Friday, December 15, 2006

Weekend Preview

Has there ever been a season in which there has been this many top-notch non-conference games before Christmas? So far this year, we have already had North Carolina-Ohio State, Kansas-Florida, Texas A&M-UCLA, Wichita State-LSU, Washington-Gonzaga—you get the idea. Nearly every week, one can sit down several nights a week and find a quality match-up to watch. This weekend is no different. Moreover, with finals week finally over at many schools, the quality of match-ups heats up after a very quiet week in the college basketball world. Get set for a great weekend of college hoops action.

Top Games

Pittsburgh at Wisconsin (Saturday, 12:00 PM, ESPN): One of the best non-conference games of the year. Star center Aaron Gray is questionable for Pittsburgh, which would be a huge loss for the Panthers. He leads the way down low for them, while Levance Fields is a very solid point guard. Wisconsin has looked very impressive throughout the season, led by All-American Alando Tucker. Kammron Taylor and Brian Butch are also good performers for the Badgers. Prediction: Wisconsin 66, Pittsburgh 62 CLICK HERE FOR MY COMPLETE PREVIEW OF PITTSBURGH-WISCONSIN.

Purdue at Butler (Saturday, 1:00 PM, WGN): A match-up of two of the most surprising teams in the country. Purdue has looked like a potential NCAA contender in the Big Ten, led by Carl Landry in the low post. Butler has been one of the major stories of the first month, beating several major-conference teams in November. They are coming off of a tough loss to Indiana State, but A.J. Graves and co. will be ready. Prediction: Butler 68, Purdue 61

Kentucky at Louisville (Saturday, 1:30 PM, CBS):
One of the best rivalries in the sport. Unfortunately, both teams have struggled so far this season. Kentucky has three losses already, but they were to Memphis, UCLA, and North Carolina—nothing to be ashamed of. Randolph Morris is developing into a dominant post player, while Joe Crawford and Ramel Bradley provide scoring from the perimeter. Louisville has not looked impressive at all, and is coming off of a home loss to Massachusetts. Sophomore forward Terrence Williams is becoming a star. Prediction: Kentucky 73, Louisville 70

Ohio State at Cincinnati (Saturday, 3:45 PM, CBS): While it may look like a mismatch on paper, Cincinnati is coming off of a win over Xavier and is looking solid lately. Newcomers Deonta Vaughn and John Williamson have becoming a very good inside-outside duo for the Bearcats. Ohio State has become better and better over the course of the young season, especially with the debut of Greg Oden. With him on the inside, and Ron Lewis and Daequan Cook anchoring the wings, the Buckeyes are tough. Prediction: Ohio State 78, Cincinnati 69

Gonzaga at Georgia (Saturday, 5:00 PM, ESPN2): Beware of the upset here. Georgia is a potential sleeper in the SEC, with only one loss to Western Kentucky marring their resume. Mike Mercer leads a very deep perimeter group, while Takais Brown is the go-to-guy down low. Gonzaga is coming off of a 20-point thrashing of Washington last weekend. Derek Raivio has been an extremely productive guard this season, and Josh Heytvelt is a dynamite big man. Prediction: Gonzaga 83, Georgia 77

Southern Illinois at Indiana (Sunday, 8:00 PM, ESPN): Another shot for the Missouri Valley to pick up a quality win. More importantly, it’s a shot for Southern Illinois’ defense, arguably the best in the country, to be displayed on national television. Offensively, Jamaal Tatum is the main man on the perimeter, while Matt Shaw and Randal Falker are solid up front. Indiana has not been overly impressive this season, but it’s still early. D.J. White needs to dominate down low, while Roderick Wilmont and Lance Stemler also need to step up. Prediction: Southern Illinois 63, Indiana 54

Other Games to Watch

Texas Tech at Arkansas (Saturday, 2:00 PM, ESPN): Bobby Knight continues his quest for Dean Smith's record, but he might not make any progress here against a tough Arkansas squad. Jarrius Jackson and Martin Zeno lead the way for Knight's Red Raiders, while Sonny Weems is an excellent all-around player for the Razorbacks. Prediction: Arkansas 71, Texas Tech 60

Bradley at Iowa State (Saturday, 3:00 PM, ESPN2):
Another shot for the Missouri Valley to get a solid road win. Bradley already has a victory of DePaul, and have a very good inside-outside combo in guard Jeremy Crouch and big man Zach Andrews. Iowa State has struggled lately, losing three of four. Mike Taylor leads the way for the Cyclones. Prediction: Bradley 75, Iowa State 72

Western Kentucky at Tennessee (Saturday, 4:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt):
One of the most underrated match-ups of the day. Western Kentucky is a very good mid-major team, led by star wing Courtney Lee and guard Tyrone Brazelton. Tennessee has improved over the course of the season, capped by the complete domination of Memphis last week. Chris Lofton is making a run at All-America honors. Prediction: Tennessee 78, Western Kentucky 73

