Column: Sports Prediction Central, Edition 9

Predictions for the best games around the sports world this week

Brent Gelick / Talon

Welcome to the ninth edition of Sports Predictions Central, a column for predictions of the best games on the sports slate this week. 

In this all college basketball edition during the final week of the regular season, we will be predicting and breaking down the outcomes of the following pivotal games on the road to the big dance: #17 Oklahoma State vs. #6 West Virginia, #4 Illinois vs. #7 Ohio State, USC vs. UCLA, Duke vs. North Carolina and #18 Texas Tech vs. #3 Baylor.

#17 Oklahoma State vs. #6 West Virginia, Saturday, March 6, 11 a.m.

Adam: A fantastic matchup in the Big 12, both these teams have been playing extremely competitive basketball of late. Oklahoma State, led by probable first overall pick Cade Cunningham, has surged into the top 25 after back to back wins over Oklahoma. West Virginia dropped a tough one in overtime to Baylor, but played extremely well nonetheless. Ultimately, I believe West Virginia will pull this one out, but it’ll be tight the whole way through.

West Virginia 79, Oklahoma State 75

Alex: Coming off a huge victory against their rival Oklahoma, Oklahoma State looks to continue this hot streak against West Virginia. Cade Cunningham, after an astounding performance against Oklahoma, looks to lead the Cowboys past the Mountaineers on Saturday night. I see this game coming down to the wire, with Oklahoma State pulling off the upset down the stretch.

Oklahoma State 89, West Virginia 82

Eric: With one of the best freshmen in the country, in Cade Cunningham, Oklahoma State has come away with big wins recently. However, I think West Virginia has too much depth and talent for Oklahoma State in this Big 12 match. 

West Virginia 82, Oklahoma State 77

Final Score: Oklahoma Stata 85, West Virginia 80

#4 Illinois vs. #7 Ohio State, Saturday, March 6, 1 p.m.

Adam: This may very well be a battle for a one seed in the NCAA tournament. Ohio State has been slumping of late, while Illinois has been doing just the opposite — even without their best player, Ayo Dosunmu. I expect Illinois to keep it up in this one. Even with Dosunmu’s health in question, they have shown that they are a dangerous team with or without him.

Illinois 73, Ohio State 64

Alex: Illinois has been dominant all season long and though Ohio State is a tough opponent, they will pull off the victory in a striking fashion. I’m expecting a huge scoring game from Illinois, proving why they are the #4 ranked team in the nation.

Illinois 72, Ohio State 66

Eric: After cming off a dominating win over an excellent Michigan team, Illinois has been clicking on all cylinders lately. Ohio State has lost three games in a row and I expect that streak to continue against Illinois.

Illinois 79, Ohio State 70

Final Score: Illinois 73, Ohio State 68

USC vs. UCLA, Saturday, March 6, 1 p.m.

Adam: A pivotal for both of these teams’ NCAA tournament seedings, these crosstown rivals should make for a great game on Saturday in Westwood. Considering the hand of cards UCLA has been dealt, they are outperforming substantially. They lost their star, Chris Smith, early in conference play to a season-ending ACL injury, and also lost one of their few post presences in Jalen Hill. USC has been struggling of late after a hot streak earlier in the season. Despite USC having the far more talented roster, this game will come down to coaching. Mick Cronin has done a fantastic job with turning UCLA around and is a contender for his second straight Pac-12 coach of the year award. For that reason and that reason alone, UCLA will take this one.

UCLA 61, USC 56

Alex: After a super-hot streak of games, USC has cooled down recently, looking to get another signature win over the Bruins, in order to establish themselves within the Pac-12 and March Madness tournament. Evan Mobley will come out huge for the Trojans when it matters most and while it will be a close game, look for USC to come out on top once again.

USC 81, UCLA 78

Eric: USC and UCLA, two universities with a storied past, face off against each other, with both teams having great seasons. Isaiah and Evan Mobley, two forwards for USC, have been close to dominant all season. In addition, UCLA does not have much size, after losing Chris Smith and Jalen Hill. Even though USC has the advantage, I see this game being close, due to the rivalry.

USC 70, UCLA 65

Final Score: USC 64, UCLA 63

Duke vs. North Carolina, Saturday, March 6, 3 p.m.

Adam: Another storied rivalry, both these teams find themselves fighting for their tournament hopes in this one. After projected lottery pick Jalen Johnson opted out of the season for the Blue Devils, they have been playing marginally better. North Carolina got a huge win against Florida State last weekend thanks to some stellar play from Walker Kessler, but dropped one to Syracuse the next game. In the end, I think that Duke will pick up a huge resume-building win.

Duke 77, North Carolina 72

Alex: Duke has been playing very shaky basketball throughout the entirety of the season, showing signs of sparks while also hitting rock bottom. Both of these teams are merely a sliver of what they were in previous years, but I think Duke will benefit from the underdog mentality in this one. Duke will not let themselves drop two in one year to the Tarheels, securing the victory on Saturday afternoon.

Duke 84, North Carolina 79

Eric: After forward Jalen Johnson opted out of the season, Duke has benefited from his absence, however they are currently on a losing streak of two games. North Carolina has also been inconsistent this season, winning big games, but also dropping the games they are expected to win. I see this game being close due to the rivalry also, with Duke coming out on top. 

Duke 80, North Carolina 74

Final Score: UNC 91, Duke 73

#18 Texas Tech vs. #3 Baylor, Sunday, March 7, 1 p.m.

Adam: Texas Tech needs a win heading into the Big 12 tournament. They’ll be faced with a big challenge on Sunday as they’ll run into one of the best teams in the country in Baylor. Despite Mac McClung from Texas Tech being a lethal scorer, Baylor is just bigger, faster, stronger, and better. They won’t disappoint in this one, and should win in convincing fashion. 

Baylor 82, Texas Tech 70

Alex: Texas Tech faces an extremely tough opponent in Baylor on Sunday afternoon and to some surprise, I believe they’ll rise to the occasion. Texas Tech will be playing with a chip on their shoulder knowing they need a key victory heading into the Big 12 tournament and will get just that. Look for Texas Tech to pull off the upset on Sunday afternoon.

Texas Tech 80, Baylor 79

Eric: Baylor’s schedule has been tough, as they play in the Big 12, playing Top 25 teams weekly. Baylor has shown why they are the #3 team in the nation and I do not think that Texas Tech will be able to keep up with them.

Baylor 77, Texas Tech 69

Final Score: Baylor 88, Texas Tech 73

Current Prediction Standings (Through Eighth Edition):

Alex: 21-19 (3-2 last week)

Adam: 20-20 (3-2 last week)

Eric: 19-21 (2-3 last week)