Friday, January 26, 2007

Weekend Preview

With February soon upon us, it’s almost time for the stretch run in college basketball. We all know what that means—bubble talk, conference title races, key intra-conference match-ups, and NCAA Tournament discussion. Aside from the top teams in the big conferences facing off, there is always a quality contest between two teams trying to keep pace in the at-large hunt. There is no shortage of games like that this weekend, but the best game this week is an East vs. West non-conference shootout.

Top Games

Michigan at Indiana (Saturday, 12:00 PM, ESPN): Big Ten bubble battle. Michigan has struggled mightily on the road, and against any true quality opponents, but could fill both of those voids with a win here. Dion Harris and Lester Abram lead the way on the perimeter, while Courtney Sims needs to step up his consistency down low. Indiana has improved mightily since the start of the season, and had won five in a row prior to their loss Tuesday and Illinois. D.J. White is starting to dominate the paint, and the Hoosiers have a very deep perimeter group led by Roderick Wilmont and Earl Calloway. Prediction: Indiana 64, Michigan 53

VCU at Drexel (Saturday, 12:00 PM, Regional TV):
Two of the best in the Colonial go head-to-head. VCU is rolling along in the CAA, sitting in first place at an undefeated 9-0. They are coming off of a big road win at George Mason. They have an outstanding three-man backcourt in B.A. Walker, Jesse Pellot-Rosa, and Eric Maynor, all of whom average over 14 points per game. Drexel had an excellent non-conference campaign, and are 7-2 in the CAA, in second place. Bashir Mason and Dominick Mejia lead the way on the perimeter, while Chaz Crawford is a very good rebounder and defender inside. The thing that will make the difference in this one is the fact that Drexel will be without post star Frank Elegar, who is suspended for one game. Prediction: VCU 72, Drexel 68

North Carolina at Arizona (Saturday, 1:00 PM, CBS): The best game of the weekend, and definitely one of the fastest you’ll see all season. Both teams have outstanding offenses. North Carolina has bounced back from their loss at Virginia Tech, with three straight wins by an average of 22 points per game. Tyler Hansbrough and Brandan Wright form an outstanding interior duo, while Tywon Lawson and Wayne Ellington might be the best freshman backcourt in the land. Arizona has struggled in Pac-10 play, sitting at only 5-4. However, they are explosive on the offensive end, led by forwards Marcus Williams, Chase Budinger, and Ivan Radenovic. Mustafa Shakur is playing very well at the point. Prediction: Arizona 93, North Carolina 89 CLICK HERE FOR MY COMPLETE PREVIEW OF NORTH CAROLINA-ARIZONA

Villanova at Notre Dame (Saturday, 4:00 PM, ESPN): Interesting game in the Big East. Villanova was only 1-3 in the Big East before their recent three-game winning streak over Notre Dame, Texas, and Providence. Scottie Reynolds has developed into a big-time scorer in the backcourt, while Curtis Sumpter might be the best player in the Big East when healthy. Mike Nardi is solid on the perimeter. Notre Dame was 13-1 before losing three of their last six. Russell Carter has become an outstanding scorer on the perimeter, and Rob Kurz is a load down low. Prediction: Villanova 70, Notre Dame 66

Air Force at BYU (Saturday, 6:00 PM, Regional TV): Underrated game in the Mountain West. Air Force has been one of the best teams in the country throughout the season with their efficient offense and slow tempo. Dan Nwaelele and Jacob Burtschi are two very versatile forwards who can shoot the ball very well. Matt McCraw and Tim Anderson are two more outstanding shooters in the backcourt. BYU, tied for second in the MWC at 4-2, has a 26-game home winning streak and is very tough to beat in Provo. The frontcourt duo of Trent Plaisted and Keena Young is one of the best in the conference, while Lee Cummard can do a variety of things from the guard position. Prediction: BYU 65, Air Force 61

Oregon at Washington State (Saturday, 10:00 PM, Regional TV): Two of the most surprising teams in the country do battle. Oregon is coming off of a road loss at Washington, a game in which Player of the Year candidate Aaron Brooks was suspended. Brooks leads an outstanding perimeter group that also includes Malik Hairson, Bryce Taylor, and Tajuan Porter. Maarty Leunen is solid down low. Washington State is 6-2 in the conference, tied with Oregon for second. Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver form an excellent backcourt duo, and Daven Harmeling and Ivory Clark cause mismatches at forward. Prediction: Washington State 73, Oregon 67

Tennessee at Kentucky (Sunday, 1:00 PM, CBS):
Two SEC East teams jockeying for position, and both headed in the wrong direction. Tennessee has lost four of five, and is only 2-3 in the SEC. Moreover, star guard Chris Lofton might not be available for this game because of injury. JaJuan Smith and Ramar Smith (no relation) form a solid backcourt, and Duke Crews is an athletic big man up front. Kentucky is on a two-game losing streak, and need a win. Randolph Morris is a dominating big man at times down low, while Joe Crawford and Ramel Bradley have provided scoring punch from the perimeter. Prediction: Kentucky 72, Tennessee 64

Boston College at Duke (Sunday, 5:30 PM, FSN): Two teams looking to chase North Carolina in the ACC standings. Actually, BC is in first place currently, at 6-1, but shot-blocker extraordinaire Sean Williams was kicked off the team, and the team looks like it may struggle. Jared Dudley might be the best all-around player in the country, while Sean Marshall and Tyrese Rice form a very good backcourt. Duke is coming off of a controversial win over Clemson on Thursday. DeMarcus Nelson and Jon Scheyer have developed into a quality wing duo for the Blue Devils, while Josh McRoberts is an all-around stat-stuffer up front. Prediction: Duke 75, Boston College 69

