Monday, January 22, 2007

The Week Ahead

With a couple of weeks already finished in conference play, teams are starting to separate themselves from the pack in some leagues. Moreover, with less than two months until Selection Sunday, it is time to start building up resumes and at-large profiles for the Committee to look at. That means that every game is becoming more and more important. This week is no different.

Connecticut at Louisville (Monday): Both teams in need of a win. Louisville still has hopes for an NCAA Tournament bid, but they need some quality wins. Connecticut would not be in the Big Dance if the season ended today, and they need to start picking up wins. The loser could be out of the at-large hunt for now.

Indiana at Illinois (Tuesday): Two teams fighting for bids in the Big Ten. Indiana is looking like the #3 team in the conference, and are on a five-game winning streak. Illinois has lost five of their last seven, and could be on the outside looking in come Selection Sunday. They really need a victory here. Oh, and don't forget the best storyline in the Big Ten this season--the not-so-friendly relationship between Kelvin Sampson and Illinois. Five-star recruit Eric Gordon orginally committed to Illinois, but once Sampson went to Indiana, he began to openly recruit him, eventually resulting in Gordon changing his mind and signing with Indiana.

Florida State at Boston College (Tuesday): Interesting ACC match-up. Florida State has won two in a row, including a victory over Virginia Tech. Boston College was 5-0 in the conference before being blown out by Clemson after the Eagles dismissed Sean Williams and Akida McClain. They need a win to boost their morale.

Villanova at Providence (Tuesday): Another Big East contest between two clubs looking for a win. Villanova is coming off two big wins over Notre Dame and Texas, and looks much improved. Providence has lost two of three since starting 12-3, and can’t lose at home to a fellow potential bubble team.

Northern Iowa at Southern Illinois (Tuesday): Another key contest in an unpredictable conference. Northern Iowa is back in first place after wins at Missouri State and over Bradley, while Southern Illinois is only a half-game back with their road win at Creighton. The winner will be atop the standings.

San Diego State at UNLV (Tuesday): Two teams looking to stay within striking distance of Air Force in the Mountain West. San Diego State has disappointed somewhat this season, but has won two of three. UNLV bounced back with two wins in the last week after dropping two conference contests.

VCU at George Mason (Wednesday): Look who’s back in the mix in the CAA. George Mason has won five in a row since starting the season 0-3, and has played well lately. VCU is still the conference leader at 8-0 in the league. GMU could really get some momentum with a victory.

DePaul at Georgetown (Wednesday): Two teams possibly headed in opposite directions. DePaul didn’t play in their home loss to Louisville this weekend, and now have three of their next four on the road. Georgetown won back-to-back road games last week, and is tied for third place in the Big East.

Texas A&M at Texas Tech (Wednesday): Could Texas Tech knock off the top two teams in the Big 12 in back-to-back games? The Red Raiders upset Kansas on Saturday, and could take over first place in the conference with a win. A&M has won nine in a row, including an 18-point thrashing of Oklahoma State on Saturday.

Texas at Nebraska (Wednesday): An intriguing game in the Big 12. Texas has lost two in a row, and Kevin Durant really struggled against Villanova on Saturday. Nebraska is only 1-2 in the conference this season, but the Cornhuskers are 9-0 at home and are very difficult to beat in Lincoln.

Kentucky at Georgia (Wednesday): An SEC East showdown. Kentucky was playing very well until their disappointing home loss to Vanderbilt on Saturday, snapping an 11-game winning streak. Georgia was a Ronald Steele buzzer-beater away from sweeping Arkansas and Alabama on the road last week.

Vanderbilt at LSU (Wednesday): Another quality SEC battle. Vanderbilt is one of the hottest teams around, with wins over Tennessee, Alabama, and Kentucky in their last four games. LSU was dominated by Arkansas on Saturday, but is still tied for first in the SEC West. They need a confidence boost, though.

Creighton at Missouri State (Wednesday): Two more solid teams in the MVC go head-to-head. Creighton lost a heart-breaker at home on Saturday to Southern Illinois, dropping them out of first place. Missouri State has been inconsistent lately, losing three of their last four to fall to 5-4 in the MVC.

Michigan at Wisconsin (Wednesday): If this game was in Ann Arbor, it would be a much closer contest. The Wolverines are tied for second in the Big Ten at 4-1 in the conference, but are only 2-3 on the road and really struggle away from home. Wisconsin is one of the best teams in the country, but has won four straight games by single-digits.

Georgia Tech at Maryland (Wednesday): Two below-.500 teams in the ACC not living up to expectations. Georgia Tech followed up wins over Duke and Florida State with a poor showing at North Carolina. Maryland is 1-4 in the conference after their loss to Virginia Tech, and they need a win.

Winthrop at High Point (Thursday): The top two teams in the Big South battle it out. Winthrop, at 5-0 in the conference, has lost three games to Top 10 teams this year, and the other one to Maryland. High Point, also at 5-0, is 11-0 at home this year and has won seven in a row heading into this week.

Clemson at Duke (Thursday):
Two teams in need of a win if they want to stay in the ACC title hunt. Clemson lost back-to-back games before destroying Boston College at home on Saturday by twenty. Duke bounced back from their 0-2 ACC start with three straight wins, albeit over the bottom-feeders in the conference.

Oakland at Oral Roberts (Thursday): The two best teams in the Mid-Continent go at it. Oakland is 5-0 in the conference, and played one of the most difficult non-league schedules around. Oral Roberts, also 5-0, has a win over Kansas and the league’s best player, Caleb Green, on their side.

UCLA at California (Thursday): The first of three big Pac-10 games on Thursday. UCLA might have the best resume in the country, and picked up a nice win over Arizona on Saturday. California has played well despite the loss of starting center Devon Hardin, but need a win here to stay in the at-large hunt.

USC at Stanford (Thursday): Two teams looking to keep up in the conference standings. USC has won four of their last five, with the lone loss a two-point defeat at the hands of UCLA last weekend. Stanford has been a surprise this season, but need to start picking up some quality wins for their resume.

Oregon at Washington (Thursday): This match-up looked much more important about a month ago. Since then, Washington has lost six of seven, and now sits at 1-6 in the Pac-10. On the other hand, Oregon has been one of the best teams in the country, with only a two-point loss to USC keeping them from an undefeated record.

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