Friday, January 5, 2007

Weekend Preview

With 2006 in our rear view mirror and conference play getting into full swing, many league races are already starting to heat up despite only a few games being played. This weekend, forget about the NFL Playoffs—it’s time for college basketball to take center stage. There is a plethora of marquee match-ups taking place, with some very important conference battles that will have a major impact on the title race. Just kick back on the couch all weekend and take in a full slate of college basketball (and the Wild-Card games, if you really want).

Notre Dame at Georgetown (Saturday, 12:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt)- Big East battle between two teams that are playing some of their best basketball lately. Notre Dame will be without suspended starting point guard Kyle McAlarney, while Georgetown lost key reserve Marc Egerson this week to personal reasons. ND's Rob Kurz against Georgetown's Roy Hibbert will be interesting. Prediction: Notre Dame 75, Georgetown 71

Virginia Tech at Duke (Saturday, 12:00 PM, ESPN)- Rematch of last year's classic when Sean Dockery hit a half-court shot at the buzzer to give the win at home. This year likely won't come down to that. Virginia Tech lost to Marshall last week and is struggling, while Duke has not missed a beat despite the loss of several key players from last season. Prediction: Duke 70, Virginia Tech 59

Penn State at Purdue (Saturday, 12:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt)- If Penn State pulls this off, they could start thinking about finishing in the upper division of the conference. Purdue needs a win after dropping their Big Ten opener to Minnesota. Prediction: Purdue 64, Penn State 52

Georgia at Florida (Saturday, 12:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt)- SEC East match-up that won't be that close. Georgia has struggled since their blowout win over Gonzaga (which doesn't look as good anymore), while Florida seems to be hitting their stride, including a dominant win over Ohio State. Prediction: Florida 79, Georgia 63

Southern Illinois at Northern Iowa (Saturday, 1:00 PM, ESPNU)- Battle between the two unbeatens in the Missouri Valley Conference. Both teams like to play low-scoring games that are primarily in the half-court. The inside match-up will be key as UNI's Grant Stout and Eric Coleman have the edge over SIU's Randal Falker and Matt Shaw. Could be a great game. Prediction: Northern Iowa 55, Southern Illinois 51

Ohio State at Illinois (Saturday, 2:00 PM, ESPN)- Are Ohio State's youngsters ready to pick up a big win in a tough road environment? They haven't shown the ability to thus far, but Illinois is not playing well lately and could have a lot of trouble defending the Buckeyes' multiple options on the offensive end. Greg Oden and Shaun Pruitt will have an interesting battle down low. Prediction: Ohio State 72, Illinois 68

Alabama at Arkansas (Saturday, 2:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt)- Another game featuring a league favorite going on the road to face a middle-of-the-pack team. The Crimson Tide are becoming more complete every game, but need point guard Ronald Steele to be healthy. Jermareo Davidson and Richard Hendrix could dominate inside. Arkansas' Sonny Weems and Charles Thomas could prove to be match-up problems. Prediction: Alabama 69, Arkansas 65

DePaul at Villanova (Saturday, 2:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt)- DePaul looked like it was getting back into the NCAA Tournament picture--then it looked awful in an abysmal performance against St. John's. Villanova lost their Big East opener to West Virgina, but showed perseverance in their comeback. Prediction: Villanova 73, DePaul 60

UCLA at Oregon (Saturday, 2:00 PM, FSN)- This game lost some of its luster when Oregon fell on Thursday night to USC at home to ruin their unbeaten season. UCLA is still undefeated, though, and look like the best team in the country. Will Oregon bounce back to pick up a huge win here? Look for the point gaurd match-up between UCLA's Darren Collison and Oregon's Aaron Brooks. Prediction: UCLA 77, Oregon 72

Boston College at North Carolina State (Saturday, 2:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt)- Interesting ACC battle. Boston College is the better team on paper, but it is unclear if Jared Dudley will play or not. If he doesn't play, BC can lose to anybody--witness the loss at home to Duqesne. NC State has not looked great since their win over Michigan, but they are a quality group who can get a win. Prediction: North Carolina State 68, Boston College 63

UNLV at Air Force (Saturday, 3:30 PM, Versus)- Potentially the Mountain West game of the year. The two best teams in the conference face off in what is an underrated game on a national level. UNLV has been a surprise this season, but the Runnin' Rebels have played very well and look solid. Air Force could be a sleeper in the NCAA Tournament. Prediction: Air Force 66, UNLV 61

Loyola Marymount at Gonzaga (Saturday, 4:00 PM, Regional TV)- Match-up between what was supposed to be the two best teams in the West Coast Conference. However, Gonzaga is only 9-6 and Loyola Marymount has been killed by injuries all season and have been inconsistent. Josh Heytvelt needs to get on track for the Bulldogs. Prediction: Gonzaga 81, Loyola Marymount 67

Georgia Tech at Clemson (Saturday, 4:00 PM, Regional TV)- Two athletic teams do battle in what should be an exciting, up-tempo game in the ACC. Georgia Tech is still young but are developing very well, while Clemson is one of only two undefeated teams in the country. The Tigers took a step forward this week with a big-time road win at Florida State. Prediction: Clemson 76, Georgia Tech 72