UCLA at Stanford (Sunday, 8:00 PM, FSN):
Another Pac-10 showdown. UCLA has been one of the best teams in the country all season, and has arguably the #1 overall profile in the country. They are 7-1 in the conference. Darren Collison and Arron Afflalo form one of the nation’s best backcourts, both offensively and defensively, and Josh Shipp is another scorer on the wing. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is a versatile performer up front. Stanford has surprised some this season, and is sitting at 5-3 in the Pac-10. The Lopez twins, Brook and Robin, have been outstanding down low, and Brook is coming off of a triple-double against USC. Anthony Goods is a solid perimeter player, and Lawrence Hill is a very good scorer. Prediction: UCLA 68, Stanford 67

Other Games to Watch

Providence at Connecticut (Saturday, 12:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt): Both teams are in need of a win to stay remotely in the at-large hunt. Providence has lost three of four since starting the season 12-3. Connecticut does not look like an NCAA Tournament team at all, losing six of their past eight. Prediction: Connecticut 70, Providence 63

George Washington at Rhode Island (Saturday, 2:00 PM, Regional TV): Battle for first place in the Atlantic-10 standings. George Washington has followed up last season’s outstanding campaign with a 14-4 record, winning seven of their last eight. Rhode Island has been a surprise at 6-1 in the conference. Prediction: Rhode Island 82, George Washington 78

Indiana State at Creighton (Saturday, 2:05 PM, Regional TV): One of several MVC showdowns this week. Indiana State needs this win to get back into the conference and at-large race, as they have lost four in a row to drop to 10-8 overall. Creighton beat Missouri State on the road Wednesday to move to 7-3 in the MVC. Prediction: Creighton 71, Indiana State 59

Illinois at Purdue (Saturday, 2:30 PM, ESPN FullCourt): Another bubble battle in the Big Ten. Illinois picked up a big home win over Indiana to move to 3-4 in the conference, but have still lost five of their last eight. Purdue is only 2-4 in the Big Ten, and are also struggling, losing three of their past four. Prediction: Purdue 64, Illinois 57

Arkansas at Alabama (Saturday, 3:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt): The SEC West has been fairly atrocious since the start of conference play, and these two really need this game. Arkansas has lost four of five since their victory over Alabama on January 6th, while Alabama has lost three of their last five by an average of 24 points. Prediction: Alabama 76, Arkansas 70

Texas Tech at Missouri (Saturday, 4:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt):
Can Texas Tech keep their winning streak going? The Red Raiders have pulled off back-to-back wins over Kansas and Texas A&M. Missouri has struggled since the start of Big 12 play, but is 11-2 at home, with the losses by a combined five points. Prediction: Missouri 74, Texas Tech 69

Florida at Auburn (Saturday, 5:00 PM, Regional TV):
Potential upset in the SEC. Florida is one of the best teams in the country, and remains a favorite to win repeat national championships. Auburn is coming off of a blowout win over Alabama, and has also knocked off Tennessee and Vanderbilt at home. Prediction: Florida 77, Auburn 71

USC at California (Saturday, 6:00 PM, Regional TV): Two teams looking to get back in the win column. USC didn’t play well at all against Stanford on Thursday, dropping to 5-3 in the conference. California has lost two in a row after their 4-2 Pac-10 start, and might be feeling the loss of Devon Hardin. Prediction: USC 66, California 62

Syracuse at Louisville (Saturday, 7:00 PM, ESPN):
Two teams in the Big East looking to stay within a game of Pittsburgh. Syracuse loss at St. John’s last Sunday after a four-game winning streak put them in the thick of things. Louisville has really played well lately, winning nine of their last eleven. Prediction: Louisville 75, Syracuse 70

Bradley at Missouri State (Saturday, 8:05 PM): Big-time bubble game in the MVC. Bradley has won five of six after starting the conference season 1-3 to move into fourth place. Missouri State is struggling lately, losers of four of their last five to move back to 5-5 in the MVC after their 12-3 start. Prediction: Missouri State 81, Bradley 68

Michigan State at Ohio State (Saturday, 9:00 PM, ESPN2): If this game was in East Lansing, it might be a lot more interesting. Michigan State has won four in a row to position themselves in the at-large discussion, while Ohio State is attempting to keep pace with Wisconsin in the Big Ten title race. Prediction: Ohio State 72, Michigan State 61

Virginia at Clemson (Sunday, 1:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt): All of a sudden, this is a very interesting game. Virginia has won three in a row to move to 4-2 in the ACC, and is flying under the radar. Clemson has lost three of four since their 17-0 start, and the Tigers are now only 4-3 in the conference standings. Prediction: Clemson 79, Virginia 69

DePaul at West Virginia (Sunday, 2:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt): Big-time bubble game in the Big East. DePaul absolutely needs this game to stay in the discussion, as they have lost two in a row to fall to 11-9 overall and 3-4 in the conference. West Virginia has lost three of their last five, but is very tough to beat at home. Prediction: West Virginia 75, DePaul 64

LSU at Georgia (Sunday, 3:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt): Two teams in the SEC going in opposite directions. LSU, a preseason candidate to reach the Final Four, is sitting at 2-3 in the conference after dropping back-to-back games by double digits. Georgia has won four of five, and is a controversial Ronald Steele buzzer-beater from 5-1 in the SEC. Prediction: Georgia 80, LSU 74

Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech (Sunday, 3:30 PM, FSN):
Interesting battle in the ACC. Virginia Tech is a half-game out of first in the conference standings, and has won 11 of their last 13 games. Georgia Tech really needs a win here to stay in the at-large race, as they are only 2-4 in the ACC after being blown out in back-to-back road games. Prediction: Georgia Tech 78, Virginia Tech 76

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