Monday, December 19, 2005

The Week Ahead


Northern Iowa at LSU- One of the top five games of the week. Northern Iowa is the best mid-major team in the country right now (other than Gonzaga, of course) and have a solid win over Iowa. Ben Jacobson is an excellent offensive player on the perimeter, while the inside tandem of Grant Stout and Erik Coleman is one of the better mid-major post duos. LSU is an SEC title contender whose best win is at West Virginia. Glen Davis is a double-double monster, while the freshman forward combo of Tasmin Mitchell and Tyrus Thomas has been excellent. Darrell Mitchell has been one of the best, and most improved, players in the conference.

Indiana at Charlotte- Rematch of last season's infamous game in which Brendan Plavich hit a shot from halfcourt as the buzzer sounded, giving Charlotte the victory. However, some think that he let the ball go after the buzzer. This season Indiana shouldn't have to worry about miracle shots. They are coming off of a 26-point win against Kentucky, and are looking like a threat to Michigan State and Illinois in the Big Ten. Marco Killingsworth is one of the best inside players in the nation currently, and DJ White is expected back from injury to help him against the 49ers. Marshall Strickland and Robert Vaden are two very good perimeter-oriented scorers who lead an extremely deep guard group for the Hoosiers. Charlotte has disappointed this season so far, going 5-4. Curtis Withers is an All-American candidate, and is a double-double threat everytime he steps on the court. De'Angelo Alexander is a very good wing, while Leemire Goldwire is another scorer on the perimeter.

Denver at Stanford- Could be closer than you think. Denver has Yemi Nicholson, an NBA prospect at center who averages a double-double. DaShawn Walker is the main man on the perimeter. However, the Pioneers have lost back-to-back games to North Dakota State and South Dakota State. Stanford is the biggest disappointment in the country, currently at 2-4. Chris Hernandez is an excellent point guard, while Dan Grunfeld is a solid scorer on the wing. Matt Haryasz is one of the best post players in the country, and puts up double-double numbers every time out.


Middle Tennessee State at Louisville- A game for the Cardinals to bounce back after their loss to Kentucky. However, MTSU is not a bad club. They are 5-2, led by guards Fats Cuyler and Adam Vogelsberg. 6-10 Kyle Young is the main man in the paint. Louisville needs a win after getting destroyed by Kentucky. Taquan Dean is an excellent guard, while Juan Palacios and David Padgett are a very good inside tandem.

Louisiana Tech at Memphis- A potentially underrated game. Memphis is the nation's most athletic team, with loads of depth all over the floor. Darius Washington is one of the best point guards in the country, when healthy, and the forward combo of Rodney Carney, the nation's top sixth manl, and Shawne Williams, the nation's best freshman, is extremely difficult to stop. Louisiana Tech is an inconsistent team, but have one of the best big men in the country in Paul Millsap. He is the best rebounder in the country and also puts up over 20 points per game.

Drake at Iowa- A matchup that has some potential for an upset. Iowa is not playing their best ball as a result of point guard Jeff Horner out with an injury for another 3 weeks. Greg Brunner is one of the best power forwards in the country, averaging close to a double-double. Adam Haluska is a superb scorer who plays better when Horner is one the floor (who wouldn't?). He had only 3 points in 42 minutes against Northern Iowa in a loss a couple of weeks ago. Drake is led by a solid trio in guards Chaun Brooks and Al Stewart and forward Ajay Calvin.

Oral Roberts at Utah State- A rematch of a game earlier this season, in which Utah State won on the road by 5. The Aggies are led by the inside-outside duo of guard Jaycee Carrol, a super scorer, and forward Nate Harris, an efficent player down low. Oral Roberts counters with one of the best perimeter-post duos in the country in Ken Tutt and Caleb Green. Green is one of the best big men in the nation, while Tutt is a streaky shooter. Larry Owens is a solid forward.


St. John's at Duke- Matchup that could be better than you think. St. John's always plays Duke tough, and even took down #2 Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium a few years back. They also beat them at the Garden a couple of years ago, and hung tight with them the entire game last season. This year, the Red Storm are 5-3, coming off of a bad loss to Marist. Darryl Hill is the main option on offense, although he has not been very efficient shooting the ball. Lamont Hamilton is a double-double threat inside. Duke is arguably the best team in the country, led by the All-American duo of guard JJ Redick and post player Shelden Williams. Redick is in the running for National Player of the Year, while Williams is unstoppable down low. Sean Dockery is the unheralded third wheel of the team, while Greg Paulus is developing into an excellent point guard.

Illinois-Chicago at Syracuse- Illinois-Chicago has defeated Georgia Tech, Ole Miss, and Northwestern already this season, while Syracuse has struggled against the likes of Manhattan, Cornell, and lost to Bucknell. UIC has an excellent forward duo in Justin Bowen and Othyus Jeffers, while Josh Mayo and Robert Bush anchor the backcourt. The Orange are led by guard Gerry McNamara, one of the best shooters in the country. He is having to play a lot of point guard this season, which is not his natural position. Demetris Nichols has developed into a very good wing player, and Terrence Roberts is a solid low-post option.

