The big game of the week is, of course, the Super Bowl on Sunday in which we hope the Chiefs can finish a difficult season with a parade. Injuries have made this season much harder than expected but the team its playing the best it has under the leadership of Patrick Mahomes so there is a good chance for a win in this game.
Leading up to the big game is a lot of good conference play in college basketball. The Big 12 is an interesting race but nothing like the Big Ten this year. I have a little bit of everything for you this week. Enjoy!
Here is the best of The Week Ahead…
BEST OF THE WEEK: Super Bowl – Kansas City vs San Francisco (5:30pm Sunday on FOX)
This is a no-brainer. Patrick Mahomes, the best quarterback in the NFL, leads the Kansas City Chiefs against the San Francisco 49ers in Miami, Florida. This is a matchup of the two fastest offenses as judged by the average top speed of the ball carriers in the 2019 season including the playoffs. The Chiefs averaged 13.36 mph, just ahead of the 49ers 13.35 mph. The league average was 12.97 mph. The Chiefs are a one-point favorite in the game.
DON”T MISS: Texas Tech at Kansas (3pm Saturday on ESPN)
The Texas Tech Red Raiders reached the national championship game last season but came up eight points shy of winning in an 85-77 loss to Virginia. Although Virginia has fallen off the map this season, Texas Tech has not. The Red Raiders are 12-7 overall and 3-3 in the Big 12. They have a tough week ahead of them as they host West Virginia on Wednesday and then travel to Lawrence to take on the Kansas Jayhawks.
Kansas is 16-3 overall and 5-1 in the Big 12 with the only conference loss coming at home against Baylor in a game the Jayhawks were dominated in after about the first ten minutes. Kansas plays Monday at Oklahoma State which will be the last game David McCormack will be suspended. He will return against Texas Tech. That will be huge for Kansas as we saw problems Saturday when Udoka Azubuike left the game and Bill Self didn’t have another big man to put in the game.
MONDAY: Kansas at Oklahoma State (8pm on ESPN)
Oklahoma State is 10-9 overall and 0-6 in the Big 12 but games in Stillwater are almost always difficult for Kansas. The Cowboys did snap a six-game losing streak with a 73-62 win over Texas A&M on Saturday in the Big 12 / SEC Challenge. The Cowboys’ last home game was a seven-point loss to Baylor which Oklahoma State led by nine at the half.
Kansas will try to get through one more game without David McCormack and stay within reach of Baylor in the Big 12 race. If Kansas plays well they should win this game by ten points but things rarely go the way they want in Stillwater. It should be one of the few packed houses in Stillwater this season.
WEDNESDAY: West Virginia at Texas Tech (7pm on ESPN+)
West Virginia is tied for 3rd in the Big 12 with TCU, trailing Baylor by two games and Kansas by one. The Mountaineers’ two conference losses came in the state of Kansas. They lost at Kansas by seven after leading at the half and Oscar Tshiebwe outplaying Udoka Azubuike in the first half. All of that changed quickly in the second half. Their other loss was a blowout in Manhattan by 16 points which the Wildcats dominated by shooting out of their minds in the game. Miles McBride came off the bench to score 22 points in the first matchup between these two teams.
This is the first of two tough games this week for Texas Tech. After hosting West Virginia on Wednesday, they have to travel to Lawrence, Kansas on Saturday for a game against the #1 team in the nation with David McCormack returning from suspension to give the Jayhawks some frontcourt depth. Texas Tech lost at West Virginia by 12 points on January 11. The Red Raiders struggled shooting the ball in that game, shooting just 33% from inside the arc and 21% from behind the arc.
SATURDAY: Kentucky at Auburn (5pm on ESPN)
The big game Saturday on ESPN is probably this one. Kentucky (5-1) trails LSU (6-0) by one game in the SEC and leads Auburn (4-2) and three other schools by one. The only conference loss for Kentucky was a three-point loss at South Carolina which they will be kicking themselves for if they finish a game back in the SEC. Kentucky hosts Vanderbilt on Wednesday in what should be an easier game for the Wildcats. KenPom has them losing this game by three.
Auburn is tied with Florida, Alabama, and Tennessee for third in the SEC at 4-2. They need this win to remain near the top of the conference since they have a return game in Lexington at the end of February. Auburn’s only two losses were back-to-back conference road games at Alabama and Florida. Fortunately for Auburn, they get Alabama at home in February but they don’t get another shot at Florida.
SUNDAY: Illinois at Iowa (Noon on FS1)
Illinois is one of the biggest surprises of the season for me. The last loss for the Illini came at Michigan State on January 2. Since then they have won six consecutive games in the toughest conference this season. Illinois hosts Minnesota on Thursday in a game they need before this one. KenPom predicts Iowa to win this game by five.
We recently learned of the passing of an Illinois great in Robert Archibald. Archibald was the center on two Big Ten championship teams and passed away recently at the young age of 39. Our prayers go out to his family and friends.
Is the Big Ten schedule always this strange and I’m just learning about this since they are so good this season or has it always been this way? Iowa didn’t play this weekend but they play Monday, Thursday, and Sunday next week. Regardless, if they want to finish near the top of the conference they need to win both home games this week. One of those games is this one against Illinois. KenPom thinks they will win, so there’s that.
Thanks for reading…