Friday, December 2, 2005

Weekend Preview

If you haven't watched a college basketball game yet this season, I highly suggest that you tune in for the next two days. It will be the first weekend of the college basketball season that is jam-packed with quality games from noon on Saturday until Sunday night (actually, Monday morning). Should be some great basketball.

North Carolina at Kentucky (Saturday, 12:00 PM, CBS)- Two of the most storied programs in the land battle it out. Both teams are not as good as they were a year ago, although Kentucky as a lot more going for them than do the Tar Heels. Rajon Rondo is going to dominate UNC’s young backcourt, while Rekalin Sims is the main man down low. It will be interesting to see Tyler Hansbrough against the Wildcats’ interior players. David Noel and Reyshawn Terry round out the very good frontcourt.

Michigan at Notre Dame (Saturday, 2:00 PM, ESPN2)- Two teams known for underachieving that could finally breakthrough to the NCAA Tournament this season. The Wolverines’ have a very potent trio in guards Daniel Horton and Lester Abram and big man Courtney Sims. On the other hand, Notre Dame counters with guards Chris Quinn and Colin Falls and big man Torin Francis.

Xavier at Illinois (Saturday, 2:00 PM, ESPN Full Court)- A chance for the Musketeers to enhance their at-large profile on the road against the defending National Runner-up. They are a very deep and balanced club that is led by the inside-outside duo of Stanley Burrell and Brian Thornton. The Fighting Illini look like they are still trying to find their identity. Dee Brown and James Augustine have been very solid, but no one else has really stood out.

Bucknell at DePaul (Saturday, 2:00 PM)- Another shot for Bucknell to beat a major-conference team on the road, after defeating Syracuse last week. The trio of perimeter players Kevin Bettoncourt and Charles Lee and big man Chris McNaughton is very difficult to stop. DePaul jumped on the map after blowing out Creighton. Karron Clarke and Sammy Mejia are a solid duo.

Temple at Pennsylvania (Saturday, 2:30 PM)- Two of Philadelphia’s programs go at it for city bragging rights. The Owls have been extremely inconsistent this season, but have one of the best players in the country in Mardy Collins. Antwane Robinson and Mark Tyndale provide scoring in the frontcourt. Penn, the Ivy favorite, have an explosive guard in Ibrahim Jaaber as well as two other options in Eric Osmundson and Steve Danley.

Memphis at Cincinnati (Saturday, 3:00 PM, ESPN)- Another chance for Memphis to get a quality win in front of a national audience, considering they won’t get many opportunities in Conference USA. The Tigers are one of the most athletic teams in the country, and have one of the best trios around in Darius Washington and forwards Rodney Carney and Shawne Williams. Cincinnati has struggled without coach Bob Huggins, but will put up a good fight. Wing James White is very versatile, while big man Eric Hicks and freshman point guard Devan Downey are productive performers.

Georgetown at Oregon (Saturday, 3:00 PM, FSN)- One of the more underrated games across the country. It could have major bubble implications come March. The Hoyas have an excellent frontcourt in Brandon Bowman, Jeff Green, and Roy Hibbert, as well as some solid guards. Oregon is deep and talented. The perimeter trio of Malik Hairson, Bryce Taylor, and Aaron Brooks is up there with the best in the country. If Georgetown gets better backcourt play, and Oregon gets better frontcourt play, these teams could be sleepers come March.

South Carolina at Clemson (Saturday, 4:00 PM, FSN)- The other Carolina’s two best teams battle it out for supremacy. The Gamecocks are a versatile group that is athletic and are very good on the offensive glass. Guards Tarence Kinsey and Tre Kelley are very good scorers, while Renaldo Balkman provides most of the frontcourt production. Clemson is a surprising 5-0, and could go into ACC play undefeated should they win this game. Seven players average nine points per game or more, led by guard Shawan Robinson and forward Akin Akingbala.

Oklahoma at Villanova (Saturday, 5:00 PM, ESPN)- Click here for my complete preview of the Game of the Week.

Arizona at Houston (Saturday, 7:00 PM, ESPN2)- Could be the most overlooked good game of the weekend. The Wildcats are a very talented, deep team with plenty of options. Chris Rodgers and Mustafa Shakur have been all-around productive performers, while Hassan Adams is a stat-stuffer that can do nearly everything on the court. Houston comes in fresh off a win on the road against LSU. The backcourt of Oliver Lafayette and Lanny Smith has been outstanding, while Jahmar Thorpe and a host of forwards contribute up front.

Western Kentucky at Eastern Kentucky (Saturday, 7:00 PM)- Two of the best teams in the Bluegrass state outside of the Wildcats of Kentucky and the Louisville Cardinals. WKU is led by the wing duo of Anthony Winchester and Courtney Lee, who are combining for 42 points and 11 rebounds per game. EKU has lost to three quality clubs but are a threat to make the NCAA Tournament. Guards Matt Witt, Jason McLeish and Mike Rose, along with big man Alonzo Hird, give the Colonels a variety of options.

Northern Illinois at Toledo- (Saturday, 7:00 PM)- Two of the better teams in the MAC open up the conference season. Northern Illinois is very deep and balanced, and is led by the inside-outside duo of Todd Peterson and James Hughes. Toledo counters with a very good trio in forwards Keonta Howell and Florentino Valencia and guard Justin Ingram.

Winthrop at Alabama (Saturday, 8:00 PM)- Another mostly overlooked game on the Saturday docket. Winthrop is one of the best mid-majors in the country, and owns a win at Marquette. Big guards Torrell Martin and James Shuler are athletic and solid on the perimeter, while Craig Bradshaw gives the Eagles a viable option down low. Alabama is tough to stop in the paint, with Chuck Davis and Jermareo Davidson (16 and 13 per game) setting up shop on the block. Ronald Steele and Justin Jonus are the lone contributors in the backcourt.

UAB at Nebraska (Saturday, 8:00 PM)- Could have bubble implications come March. UAB is, as usual, deep and athletic and like to play pressure defense. Forward Demario Eddins leads the way, while the perimeter gets ample production from Marvett McDonald, Wen Mukubu, and Cardell Johnson. Nebraska is going to be a sleeper in the Big 12. Guards Jason Dourisseau, Joe McCray, and Jamel White are solid, while Wes Wilkinson and Aleks Maric are an excellent duo down low.

Loyola Chicago at Northern Iowa (Saturday, 8:00 PM)- Two mid-majors battle out in the Midwest. Loyola is a solid 4-0, with wins over MVC teams Evansville and Bradley. Five guys average in double figures, led by do-it-all wing Blake Schilb and double-double big man Leon Young. Guard J.R. Blount goes for 15 a game. Northern Iowa is a top candidate to be a Cinderella come March. Ben Jacobson and Erik Crawford have underachieved this season on the perimeter, but big men Eric Coleman and Grant Stout have been very good down low.

Nevada at Pacific (Saturday, 10:00 PM)- Two of the West’s best go at it. Pacific is not going to be as good as it has the past few seasons, but it will contend for the Big West title. Christian Maraker is one of the better mid-major big men, while guards Johnny Gray and Mike Webb are a very good backcourt duo. The Tigers are deep and have lots of options. On the other hand, Nevada uses only about eight players. However, it is a very good rotation. Nick Fazekas is one of the best post players in the country and can dominate a game. Wings Marcellus Kemp and Mo Charlo are two very good options for the Wolfpack.

Akron at California (Saturday, 10:30 PM)- Another underrated game. Akron is one of the main contenders in the always-tough MAC. The Zips are led by an excellent frontcourt, including star big man Romeo Travis and double-figure scorers Darryl Peterson and Rob Preston. Guard Nick Dials is the main option in the backcourt. Travis will have to go up against one of the best power forwards in the country in Cal’s Leon Powe. He had 27 and 10 in his first game back from injury. Five other players average in double figures, including the solid backcourt of Ayinde Ubaka and Richard Midgley. Center Devon Hardin is an excellent player on the low-block that will relieve some of the pressure from Powe.

Virginia Tech at Duke (Sunday, 8:00 PM, FSN)- The ACC opens Sunday night with a match-up between a probable bubble team and a probable #1 seed. Duke has had quality wins against Memphis and Indiana, and will contend for a national title. JJ Redick and Shelden Williams are the best inside-outside combo in the country, while the freshman duo of Greg Paulus and Josh McRoberts has been solid. Virginia Tech has been inconsistent, but will likely contend for an NCAA berth. The Hokies have one of the better trios around in guards Jamon Gordon and Zabian Dowdell and post player Coleman Collins. Forward Deron Washington averages over 14 a game.

Gonzaga at Washington (Sunday, 10:30 PM)- This is likely going to be the second best game of the weekend (besides Oklahoma-Villanova). The shootout in the West will be a battle of dominant frontcourts and solid backcourts, each with an extremely good guard. Gonzaga has been one of the five best teams in the country so far this season, with wins over Maryland and Michigan State. Adam Morrison has solidified himself as possibly the best player in the nation, averaging 27 points per game. Post player JP Batista has been nearly impossible to stop down low, going for 21 and 9 a contest. Sean Mallon is a solid forward. In the backcourt, Derek Raivio is vastly underrated on a national level. He is an outstanding long-range shooter that controls a game very well. Jeremy Pargo leads a host of decent perimeter players for the Zags. Washington is not going to fall off as much as people think out in the Pac-10. Five players average double figures in points, and ten players average at least 13 minutes per game. The Huskies are led by their frontcourt trio of forwards Bobby Jones, Jamaal Williams, and freshman Jon Brockman. Jones is an outstanding defender that is very versatile; Williams is a bull down low; and Brockman has been possibly the most impressive freshman in the country so far. Brandon Roy is one of the best all-around guards in the nation. He is a good scorer and passer on offense, rebounds well, and racks up steals and blocks. Ryan Appleby is an excellent three-point shooter that can score. Washington has numerous options in both the backcourt and frontcourt, including point guard Justin Dentmon, who is averaging 5 assists per game. Too bad this game won’t be televised nationally. It should be a great one.

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