Around the Top 25: Jan. 25

Story posted 7 days ago in CommRadio, Sports by Parker Silverman

This week’s action features one ranked-on-ranked matchup, and an interesting tripleheader in the SEC vs. Big-12 challenge.

Thursday night features a PAC-12 intrastate rivalry, between the USC Trojans and the No. 8 UCLA Bruins. The Bruins currently sit at the top of PAC-12 conference, with Southern Cal only trailing by two games. A pivotal stand on home floor here could prove influential for the Trojans’ potential seeding come March.

USC comes in off a big win over division foe Arizona State. The leading scorer for USC is senior guard Boogie Ellis, who is averaging over 15 points per game, and shooting over 40% from the field.

UCLA features a more balanced offensive attack, with star guard Jaime Jaquez Jr. leading the team in both points and rebounds. JJJ is averaging over 16 and seven per game, making him one of the most feared guards in the conference.

The next marquee matchup of the week comes from the Big-12/SEC showdown Saturday, as No. 12 Iowa State takes on Missouri. The Cyclones currently hold a three way tie for first place in the Big-12 conference, shared with the likes of No. 5 Kansas State and No. 10 Texas. Missouri remains unranked, but still on the precipice of making the March Madness tournament.

The Tigers have dropped three out of their last five, and will look to flip the script this weekend. Senior guard Kobe Brown leads Missouri in points and rebounds, averaging nearly 16 and six per game. Brown is shooting a whopping 57% from the field this season, and almost 80% from the line.

Iowa State presents a tough task for any defense, with a ton of dual-threat scorers. Leading the way is senior Jaren Holmes, who’s putting up 13.5 points a night.

Another heavyweight Big-12/SEC showcase comes later Saturday evening, as No. 10 Texas takes on No. 5 Tennessee. The Longhorns sit atop the Big-12, while the Volunteers are still a game back on the Crimson Tide, despite being in the AP Top-5.

ESPN’s matchup predictor gives the Vol’s a 83.4% chance of victory. Tennessee provides a great backcourt, led by senior guard Marcus Carr. Carr is averaging nearly 18 points per game, and commands this Tennessee team at both ends.

On the other side, Texas features a more balanced attack, starting with senior guard Santiago Vesca. The 6’3 player from Uruguay showcases his unique skill set every time on the court, averaging nearly 13 points per game.

Moving to the third and final SEC/Big-12 matchup, as No. 9 Kansas takes on unranked Kentucky. Kansas has faltered as they begin conference play, going 5-3 and losing three straight. They fell the most spots in the AP poll this past week in the last five years.

Kentucky will look to capitalize on that inconsistency, as they have looked solid as of late. After a shaky start to the year, the Wildcats have won their last four in a row, including knocking off No. 5 Tennessee and Georgia.

They will have to find a way to stop superstar Jalen Wilson, who leads the Jayhawks in scoring. Wilson sits in the top-60 in the nation in both points and rebounds, averaging nearly 22 and nine every night.

On the other bench, reigning National Player of the Year Oscar Tshiebwe prepares. Tshiebwe is one of the most imposing forces in all of college basketball, leading the NCAA in rebounds at almost 14 a game, while averaging nearly 17 points a night. Tshiebwe will have to limit open lanes early and often if his team wants to pull off the upset and extend their winning streak.

Tune in to watch all the action, as the SEC’s premier teams look to stop the powerhouses of the Big-12.

Parker Silverman is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, please email pws5405@psu.edu.