Monday, January 15, 2007

The Week Ahead

What a weekend of basketball. There were overtime contests, great comebacks, last-second shots, and big-time performances from key players. This college basketball season is shaping up to be one of the best in recent memory, as a result of the parity that exists in many of the major conferences. That also leads to tons of quality match-ups, which this coming week has in spades.

Marist at Siena (Monday): Two of the MAAC’s best match-up. Siena is 5-1 in the conference, led by one of the best post players in the conference in Michael Haddix. Marist is 4-1 in the MAAC, and the Red Foxes have the league’s best backcourt in Jared Jordan and Will Whittington.

Marquette at Louisville (Monday): Two teams looking like they might be hitting their stride. Marquette beat Connecticut on the road, then dominating West Virginia at home last week, while Louisville blew out South Florida and Providence by 41 points. The perimeter groups for both teams are loaded.

Creighton at Wichita State (Monday): A MVC battle between the top teams in the preseason. Creighton has bounced back from a poor non-conference showing to sit atop the conference standings. Wichita State has been struggling lately, losing six of their last eight. The Shockers need this win badly.

Missouri at Kansas (Monday): Rivalry contest. Missouri hasn’t played well in Big 12 play, sitting at 0-3 in the conference. If they don’t win here, they may have to kiss their at-large hopes goodbye. Kansas destroyed Oklahoma State last week before escaping in overtime at Iowa State. They play outstanding defense.

Gonzaga at St. Mary’s (Monday): After Gonzaga beat Santa Clara on the road Saturday, it became pretty clear they might go through this league undefeated. However, St. Mary’s is one team that can beat them—especially at home. Diamon Simpson of St. Mary’s needs to have a big game up front for the Gaels to have a chance.

Connecticut at Pittsburgh (Tuesday): This game looked a lot better during the non-conference portion of the season. Since then, Connecticut has lost against every decent opponents, while Pittsburgh has established themselves as the clear-cut #1 team in the conference. This one could be a blowout.

Wyoming at BYU (Tuesday): Both teams are tied for second in the Mountain West at 2-1, chasing first-place Air Force. A win here would help them keep pace. Wyoming is strong in the backcourt with Brandon Ewing and Brad Jones, while BYU is led by the frontcourt duo of Keena Young and Trent Plaisted.

Maryland at Virginia (Tuesday): Two middle-of-the-pack ACC teams that could really use a win. Both the Terps and Cavs are 1-2 in conference play. Maryland needs a road win for their resume, while Virginia is starting to lose at-large hopes because of their inconsistency. Expect an up-tempo, high-scoring contest.

Texas at Oklahoma State (Tuesday): A very interesting game. Freshman sensation Kevin Durant has a chance to make a statement on the road on national TV. He has been dominating opponents lately. However, Oklahoma State has a defensive stopper in wing Marcus Dove, and the Cowboys are tough to beat at home.

North Carolina at Clemson (Wednesday): Will Clemson bounce back from their first loss of the season, and will North Carolina turn it around after a terrible showing for 32 minutes against Virginia Tech? The inside battle between Clemson’s James Mays and UNC’s Tyler Hansbrough will be intriguing.

Virginia Tech at Florida State (Wednesday): Another ACC battle between two teams fighting for bids to the NCAA Tournament. Virginia Tech defeated Duke and North Carolina in back-to-back weeks, but need consistency. Florida State is 0-3 in the ACC, and needs a win to get their confidence—and at-large hopes—back.

Notre Dame at Villanova (Wednesday): Two of the many solid teams in the Big East do battle. Notre Dame has been one of the big surprises this season, while Villanova is 1-3 in the Big East after their loss to Syracuse this weekend. The Irish need to find someone to guard Curtis Sumpter if they want to win.

Purdue at Wisconsin (Wednesday): A road win here by the Boilermakers would go a long way towards determining their Selection Sunday fate. They are coming off of a solid win at home over Michigan, while Wisconsin struggled on the road at Northwestern. Two of the Big Ten’s best will be on the court in Purdue’s Carl Landry and Wisconsin’s Alando Tucker.

Alabama at Vanderbilt (Wednesday):
Alabama has not shown they can win on the road consistently, while Vanderbilt is known as a very tough place to play. The Crimson Tide are coming off a good victory over LSU, while Vanderbilt followed their win over Tennessee with a loss to Georgia on the road.

Georgia at Arkansas (Wednesday): Two SEC teams looking to add to their resume. Georgia has not shown the ability to win on the road, but the Bulldogs are coming off a home win over Vanderbilt. Arkansas is in the midst of a two-game losing streak to Florida and Mississippi. Both perimeter groups are deep and talented.

Massachusetts at Xavier (Thursday): Arguably the two best teams in the Atlantic-10. Massachusetts is atop the league standings at 3-0, while Xavier fell to 2-1 with their loss to Saint Louis. The Atlantic-10 is looking more and more like a one-bid league, unless one of these teams gets hot in conference play.

Bradley at Creighton (Thursday): The first of two big-time MVC games Thursday. Bradley is coming off of a very convincing road win over Indiana State, while Creighton has been rolling in conference play, sitting at 5-1. Bradley’s Jeremy Crouch and Creighton’s Nate Funk will be a good match-up at guard.

Northern Iowa at Missouri State (Thursday): Yet another MVC showdown. Northern Iowa was looking like the best team in the conference until back-to-back losses at Illinois State and at home to Creighton. Missouri State did not play well in their 20-point loss at Southern Illinois. Both teams are 4-2 in the league.

Stanford at Oregon (Thursday): Interesting Pac-10 battle. Stanford has been playing better lately, with three straight wins over Virginia, Washington, and Washington State. Oregon, with wins over Arizona—on the road—and UCLA, is right in the thick of the Pac-10 race. They are finally playing to their talent level.

Fresno State at Nevada (Thursday): This game looked a lot more attractive last week. That was before Fresno State dropped back-to-back games to Hawaii and 2-14 San Jose State. Nevada pulled a big overtime win at Hawaii this weekend without star Nick Fazekas. Quinton Hosley needs to have a huge game for the Bulldogs.

Arizona at USC (Thursday): Another Pac-10 showdown. Both teams have wings galore, meaning that there will be plenty of athletes in this one. Arizona is sitting at 4-2 in the Pac-10 after their loss at home to Oregon. USC lost a heartbreaker to UCLA at home this weekend, but the Trojans have the talent to beat the Wildcats.

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