Utah State at BYU (Saturday, 6:00 PM, Regional TV):
Solid Mountain-region battle. Utah State has poised themselves as a WAC contender with an 8-1 start. Jaycee Carroll is one of the most prolific scorers in the country, and is an outstanding three-point shooter. BYU was expected to be a MWC favorite, but they have struggled thus far. Frontcourt players Keena Young and Trent Plaisted are solid. Prediction: BYU 70, Utah State 67

Baylor at Syracuse (Saturday, 7:00 PM, ESPN-Plus):
Baylor is a potential sleeper to be a bubble team come March, and a win here could go a long way towards getting to that goal. Henry Dugat, Curtis Jerrells, and Aaron Bruce form a very good three-headed perimeter group. Syracuse has not looked their best so far this season, but they are still a Big East contender. Demetris Nichols is the go-to-guy, while Eric Devendorf and Paul Harris are also good contributors. Prediction: Syracuse 73, Baylor 60

Northern Iowa at Loyola (Chicago) (Saturday, 8:00 PM):
A very good battle between two solid, under-the-radar clubs. Northern Iowa has remained a tough out in the Missouri Valley, led by the low-post combo of Eric Coleman and Grant Stout. Loyola (Chicago) will be a contender to Butler in the Horizon League. Blake Schilb might be the best player you've never heard of, starring in a variety of ways. Prediction: Northern Iowa 72, Loyola (Chicago) 70

Indiana State at Missouri State (Saturday, 8:05 PM):
Missouri Valley Conference play heats up with one of their best teams, Missouri State, facing a team coming off of a very good win, Indiana State (over Butler). Larry Bird's alma mater is led by the backcourt of Gabriel Moore and Cole Holmstrom. Missouri State has the potential to be a Cinderella come March, starting with star guard Blake Ahearn. The Bears own a win over Wisconsin already this season. Prediction: Missouri State 84, Indiana State 65

Alabama at Southern Miss (Saturday, 8:15 PM, Regional TV):
Southern Miss might be the worst undefeated team in recent memory. Their best win was over Sam Houston State, and they have played three non-D1 teams. Guard Jeremy Wise is a very solid player for the Golden Eagles, though. Alabama has struggled with off-the-court issues and injuries all season long, and would love to have their full team on the floor. Ronald Steele is an outstanding point guard, while Jermareo Davidson dominates the paint. Prediction: Alabama 77, Southern Miss 64

Loyola Marymount at San Diego State (Saturday, 10:00 PM, Regional TV):
A very good battle on the West Coast. Loyola Marymount is a potential threat to Gonzaga in the WCC. Center Matthew Knight is a beast down low, and he and Brandon Worthy form an outstanding inside-outside combo. San Diego State is an NCAA Tournament-caliber team, led by underrated star Brandon Heath. Muhamed Abukar and Jerome Habel anchor the paint for the Aztecs. Prediction: San Diego State 74, Loyola Marymount 68

Creighton at Fresno State (Saturday, 10:00 PM, Regional TV):
Intriguing battle between one of the best from the Missouri Valley and one of the best from the WAC. Creighton is expected to fight for a MVC crown this season, led by the inside-outside combo of Nate Funk and Anthony Tolliver. They have a win over Xavier to their name. Fresno State could be trouble for several teams, due to their versatility and athleticism. Ja'Vance Coleman is a scoring guard, while Dominic McGuire and Quinton Hosley create match-up problems. Prediction: Fresno State 78, Creighton 76

Wake Forest at Virginia Tech (Sunday, 5:30 PM, FSN):
Two of the ACC's worst teams so far open their conference play hoping for a win. Wake Forest got off to a hot start, but has since faltered with stiffer competition. Kyle Visser has been a bright spot, averaging almost 20 and 9 per game. Virginia Tech has been a disappointment, but ACC play marks a new season. Zabian Dowdell leads the way for the Hokies, but Coleman Collins needs to step up. Prediction: Virginia Tech 69, Wake Forest 61

LSU at Oregon State (Sunday, 8:00 PM, FSN):
An interesting cross-country road trip for LSU for another Sunday night road game. The Tigers are coming off of a tough loss in OT to Texas last weekend, but are looking good. Glen Davis might be the best player in the country, while Tasmin Mitchell is tough to guard on the wing. Oregon State has a nice froncourt duo in Sasa Cuic and Marcel Jones, and are still looking for a marquee win this season. Prediction: LSU 73, Oregon State 65

Houston at Arizona (Sunday, 10:00 PM, Regional TV):
Expect a lot of points in this one. Arizona may have the most potent offense in the country, with forwards Chase Budinger and Marcus Williams capable of taking over games with their scoring. Ivan Radenovic is a match-up problem up front, while Mustafa Shakur has been one of the best point guards in the country. Houston has five guys averaging double-figures, led by the explosive guard duo of Rob McKiver and Oliver Lafayette, who combine for over 43 points per game. Prediction: Arizona 101, Houston 88


  1. Good summaries of games, although I think calling LMU a "contentor" is a bit of a stretch. Gonzaga is going to kill everyone in the WCC without any problem.

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