Games of the day for Saturday 2/20/21. Loaded schedule.

One of the final Saturdays of the regular season with a ton of things undecided. 

Illinois Fighting Illini (15-5) Minnesota Golden Gophers (13-9)

Quickly, this has become one of the more exciting matchups in the Big Ten this season for a multitude of reasons.

Minnesota is rapidly approaching the bubble in a bad-way; many times, when you hear that with teams, it’s a positive thing, quite the contrary for Minnesota. The Gophers simply hasn’t shown the ability to win games outside of the Barn. They haven’t won a single game outside of the Barn.

The Gophers struggled shooting whether it’s home-or-away, only 29% as a team, ranking 322nd in the country; you cannot be a good team shooting that poorly. The one difference from home and away shooting is Marcus Carr, who’s only 10-46 from deep on the road this season. When your best player isn’t performing, you can pinpoint one of the obvious issues right there. It’s a home game. 

Another thing worth stating is starting big-man Liam Robbins suffered an ankle injury a few weeks ago. That’s clearly hindered his play of late; he cannot sag off against Kofi Cockburn. 

Speaking of Cockburn, the ability the 7-foot, nearly 300-pound big-man has to take over the paint is special. It’s so tough to stop him once he’s positioned comfortably in the paint, with a nice distributor like Curbelo & Dosunmu.

Dosunmu may be the national player of the year currently. Ayo made a tough decision to return to school, but it looks like he made the correct decision with the historic season in Champaign. With Gabe Kalscheur potentially out again, that’ll make things tough not to have you defensive ace on Illinois’ star.

Keys to the game:

The Gophers have a grueling task against an elite Illinois defense. Threes will be a necessity for Minnesota to win this one.

The Illini will need to find a way to contain Marcus Carr, who becomes the best player in the country in the Barn.

Players to watch:

Illinois: Kofi Cockburn

Minnesota: Liam Robbins

Prediction:

Illinois: 78

Minnesota: 73

Virginia Cavaliers (15-4) Duke Blue Devils (9-8)

It’s been a brute season for Coach K’s Duke team this season, with likely missing the tournament & the issues with the Jalen Johnson leaving the team situation.

Without Jalen Johnson, Duke is 2-0 with two dominating victories over NC State & Wake with big performances from Jae’Myn Brakefield & Mark Williams, making Johnson’s loss not all that big.

The Blue Devils cannot defend the three-point line at all, one of the obvious problems. We could see that playing a role in this one with the way Virginia loves shooting the ball & making threes.

The Wahoos have some elite shooters in the form of Jay Huff, Sam Hauser, Tomas Woldetensae & Trey Murphy. That has disaster written all over it for Virginia. If those shooters hit shots, things will be problematic for Duke.

Virginia played their worst game of the season against FSU last time out. Now, they try wiping that bad taste out of their mouth in an empty Cameron Indoor. 

Keys to the game:

Virginia allowed Florida State to shoot 54% from deep in their most recent game. Constant shooters being left open, I’d imagine Tony Bennett addressed that afterward, but against a Duke team with one of the better shooters in the ACC in Matthew Hurt.

The Blue Devils look far better recently; keep playing on the perimeter & shooting threes.

Players to watch:

UVA: Jay Huff

Duke: Jae’Myn Brakefield

Prediction:

UVA: 74

Duke: 67

Texas Tech Red Raiders (14-6) Kansas Jayhawks (16-7)

 A rather large BIG 12 game in this one, TTU will face a grueling task in Allen Fieldhouse. TTU can play both ends of the floor at a high-level, particularly on the defensive end, with slight flashes on offense with nary consistency. That spotty consistency comes with the performance of soon-to-be All-American Mac McClung. In games, McClung performs at a high-level; things become infinitely better for the Red Raiders.

The offensive key doesn’t necessarily start with McClung. It starts with TJ Shannon, Kevin McCullar & Kyler Edwards; all three have to contribute for Tech to reach their peak. All three can score without a doubt. It just doesn’t come consistently.

Marcus Santos-Silva’s defense will be paramount for Chris Beard in this one facing Kansas’s go-to guy, David McCormack.

The Jayhawks haven’t had a very good offense this season, ranking 58th in offensive efficiency in the country, not something you’d see from a Bill Self squad too often. Part of the problem with this Kansas team is the lack of a go-to guy. You don’t have a Devontae Graham, or Malik Newman, or Devon Dotson; instead, you have five guys scoring double figures per-game, with none scoring more than 13 PPG. Agbaji and Braun are knockdown shooters. Look for them to play a significant role in this one.

Along with that, Jalen Wilson’s had a nice five-game stretch following the struggles after his earlier season success. Wilson’s had four double-doubles in those five games. Look for Wilson to have a big game in this one if the Jayhawks can emerge victoriously.

Big-man David McCormack’s vastly improved throughout the season after shooting below 40% from-the-field in the early stretches of the season. We’ve seen how important McCormack is to Kansas’s success all season long. In the first game between these two, McCormack had a disastrous game with seven points on 3-10 shooting.

Keys to the game:

Despite how elite Tech’s defense truly is, you need some sort of offensive production. Look for McClung needing to have a big game here.

The Jayhawks have to shoot the three consistently in this game.

Players to watch:

TTU: Marcus Santos-Silva

Kansas: Ochai Agbaji

Prediction:

TTU: 64

Kansas: 62

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