Jonathan Davis rolling in this game. It’s clear how talented the freshman is, a tremendous effort on all fronts. Get him involved in this game.

D’Mitrik Trice will also have to get it rolling again in this one, being only 7 for his last 31 threes; when Trice goes, this team goes. Right now, neither Trice nor the team is rolling. 

Obviously, Luka Garza is an absolute superstar but is coming off his worst performance in two years, the only game in the last two seasons where Garza’s had below 10 points. How does Garza bounce back in this one? It’s a golden opportunity with the struggles of Wisconsin bigs.

The key for Iowa will be Jordan Bohannon, the guy with family ties to Wisconsin. Bohannon has multiple siblings that played Collegiate Basketball for the Badgers. Yesterday, Bohannon had a hilarious quote when he said, “Wisconsin would have needed to give him a McDonald’s bag with 20,000 dollars to go to Wisconsin.” That is fantastic.

Keys to the game:

The Hawkeyes could look to continue to play a quick pace, but even more so in this one. Get Wisconsin out of their element.

Wisconsin needs to get more rebounds. You cannot lose the rebounding battle like they did against Michigan.

Players to watch:

Iowa: Jordan Bohannon

Wisconsin: Nate Reuvers

Prediction:

Iowa: 78

Wisconsin: 73

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