San Diego State at BYU (Saturday, 5:30 PM, Versus)- Another decent battle in the Mountain West. Both teams have disappointed this season, but also have the talent to get right back into the thick of things in the conference race. The winner will have the inside track towards contention. SDSU's Muhamed Abukar and BYU's Trent Plaisted are legit post players. Prediction: BYU 65, San Diego State 60

Akron at Ohio (Saturday, 7:00 PM)- The two best teams in the MAC go head-to-head in what could be one of the best games all season in the conference. Ohio fell to Marshall this week, which pretty much kills any at-large shot they had, while Akron started slow but has picked up lately. Prediction: Ohio 72, Akron 67

Kansas State at Texas A&M (Saturday, 8:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt)- Texas A&M has slowly been grinding along, destroying opponents, including a blowout win over Winthrop this week. They are lurking as Big 12 title contender. Kansas State didn't look good against Xavier, and need to bounce back well. Prediction: Texas A&M 73, Kansas State 55

Kentucky at Mississippi (Saturday, 8:30 PM, ESPN FullCourt)- Surprisingly decent SEC battle. Kentucky has played a lot better this season since struggling for much of the early season. Mississippi has been solid this season, but are probably not in true contention for an NCAA berth. A win here could change that. Prediction: Kentucky 71, Mississippi 64

Connecticut at LSU (Saturday, 9:00 PM, ESPN)- One of the best games of the week, and one of the best non-conference games in all of January. Connecticut was defeated badly by West Virginia in their first road game, and the young Huskies could find the going tough again in Baton Rouge. Two of the best double-double guys in the country do battle in LSU's Glen Davis and UConn's Jeff Adrien. Prediction: LSU 78, Connecticut 66

Arizona at Washington State (Saturday, 10:00 PM, Regional TV)- My pick for Game of the Week. It is a severe contrast in styles, as Washington State would rather slow it down and play a half-court game, while Arizona likes to get the ball out in transition and push it for easy baskets. Something has to give, and I think the Wildcats' ability to control the pace of the game will give them the victory on the road in Pullman. Prediction: Arizona 72, Washington State 69

Mississippi State at Tennessee (Sunday, 4:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt)- If Mississippi State has any delusions of an NCAA Tournament bid still, they will need to win this game. It won't happen. Chris Lofton is one of the best two-guards in the country, while MSU's Jamont Gordon is an all-around stat stuffer on the wing. Prediction: Tennessee 80, Mississippi State 68

Michigan State at Indiana (Sunday, 4:30 PM, CBS)- Expect a low-scoring, physical contest with plenty of fouls and low shooting percentages. Both teams lost their first conference game, MSU to Iowa and Indiana to Ohio State. D.J. White needs to dominate down low against Goran Suton and the Spartans, while Drew Neitzel gives Michigan State the edge in the backcourt. Prediction: Indiana 57, Michigan State 50

Kansas at South Carolina (Sunday, 4:30 PM, CBS)- Kansas might finally be hitting their stride and playing the basketball they were expected to play in the preseason. The Jayhawks are still loaded with talent, and should win the Big 12. South Carolina is not very easy to beat at home, but simply don't have the personnel to beat Kansas. Prediction: Kansas 71, South Carolina 61

Stanford at Virginia (Sunday, 5:00 PM, FSN)- How will Virginia play after their throttling of Gonzaga this week? Will it be a let-down game, or will they carry some of that momentum over to Sunday? Stanford has played better than expected this season in the Pac-10, but they likely won't finish any higher than 7th or 8th in the conference. The Pac-10 is loaded. Prediction: Virginia 75, Stanford 62

Wichita State at Missouri State (Sunday, 5:30 PM, ESPNU)- Another classic MVC battle between two of the multiple championship contenders in the conference. Wichita State has lost four of five games, but domianted Bradley and need to get their confidence back. Missouri State could be in the Top 25, but they don't execute well at all down the stretch and have blown a few late leads. Both of these teams should be in the NCAA Tournament come March. Prediction: Missouri State 73, Wichita State 72

Florida State at North Carolina (Sunday, 7:00 PM, FSN)- There will be a ton of athletes on the floor when these two teams take the court. Al Thornton leads Florida State, who lost their ACC opener to Clemson at home by two this week. It could be a difficult match-up for UNC. The Tar Heels have been in the Top 5 all season, and have won ten in a row. They will make it 11 in a row, as the Seminoles have no match for Tyler Hansbrough and Brandan Wright. Prediction: North Carolina 88, Florida State 74

Syracuse at Marquette (Sunday, 8:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt)- A very nice way to end the weekend, as two quality Big East teams clash. Syracuse has struggled this season, and lost their conference opener to Pittsburgh at home this week. Marquette has been involved in close games throughout the year, and also lose their Big East opener, by 15 at Providence. Cuse's Eric Devendorf against Marquette's Dominic James should be a match-up to watch. Prediction: Marquette 69, Syracuse 63

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