St. Joseph's at Bucknell- The battle for Pennsylvania pits two teams trying to get the nation's attention, although Bucknell and their wins against Kansas, Syracuse, and Pittsburgh over the last two years have received some recognition already. This season, the Bison also have a win at DePaul, in addition to the Syracuse win. Chris McNaughton is one of the best mid-major centers in the country, while Kevin Bettencourt and Charles Lee are a very good wing combo. St. Joe's has a quality win against Kansas, and are 4-2. Chet Stachitas, Abdulai Jalloh, and Dwayne Lee comprise one of the best perimeter trios in the nation, combining for about 48 points per game.

Missouri at Illinois- A rivalry game between a program that is trying to become a staple in the natonal picture and a program that has no idea where it's headed. Can you guess which program is which? Illinois is 11-0, with quality wins over Xavier, Georgetown, at North Carolina, at Oregon, and surprisingly decent wins against Wichita State and Rutgers. Dee Brown is one of the best point guards in the country, while James Augustine is developing into an excellent post player, nearly averaging a double-double. Jamar Smith is an excellent sixth man on the wing, and Rich McBride has provided good scoring. Missouri opened the season with a loss to Sam Houston State, and has not looked impressive since then. Thomas Gardner is the leading scorer in the Big 12 this season, and has two 30-point games so far. Jimmy McKinney and Marshall Brown are two more solid perimeter players.

Western Kentucky at Arizona- Fiesta Bowl Classic matchup. Arizona has shown a tendency to be undisciplined and sloppy this season, although they seemed very focused in their last win at Utah. Hassan Adams is a versatile player with loads of talent, while Chris Rodgers and Mustafa Shakur are a very good backcourt when playing to their potential. Western Kentucky has a good win at UAB, but has lost 2 of 3. They have one of the best backcourts, as well as one of the least known, in the country. Anthony Winchester is an outstanding three-point shooter who had a five-game streak earlier in the season in which he scored at least 25 points in each game. He is also a solid rebounder. Courtney Lee is an outstanding defender that gets to the basket on the offensive end. Both average 20 points per game.

Arkansas at Texas Tech- A game between two teams that could be headed for opposite sides of the bubble in March. Arkansas has looked fairly impressive so far, with wins against Kansas and Missouri State. Ronnie Brewer is one of the best all-around players in the country, and a strong candidate for SEC Player of the Year. On the other wing, Jonathan Modica is a very good scorer. Dontell Jefferson is an excellent distributor at the point, while Darian Townes and Charles Thomas have held their own down low. Texas Tech has showed their youth and inexperience thus far. They are 6-5, with bad losses to San Francisco, Louisiana Tech, and UNLV. Jarrius Jackson and Martin Zeno form one of the best backcourt duos in the country, combining for almost 35 points per game. Dior Lowhorn is a solid but undersized inside player.

Georgia at Nevada- An underrated and overlooked game on this week's docket. Georgia has been a surprise so far this season, and had won seven in a row before losing this past week at Oregon State. Their top six in minutes played and points per game are all guards, led by do-it-all Billy Humphrey and one of the best freshman point guards in the country, Mike Mercer. Oh yeah--both of them come off the bench. Three other perimeter players average double-figures. Nevada has been one of the better non-BCS conference teams in the country. They have wins on the road against Pacific and Kansas, and their lone loss is to UCLA. Nick Fazekas is one of the best big men in the country, and can dominate a game. Mo Charlo is a versatile forward who is a slasher-type that can also rebound, while Marcelus Kemp is a very quick scorer that gets to the basket. His shooting is inconsistent from the outside, though.

North Carolina at USC- Last year's college basketball champ takes on last year's college football title winner. UNC is a surprising 6-1, with a very impressive win on the road against Kentucky. Tyler Hansbrough leads a quartet of freshmen that have been key in the excellent start to the season. He is one of the best big men in the ACC offensively already. Freshmen perimeter players Marcus Ginyard, Danny Green, and Bobby Frasor have also been instrumental for UNC. Upperclassmen forward David Noel and Reyshawn Terry combine with Hansbrough to make up one of the best frontcourts in the nation. Noel and Terry put up 28 points and 13 rebounds together. USC has won 7 in a row since starting the season with 2 losses to CS Northridge and Oral Roberts. The perimeter trio of Nick Young, Gabe Pruitt, and Lodrick Stewart leads the way. Young is a very good scorer who can also rebound the ball well; Pruitt is an underrated point guard who can do nearly everything on the court; and Stewart is an athletic defender who can shoot.

