Friday, December 8, 2006

Weekend Preview

There hasn’t been a season I can remember that has this many potential contenders to reach the Final Four come April. With top teams losing seemingly every night, there are arguably 15-20 teams that have the ingredients to make a run in the NCAA Tournament. This weekend has plenty of quality games matching top teams that could have an effect on seedings later on in the season. Moreover, there is not a college football game on the schedule, leaving the perfect gap for college basketball to take focus.

Top Games

Indiana at Kentucky (Saturday, 12:00 PM, CBS): Two of the most storied programs in college basketball go head-to-head. Both teams have struggled so far this season, combining for five losses. However, don’t expect any sort of blowout. Indiana is led by D.J. White on the inside, who needs to dominate the paint more than he does. JC transfer Lance Stemler is a nice complement on the interior. Roderick Wilmont leads a deep perimeter group. Kentucky counters with Randolph Morris in the post. He outplayed Tyler Hansbrough last weekend, and will look to take over again. Joe Crawford and Ramel Bradley are solid perimeter scorers for the Wildcats.
Perimeter: Kentucky 70, Indiana 64

Wisconsin at Marquette (Saturday, 2:00 PM, ESPN): Intrastate battle between two of the top teams in the country. Wisconsin has only one loss this season, and could be a sleeper Final Four team. Alando Tucker is one of the best scorers in the country, while Kammron Taylor and Michael Flowers form a solid backcourt that just needs to become more consistent. Brian Butch is a decent post option that will get points and rebounds. Marquette has struggled against nearly every team they’ve played this season, and have a loss to North Dakota State. Dominic James might be the best point guard in the nation and carries the Golden Eagles at times, while Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews round out an excellent perimeter. Ousmane Barro is an emerging big man. Prediction: Wisconsin 69, Marquette 66

Texas A&M at UCLA (Saturday, 2:30 PM, CBS): The best game of the weekend. Two top ten teams that love to get it done on the defensive end of the court and could be playing deep into the NCAA Tournament. UCLA is ranked #1 in the country and has been very impressive thus far. Darren Collison and Arron Afflalo form one of the best backcourts in the country. Josh Shipp is another excellent scorer on the wing, while Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is a potential All-America up front. Texas A&M is coming off of a tough loss at LSU, but have been solid this season. Acie Law and Joseph Jones are one of the best inside-outside combinations in the nation, while Dominique Kirk is a lockdown defender. Antanas Kavaliauskas is an underrated big man. Prediction: UCLA 65, Texas A&M 58

Xavier at Creighton (Saturday, 8:00 PM, Regional TV): Look out for these two teams as potential sleepers come March. Xavier, the one-loss Atlantic-10 favorite, has been getting balanced production from a variety of positions. Josh Duncan is an emerging star at the forward position, while Stanley Burrell is one of the best shooters in the country. Justin Doellmann and Justin Cage are two versatile forwards. Creighton has not been overly impressive this season, with losses to Nebraska and Dayton. Nate Funk and Anthony Tolliver form an excellent inside-outside combination. Dane Watts is a solid role player.
Prediction: Xavier 74, Creighton 72

Arizona at San Diego State (Saturday, 9:00 PM, Regional TV): Excellent West Coast battle that should be high-scoring with all of the athletes and scorers on the floor. Arizona has one of the most potent offenses in the country, second in the nation in points. Chase Budinger and Marcus Williams form an excellent forward tandem, while Ivan Radenovic is an underrated inside-outside option up front. Mustafa Shakur is finally living up to the potential he had coming out of high school. San Diego State has had several close calls this season, but has only one loss. Brandon Heath is one of the best all-around players in the country, leading the Aztecs with 20 points per game. Muhamed Abukar and Jerome Habel are a very good inside duo, while Lorrenzo Wade is a versatile wing. Prediction: Arizona 89, San Diego State 82

Washington at Gonzaga (Saturday, 11:00 PM, Regional TV): Another outstanding intrastate battle between two of the West’s best, and a rematch of last year’s classic. Washington has been one of the most impressive teams in the country so far. Freshmen Quincy Pondexter and Spencer Hawes have made immediate impacts up front, while double-double extraordinaire Jon Brockman rounds out an excellent frontcourt. Justin Dentmon leads the backcourt. Gonzaga has not missed a beat without Adam Morrison despite this week’s loss to Washington State. Derek Raivio and Josh Heytvelt form a very good inside-outside combo, with Raivio becoming a go-to-guy on the perimeter. Jeremy Pargo and sixth man Matt Bouldin are two more scorers in the backcourt. Prediction: Gonzaga 76, Washington 74

