Friday, February 16, 2007

Weekend Preview

With conference tournaments and Selection Sunday right around the corner, teams are entering their final five games of the season. That means that bubble teams face must-wins across the board, while several other teams are fighting for seeds--both in conference tourneys and in the NCAA Tournament. In addition, this weekend is home to Bracket Buster Saturday. This set of games could mean the difference between the NCAA or the NIT to many teams should they not win their conference tournament. No matter what games you are interested in, there are plenty of options to choose from this weekend.

Top Games

Georgetown at Villanova (Saturday, 12:00 PM, ESPN): Interesting game in the Big East. Georgetown is one of the hottest teams in the country, having won eight in a row and 15 of their last 17. Jeff Green and Roy Hibbert form one of the best frontcourt duos in America, and freshman DaJuan Summers has played well up front. Jonathan Wallace runs the point. Villanova is also playing well lately, with a four-game winning streak heading into the game. Curtis Sumpter is a terrific scorer up front, and Scottie Reynolds and Mike Nardi form a solid backcourt. Shane Clark and Dante Cunnigham have stepped up this year. Prediction: Villanova 71, Georgetown 67

UCLA at Arizona (Saturday, 1:00 PM, CBS): Huge game in the Pac-10. UCLA has struggled somewhat lately, including a loss at West Virginia. However, they are still one of the best teams in the country. Darren Collison and Arron Afflalo form one of the better backcourts in college basketball, while Josh Shipp also provides scoring from the perimeter. Arizona needs a win to cement their at-large status, especially after their loss at home to USC Thursday. Marcus Williams and Chase Budinger are prolific scorers on the wings, while Mustafa Shakur is a very good distributor. Ivan Radenovic creates mismatches up front. Prediction: UCLA 73, Arizona 70

Florida at Vanderbilt (Saturday, 1:00 PM, CBS): Potential upset in the making? Florida is looking more and more like the favorite to repeat their title in April. However, they have played down to their competition lately, leaving them vulnerable. Al Horford and Joakim Noah are dominant down low, while Corey Brewer is versatile on the wing. Tauren Green is an underrated point guard. Vanderbilt has won 11 in a row at home, and is playing well lately. Shan Foster and Derrick Byars form one of the best wing combinations in the country, while Dan Cage is another good perimeter player. Ross Neltner anchors the post. Prediction: Florida 77, Vanderbilt 72

Kentucky at Alabama (Saturday, 3:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt): Another big game in the SEC for a bubble team at home. Kentucky looks like a solid bet for the NCAA Tournament, but they have lost two in a row and four of seven. Joe Crawford and Ramel Bradley form a quality, high-scoring backcourt for the Wildcats. Randolph Morris is very good down low. Alabama desperately needs to get a win to boost their resume. Their below .500 SEC record isn’t helping things. Jermareo Davidson and Richard Hendrix form one of the best post duos in the country, and Ronald Steele is a very good point guard. Alonzo Gee is solid. Prediction: Alabama 67, Kentucky 63

Memphis at Gonzaga (Saturday, 6:00 PM, ESPN): An interesting non-conference game that would normally be between two teams that haven’t played a tough contest in month. However, this season, Gonzaga is not even winning the WCC right now. The Bulldogs are struggling without the suspended Josh Heytvelt, but are still tough at home. Derek Raivio and Jeremy Pargo need to step up in the backcourt. