Friday, February 17, 2006

Weekend Preview

With conference tournaments and Selection Sunday right around the corner, teams are entering their final five games of the season. That means that bubble teams face must-wins across the board, while several other teams are fighting for seeds--both in conference tourneys and in the NCAA Tournament. In addition, this weekend is home to Bracket Buster Saturday. This set of games could mean the difference between the NCAA or the NIT to many teams should they not win their conference tournament. No matter what games you are interested in, there are plenty of options to choose from this weekend.

Top Games

Connecticut at West Virginia (Saturday, 3:45 PM, CBS)- Two of the Big East's best go at it. UConn hopes to avoid its second loss in a row, while the Mountaineers have lost two of three and are developing some inconsistency. Both teams are fighting for seeding in both the Big East and the NCAA Tournaments. Prediction: Connecticut 76, West Virginia 71

Tennessee at Alabama (Saturday, 4:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt)- Alabama is looking more like an NCAA team each day, but they need another quality win. This would do the trick. Tennessee is the favorite in the SEC title race, and are also fighting for a Top-2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Prediction: Tennessee 73, Alabama 68

Michigan at Michigan State (Saturday, 4:00 PM, ESPN)- Believe it or not, this game still has some say in the Big Ten title race. Michigan State needs to win so they don't drop to .500 in the conference, while Michigan has lost 3 of 4 and have to bounce back in a big way. Bragging rights are also on the line. Prediction: Michigan State 77, Michigan 68

Pittsburgh at Marquette (Saturday, 9:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt)- Marquette's win over Georgetown this past week might have cemented their ticket to the NCAA Tournament. Pittsburgh might be the least talked-about of the Big East heavyweights. However, they could be a Final Four sleeper come March. Prediction: Pittsburgh 67, Marquette 64

Georgetown at Villanova (Sunday, 12:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt)- Yet another high-quality Big East battle. Georgetown has struggled somewhat lately, losing two in a row. Villanova, on the other hand, is one of the hottest teams in the country after their impressive victory over Connecticut this past week. Prediction: Villanova 75, Georgetown 65

Key Conference Clashes

Iowa State at Oklahoma (Saturday, 1:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt)- This is Iowa State's last chance to stay in the at-large picture, while Oklahoma needs to boost their seeding. Prediction: Oklahoma 71, Iowa State 60

Kentucky at South Carolina (Saturday, 1:30 PM, CBS)- South Carolina has jumped into the NCAA race, while Kentucky faces a difficult stretch run the rest of the way. Only one of these two is making the Big Dance. Prediction: South Carolina 74, Kentucky 66

Florida at Arkansas (Saturday, 2:05 PM, ESPN FullCourt)- This is a must-win at home for Arkansas. If they lose, they can forget about getting a bid. Florida is looking for a Top-4 seed. Prediction: Florida 75, Arkansas 71

Virginia at Florida State (Saturday, 4:00 PM, ESPN Fullcourt)- Both of these teams are trying to work their way onto the bubble in the ACC. UVA is trying to stay above .500, while FSU is trying to get to .500. Prediction: Florida State 67, Virginia 59

Vanderbilt at Georgia (Saturday, 8:00 PM, FSN)- Vanderbilt is falling off the bubble due to lack of wins, while Georgia is on its last breath for the NCAA Tournament. The loser won't be mentioned again. Prediction: Georgia 73, Vanderbilt 65

Louisville at Syracuse (Saturday, 9:00 PM, ESPN)- Syracuse is looking to be the Big East's 8th team, while Louisville needs to win out from here on in. Prediction: Syracuse 65, Louisville 60

Arizona at Stanford (Sunday, 3:30 PM, CBS)- Two Pac-10 teams on the bubble. Arizona is in better shape due to their power numbers, while Stanford is in 3rd in the Pac-10 standings. Prediction: Stanford 69, Arizona 62

Indiana at Illinois (Sunday, 3:30 PM, CBS)- Three weeks ago, this would be one of the best games of the weekend. Instead, Indiana needs to start winning or they will miss the Field of 65. Prediction: Illinois 73, Indiana 59

Miami (Fl.) at Duke (Sunday, 5:30 PM, FSN)- Miami (Fl.) has the faintest of NCAA hopes after losing 3 in a row. Duke is locked in for the #1 overall seed come March. Prediction: Duke 82, Miami (Fl.) 68

UCLA at USC (Sunday, 8:00 PM, FSN)- Rivalry game out west. UCLA is fighting for a Pac-10 title, while USC is just trying to get to .500 in the conference. Prediction: UCLA 74, USC 70

Bracket Buster Saturday Games

For a complete preview of Bracket Buster Saturday, check out my "Top Ten Bracket Buster Games".

