Friday, December 29, 2006

Weekend Preview

Conference play is here. Sure, there were intra-conference games spotted randomly throughout early December and pre-Christmas, but those were just appetizers. January usually marks the true start to conference play, and in turn, the meat and potatoes of the college basketball season. This year, many major conferences are starting their league play this week, including the Pac-10 officially starting last night. This weekend continues that theme, as there are plenty of good games on the docket, some conference games and others key non-conference match-ups. And don’t worry, there aren’t any games starting after 5:00 PM on Sunday, so you can start your New Year’s celebrations early.

Top Games

Georgetown at Michigan (Saturday, 12:00 PM, ESPN2):
Two teams that have disappointed so far this season and need to turn things around. Georgetown started out 4-3, but has won five in a row. Jeff Green and Roy Hibbert are an excellent frontcourt duo, while Jonathan Wallace leads the way in the backcourt. Jessie Sapp is a solid scorer. Michigan is 12-2, but that record is deceiving. Their best win was over Davidson and they have only one road win. Dion Harris and Courtney Sims form a good inside-outside combo, and Lester Abram is a solid all-around player. Brent Petway is active up front. Prediction: Michigan 71, Georgetown 65

Connecticut at West Virginia (Saturday, 2:00 PM, ESPN2): This game will teach us a lot about both teams. Connecticut wins the award for having the most inflated ranking (#9) due to an extremely easy non-conference schedule. Moreover, the Huskies haven’t left the state yet. Jeff Adrien is a double-double machine in the paint, while A.J. Price and Jerome Dyson form an explosive backcourt. Haseem Thabeet is very good defensively down low. West Virginia has one loss this year, to Arkansas. The Mountaineers have a slew of quality forwards, including Frank Young and Joe Alexander. Darris Nichols is the go-to-guy in the backcourt. Prediction: Connecticut 75, West Virginia 73

Missouri State at Creighton (Saturday, 4:05 PM, ESPN2): A Missouri Valley Conference showdown. Missouri State has been very good all season long, dropping only two games by a combined four points. Blake Ahearn is one of the best shooters in the country, while Tyler Chaney provides good size and versatility in the backcourt. Deven Mitchell and Nathan Bilyeu lead the way up front. Creighton has been a major disappointment this season, going winless on the road and coming into this game with a 5-4 record. Nate Funk and Anthony Tolliver form a very good inside-outside combo. Dane Watts is solid down low. Prediction: Creighton 70, Missouri State 67

Nevada at Gonzaga (Saturday, 6:00 PM, ESPN2): One of the best match-ups of the weekend—and neither team is in one of the major conferences. Nevada is sporting an 11-1 record, with the lone loss to UNLV. Nick Fazekas is one of the best players in the country, putting up 20 and 10 every night. Marcelus Kemp is a big-time scorer, while Ramon Sessions is a good point guard. Gonzaga has played a very difficult schedule, but own wins over North Carolina, Texas, and Washington. Derek Raivio and Josh Heytvelt have been outstanding this season, forming an excellent inside-outside tandem. Jeremy Pargo and Matt Bouldin are solid on the perimeter. Prediction: Gonzaga 76, Nevada 71

Northern Iowa at Wichita State (Saturday, 8:35 PM, Regional TV): Another Missouri Valley battle between two of the conference’s multiple NCAA contenders. Northern Iowa has surprised some this season, not missing a beat from last year despite the loss of two starters. Eric Coleman and Grant Stout are a dominant inside duo, while Brooks McKowen is an outstanding distributor from the point guard spot. Wichita State has lost two in a row since starting 9-0. Sean Ogirri is a very good long-range shooter, while Ryan Martin and P.J. Couisnard are versatile wings. Kyle Wilson anchors the frontcourt. Prediction: Wichita State 72, Northern Iowa 64

Wisconsin at Georgia (Sunday, 1:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt):
An interesting match-up between two different offensive styles. Wisconsin likes to slow it down and play a halfcourt game, while Georgia would much rather play transition basketball to get points up in a hurry. The Badgers are one of the best teams around, led by All-American Alando Tucker. Kammron Taylor is a good scorer in the backcourt, and Brian Butch seems to be improving his play lately. Georgia owns a win over Gonzaga, and has an excellent perimeter group capable of leading the Bulldogs to victories. Mike Mercer, Levi Stukes, and Sundiata Gaines are very good in the backcourt, while Takais Brown is the main man up front.
Prediction: Wisconsin 68, Georgia 66

Washington at UCLA (Sunday, 5:00 PM, FSN): Two of the Pac-10’s best square off in what should be the best game of the weekend. Washington has been good so far this season, but has struggled on the road. Spencer Hawes is going to be an outstanding post player, and Jon Brockman is a big-time rebounder. Quincy Pondexter can score in a variety of ways, while Justin Dentmon is the best backcourt player for the Huskies. UCLA, the nation’s top-ranked team, has played excellent basketball throughout the year. They are coming off of a tough win at home against Washington State last night. Arron Afflalo and Darren Collison might be the nation’s best backcourt, while Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is a versatile forward. Josh Shipp is another scorer on the wing. Prediction: UCLA 72, Washington 59 CLICK HERE FOR MY COMPLETE PREVIEW OF WASHINGTON-UCLA.

Other Games to Watch

Mississippi State at George Mason (Saturday, 12:00 PM, Regional TV): An interesting battle between two teams going in opposite directions. Mississippi State has been playing well, and should compete in the SEC West. George Mason is only 5-5, a far cry from last season's Final Four run. They will contend in the CAA, but have been a disappointment. Prediction: Mississippi State 74, George Mason 69

Mississippi at Saint Louis (Saturday, 2:00 PM, Regional TV):
Is Mississippi for real? The Rebels are 11-2, with their only losses at Memphis and at Connecticut. A win here would be huge. Saint Louis is poised to be a favorite in the Atlantic-10, and is coming off of a last-second, controversial win over Missouri State. The inside battle between Ole Miss' Dwayne Curtis and SLU's Ian Vouyoukas will be fun to watch. Prediction: Saint Louis 73, Mississippi 62

Stanford at Arizona (Saturday, 2:00 PM, FSN):
Pac-10 battle that does not have the same luster it had five years ago. Stanford did pull off a win at Arizona State last night, but Arizona is in an entirely different tier. The Wildcats have one of the best offenses in the country and will fight with UCLA all season long for Pac-10 supremacy. Prediction: Arizona 83, Stanford 66

Washington State at USC (Saturday, 6:00 PM, FSN):
Another very good Pac-10 showdown. Both of these teams will compete for an at-large bid behind the top teams in the conference. Washington State has surprised some, and nearly pulled off a huge upset over UCLA last night. USC won their league opener in two overtimes over Washington. The Pac-10 might be the nation's best league. Prediction: USC 67, Washington State 63

Appalachian State at Virginia Commonwealth (Saturday, 7:30 PM):
Two solid mid-majors that will make noise in their respective conferences. Appalachian State owns wins over Virginia and Vanderbilt, and have an excellent all-around guard in D.J. Thompson. VCU is one of the favorites in the Colonial after an impressive non-conference campaign, with only two losses by a combined four points. Prediction: Virginia Commonwealth 71, Appalachian State 65

Dayton at North Carolina (Sunday, 3:00 PM, FSN):
A surprisingly decent match-up that might have looked better before last week's blowout loss by Dayton at the hands of Pittsburgh. The Flyers are still a potential contender in the Atlantic-10, behind guard Brian Roberts. North Carolina is one of the top teams in the country, putting up points in a variety of ways. They are legit Final Four contender. Prediction: North Carolina 80, Dayton 61

No comments:

Post a Comment