Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Week Ahead

After a three-day hiatus due to Christmas, college basketball is back. Moreover, with New Year's around the corner, that can only mean one thing: league play getting started in the major conferences. This weekend is jam-packed with games, but before we get there, there are plenty of quality games despite the shortened week.

Bradley at Northern Iowa (Wednesday): Two potential contenders in the Missouri Valley face off. Both teams have played better than expected after losing several contributors. Bradley has a couple of solid wins and is led by guard Jeremy Crouch, while Northern Iowa owns a win at Iowa and has the MVC's best center in Eric Coleman.

George Mason at Drexel (Thursday): Last year's favorite vs. this year's favorite? George Mason has fallen considerably since last year, while Drexel has put itself at the front of the pack with wins against St. Joseph's, Villanova, Syracuse, and Temple.

Georgia at Clemson (Thursday): Are either of these teams contenders in their conference races? Georgia has surprised some this season and has a win over Gonzaga, while Clemson remains a mystery. They are undefeated but have not played anyone of significance.

SMU at Oklahoma (Thursday): This might not be the most attractive game on paper, but it could be intriguing. SMU is 9-1 and could make a run at the #2 spot in Conference-USA behind Memphis. Oklahoma, meanwhile, is in the middle of a rebuilding season, but will be a good test for the Mustangs.

California at Arizona (Thursday): Pac-10 play kicks off with two NCAA teams from last year. This year, they are worlds apart. Cal started off well, but lost center Devon Hardin for two months with an injury. Arizona has looked like one of the best teams in the country.

UNLV at Texas Tech (Thursday): Could this be the night that Bobby Knight breaks the all-time win record? UNLV has been surprisingly solid this year, and owns a win over Nevada. However, behind Jarrius Jackson and Martin Zeno, Knight should get his record.

Washington at USC (Thursday): The most interesting Pac-10 game of opening night. Washington is coming off of a dominant win over LSU, but have yet to leave the state yet. USC has improved over the course of the season, and could be a sleeper in the Pac-10.

Washington State at UCLA (Thursday): Is Washington State for real? The Cougars are 11-1 but don't own any quality road wins. This might not be the best measuring stick for WSU, though, as nearly every team looks bad against UCLA, the nation's #1 team.

Air Force at George Washington (Thursday): A contrast of styles. Air Force likes to slow the pace of the game and limit possessions, while GW uses their athleticism to speed opponents up and force turnovers. Will be a good test for AFA.

Winthrop at Old Dominion (Friday): A quality mid-major battle. Winthrop has come close to beating several top teams this season, including North Carolina and Wisconsin. Old Dominion owns a dominating win over Georgetown, and could be a favorite in the CAA.

Illinois at Xavier (Friday): Is Xavier ready to take on the favorite role in the Atlantic-10? The Musketeers have struggled so far this season, losing four games and possibly ruining their at-large chances. Illinois, on the other hand, has played well despite competitive losses to Maryland and Arizona.

Providence at Florida State (Friday): Two teams that look like at-large candidates in their respective leagues. Providence has won 8 of 9 and could be a sleeper in the Big East, while Florida State owns a win over Florida and hasn't lost to a non-Top 10 team yet.

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