Maryland at Boston College (Sunday, 6:30 PM, FSN): Two of the ACC’s best do battle in both team’s first conference game of the year. Maryland has been extremely impressive all season—even with their loss last week to Notre Dame. D.J. Strawberry has been the leader for the Terrapins, while Greivis Vasquez and Mike Jones are scorers on the wing. Ekene Ibekwe and James Gist form a solid inside duo. Boston College started off very slowly with losses to Providence and Vermont, but has bounced back nicely with wins over Michigan State and Massachusetts. Jared Dudley is one of the best all-around players in the country, and is making a nice campaign for All-America honors. Sean Williams dominates the paint with his rebounding and shot-blocking prowess. Tyrese Rice and Sean Marshall form a solid backcourt for the Eagles. Prediction: Boston College 71, Maryland 67

LSU at Texas (Sunday, 8:00 PM, ESPN): An intriguing battle between two teams that will be better by the time the NCAA Tournament rolls around. LSU is coming off a very impressive win over Texas A&M at home, and is slowly rounding into form. Glen Davis is one of the best big men in the country, dominating the paint every night out. Tasmin Mitchell and Dameon Mason form a solid wing combo, while Darnell Lazare and Garrett Temple average double-figures for the Tigers. Texas is led by the best freshman, and one of the best players, in the country in Kevin Durant. The young Longhorns also rely heavily on fellow freshmen D.J. Augustin and Damion James, while “veteran” (sophomore) A.J. Abrams is a potent outside shooter who has played well early.
Prediction: LSU 75, Texas 69

Other Games to Watch

George Mason at Duke (Saturday, 12:00 PM, ESPN): Match-up between a Final Four team and a #1 seed from last year’s NCAA Tournament. In other words, this could have been a good game—last season. Duke has been a sloppy team throughout the year, but they have a distinct edge here. Josh McRoberts is a potentially dominating big man, while DeMarcus Nelson is a very good all-around wing. George Mason has struggled all season, starting 4-3 and scoring less than 63 points per game. Folarin Campbell is a solid wing that can do it all. Prediction: Duke 75, George Mason 60

Mississippi at Memphis (Saturday, 1:00 PM, Regional TV): Interesting game between two teams in need of a win. Ole Miss has had an impressive start, but is still looking for a marquee win, while Memphis is coming off of a blowout loss to Tennessee. They need to bounce back strong. Look out for the match-up between Mississippi’s Bam Doyne and Memphis’ Chris Douglas-Roberts.
Prediction: Memphis 84, Mississippi 66

Oral Roberts at Georgetown (Saturday, 1:00 PM): Arguably the best chance for an upset this weekend. Georgetown has disappointed this season, and has been prone to letting lesser teams in the game. Oral Roberts already has a win at Kansas, and has the post player in Caleb Green to offset the Hoyas’ advantage in the paint with Roy Hibbert and Jeff Green. However, I don’t think ORU is going to pull off two big upsets in a three-week span, and Georgetown has played better lately. Prediction: Georgetown 67, Oral Roberts 63

Missouri at Purdue (Saturday, 2:00 PM): Interesting battle between two surprising teams this season. Missouri is undefeated at 9-0 but hasn’t gone on the road yet. Stefon Hannah has been one of the best point guards in the Big 12. Purdue has only one loss this season, and has a win over Virginia to boast about. Carl Landry is making a case for Big Ten Player of the Year honors. Prediction: Purdue 72, Missouri 68

BYU at Michigan State (Saturday, 3:00 PM, ESPN2): Solid match-up between a Mountain West contender and a surprising Big Ten squad. BYU has not played up to expectations thus far, but could turn things around. Trent Plaisted and Kenna Young form a very good frontcourt combo. Michigan State has played surprisingly well this season. Drew Neitzel has emerged as a go-to-guy and leader for the Spartans, while Raymar Morgan is a good scorer on the wing.
Prediction: Michigan State 69, BYU 56