DePaul at California- A matchup between a team that could be a spoiler in the Big East and a team that should be in the running for the Pac-10 title. DePaul had back-to-back road wins against Dayton and Wake Forest last week before getting blown out by Old Dominion, and they have also beat UAB, Creighton, and Northwestern. They are led by do-it-all guard Sammy Mejia, while forward Karron Clarke is a solid performer up front. Draelon Burns is a good scorer, whether he comes off the bench or starts. California does not have any overly impressive wins, but had a bad loss to Eastern Michigan to open the season. That was, however, without their superstar big man. The Golden Bears have one of the best power forwards in the country in Leon Powe, who is averaging 23 points and 10 boards per game. Three other players average at least 12 points per game, including the very good backcourt of Ayinde Ubaka and Richard Midgley. Center Devon Hardin is an excellent player on the low-block that relieves some of the pressure from Powe.


Tennessee at Oklahoma State

Florida at Miami (Fl.)

La Salle at Villanova- Two undefeated teams from Philadelphia go at it in a classic Big 5 matchup. Villanova has the best backcourt in the country, by far. Randy Foye (22.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 3.6 apg, 1.4 spg) has been one of the best players in the country so far, while Allan Ray (20.4 ppg) is an outstanding scorer. Mike Nardi (12.4 ppg, 3.3 apg) and Kyle Lowry (9.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 3.1 apg) also start on the perimeter. Will Sheridan (4.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and Jason Fraser (4.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg) are providing decent production up front. The surprising Explorers of La Salle are led by All-American Steven Smith (23.0 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 2.3 spg). He is a legit star in the Atlantic-10. Guards Jermaine Thomas (12.6 ppg, 4.7 rpg) and Darnell Harris (10.1 ppg) form a solid backcourt, while Mike St. John (7.3 ppg, 7.0 rpg) is a good forward.

Charlotte at Rutgers

South Carolina at Temple

Old Dominion at UAB

West Virginia at Oklahoma- For an in-depth preview of this game, click here

North Carolina State at Alabama- Two big-name schools square off in a contest that will likely be in the 50s or 60s. Neither team is extremely efficient scoring the ball, and NC State’s slowdown game won’t allow this game to get in the 70s. Without Julius Hodge, NC State has relied on several players to get baskets on the offensive end. Five players average in double figures, led by versatile frontcourt player Ilian Evtimov (12.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg). Cedric Simmons (11.8 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 3.1 bpg) and Gavin Grant (10.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 3.7 apg) have both developed into very solid players at both ends of the floor in their sophomore years.The backcourt trio of Engin Atsur (10.3 ppg, 4.8 apg, 1.9 spg), Tony Bethel (7.6 ppg, 2.1 apg, 1.1 spg), and Cameron Bennerman (10.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 1.1 spg) provides the Wolfpack with everything they need offensively and defensively. Alabama has an excellent post duo in Chuck Davis (18.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.1 bpg) and Jermareo Davidson (12.1 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 2.5 bpg), while freshman Richard Hendrix (6.9 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.9 bpg) comes off the bench to give the Tide quality minutes. However, their guards are lacking severely. Other than Ronald Steele (9.5 ppg, 3.8 apg, 1.8 spg), one of the SEC’s best point guards, the perimeter players are not very consistent or overly productive. Justin Jonus (9.1 ppg, 53% 3-pt), Alonzo Gee (7.9 ppg), and Jean Felix (5.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg) don’t generate much attention from the defense.

Dayton at Cincinnati


Iona at Kentucky- One of the best mid-major teams in the country heads to Rupp Arena to face a team coming off a blowout rivalry victory. Iona has an excellent backcourt in Steve Burtt (24.9 ppg) and Ricky Soliver (16.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 5.4 apg, 3.4 spg), as well as a very solid forward in Kiril Wachsmann (12.0 ppg, 8.1 rpg). Kentucky has the best point guard in the country in Rajon Rondo (16.1 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 5.3 apg, 2.1 spg), and a host of guards providing depth in the backcourt. The inside game of the Wildcats is not overly productive, but Sheray Thomas (5.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg), Bobby Perry (6.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg), and Rekalin Sims (7.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg) are decent.

Northern Iowa at Dayton

LSU at Cincinnati- Both of these teams could end up being Top-6 seeds in the NCAA Tournament, or on the bubble until late February. Cincinnati is led by an excellent trio in freshman point guard Devan Downey (14.4 ppg, 3.3 apg, 2.6 spg), versatile forward James White (18.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.9 spg), and undersized double-double threat Eric Hicks (13.2 ppg, 8.7 rpg). Armein Kirkland (9.2 ppg) and Cedric McGowan (9.1 ppg, 7.3 rpg) are athletic scorers in the frontcourt. LSU has the best freshman tandem in the country in forwards Tasmin Mitchell (11.8 ppg, 7.9 rpg) and Tyrus Thomas (13.0 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 2.3 bpg). In addition to those two, they have one of the best low-post players in the country in center Glen Davis (18.6 ppg, 10.9 rpg). Guard Darrell Mitchell (19.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 5.8 apg, 2.5 spg) has been one of the best players in the SEC this season after taking over the playmaking duties. Darnell Lazare (9.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg) is another good player up front.

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