Bucknell at Northern Iowa (12:00 PM, ESPN2)- By far, the best game of the Bracket Buster. Both of these teams are likely to be dancing in March, no matter the outcome of this game or their respective conference tournaments. Just sit back and enjoy it. Prediction: Northern Iowa 66, Bucknell 60

Buffalo at Iona (12:00 PM, ESPN360)- Battle between two teams that started off the season very hot, but have cooled down considerably. However, Buffalo is below .500 in the MAC, while Iona leads the MAAC. Prediction: Iona 72, Buffalo 59

Butler at Kent State (12:30 PM, ESPNU)- Two teams that are fighting for regular season title in thier respective conferences. Butler is a half-game back of UW-Milwaukee, while Kent State is tied with Akron. Prediction: Kent State 71, Butler 66

Missouri State at Wisconsin-Milwaukee (2:00 PM, ESPN2)- Should be a high-scoring battle between two athletic teams that like to get up and down the court. Have two of the best profiles of any mid-major teams. Prediction: Wisconsin-Milwaukee 78, Missouri State 75

Northern Arizona at Western Kentucky (2:30 PM, ESPNU)- Two very underrated teams that are a combined 24-2 in conference play. Expect to see both of these teams in March. Prediction: Western Kentucky 73, Northern Arizona 63

Marist at Old Dominion (4:00 PM, ESPN2)- Neither team is competing for a conference championship, although Marist has won 11 of their last 13 games. ODU is one of the biggest disappointments in all of college basketball. Prediction: Old Dominion 74, Marist 67

Louisiana Tech at Southern Illinois (6:00 PM, ESPN2)- There are several mid-major stars in this battle between two teams that were atop their conferences a couple of weeks back. Paul Millsap leads Tech, while Jamaal Tatum heads SIU. Prediction: Southern Illinois 75, Louisiana Tech 69

George Mason at Wichita State (8:00 PM, ESPN2)- One of two games that pit two teams likely to make the NCAA Tournament regardless of what happens in their conference tournaments. Watch out for one of these teams to be a slepper in March. Prediction: Wichita State 73, George Mason 67

Samford at Ohio (8:00 PM, ESPN360)- Not much going on in this game. Ohio is a major disappointment at 8-6 in the MAC, while Samford is three games back of Murray State in the Ohio Valley Conference. J. Robert Merritt vs. Leon Williams should be a solid matchup. Prediction: Ohio 68, Samford 61

Northwestern State at Utah State (10:00 PM, ESPNU)- An interesting matchup between two teams not getting nearly enough exposure. Each has flown under the radar all season, but could be in your bracket in a few weeks. Prediction: Utah State 69, Northwestern State 65

Fresno State at Creighton (Midnight, ESPN)- Creighton is one of the best mid-majors in the country, while Fresno State is, well, not. This game might be the biggest blowout of all the televised Bracket Buster games. Prediction: Creighton 74, Fresno State 60


Northern Illinois at Winthrop (2:30 PM)- Might be the best game not on TV. Northern Illinois is fighting for a MAC West title, while Winthrop is tied atop the Big South with Birmingham Southern. Prediction: Winthrop 67, Northern Illinois 58

Oral Roberts at Montana (4:00 PM)- A solid game that should have been televised. Oral Roberts has not lived up to its preseason expectations, while Montana has not built off of its December win over Stanford. Prediction: Oral Roberts 74, Montana 72

Tennessee Tech at Bradley (8:05 PM)- Most people think that Bradley got the shaft because they did not get a televised game nor a marquee team. However, don't sleep on Tennessee Tech. They own some quality wins this season, but are 4 games back in the OVC. Bradley is on the bubble for the Big Dance. Prediction: Bradley 76, Tennessee Tech 65

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