Nebraska at Oregon (Saturday, 3:00 PM, FSN): Battle between two teams that have surprised somewhat so far this season. Nebraska was undefeated coming into this month, including a win over Creighton; however, they fell at Rutgers last week, tarnishing their unblemished record. Aleks Maric is their go-to-guy on the inside, averaging more than 20 points per game. Oregon is undefeated currently, with wins at Rice and Georgetown. They have an excellent perimeter group, led by Aaron Brooks and freshman Tajuan Porter. Prediction: Oregon 78, Nebraska 63

Georgia Tech at Vanderbilt (Saturday, 5:00 PM, ESPN2): Another opportunity for a young Yellow Jackets team to get a quality win on the road. They failed last week in their loss to Miami to open ACC play. Tech is led by the backcourt of Javaris Crittenton and Lewis Clinch, while freshman Thaddeus Young is one of the best newcomers around. Vanderbilt has struggled this season, including a loss to Furman, but is looking to bounce back. Derrick Byars and Shan Foster form one of the best wing combinations in the country. Prediction: Georgia Tech 80, Vanderbilt 77

George Washington at USC (Saturday, 5:00 PM, Regional TV): A couple of teams off to solid starts but looking for a good win to help their NCAA resume come March. George Washington is led by the fantastic backcourt of Carl Elliot and Maureece Rice, while athletic forward Rob Diggs and Regis Koundija lead the way up front. USC hung with Kansas for awhile on Monday, and are looking to get back on the right track. Nick Young is an underrated star, while Lodrick Stewart and Taj Gibson form a nice inside-outside duo. Prediction: USC 76, George Washington 71

Wichita State at Wyoming (Saturday, 5:30 PM): Another road game for Wichita State, who has had three straight weekend road games, and has won them all, with wins over George Mason, LSU, and Syracuse. The Shockers are led by a trio of versatile forwards in Ryan Martin, P.J. Couisnard, and Kyle Wilson. Guard Sean Ogirri can shoot it from anywhere. Wyoming won't be a pushover, though. The Cowboys are led by one of the most underrated backcourts in the country in Brandon Ewing and Brad Jones. Wing James Spencer rounds out a fantastic perimeter group. Prediction: Wichita State 68, Wyoming 62

Drexel at Villanova (Saturday, 7:30 PM): Intrastate battle between two teams vying for the state title in Pennsylvania. Drexel is one of the top contenders in the CAA, but they have not played as well as they were projected to in the preseason. Bashir Mason is leading the way on offense, but Dominick Mejia is having a down year and Chaz Crawford has not developed his offensive game. Frank Elegar leads the way down low. Villanova has been impressive so far, with only a loss to Xavier marring their record. They have not won a game by less than 13 points. Curtis Sumpter is the leading candidate for Comeback Player of the Year, putting up over 18 points per game. Mike Nardi leads the perimeter, while sixth man Shane Clark is averaging double figures.
Prediction: Villanova 75, Drexel 66

Southern Illinois at Western Kentucky (Saturday, 8:00 PM, Regional TV): A terrific mid-major battle between two sleeper candidates come March. Southern Illinois has arguably the best defense in the country, and does not allow any easy baskets. Jamaal Tatum and Tony Young form a very good backcourt, while Randal Falker and Matt Shaw are solid performers up front. Western Kentucky is led by Courtney Lee, one of the best wings in the country. Tyrone Brazelton provides a very solid backcourt mate for the Hilltoppers. Prediction: Southern Illinois 62, Western Kentucky 58

UNLV at Nevada (Saturday, 11:05 PM): A potential contender in the Mountain West against a Sweet Sixteen candidate out of the WAC. UNLV is coming off of two road victories, and has looked solid this year. Wendell White and Jo'Van Adams form an excellent backcourt, while Kevin Kruger provides outstanding perimeter shooting. Nevada is undefeated and ranked, and is not looking to relinquish that status. Nick Fazekas is one of the best big men in the country, putting up ridiculous numbers of 23 points and 14 rebounds per game. Marcelus Kemp is a very good scorer, while Ramon Sessions is a solid point guard. Prediction: Nevada 73, UNLV 61


  1. Since when did Marquette become one of the top teams in the country? Don't take so much from one game, BW.

  2. They are one of the top 20 or 25.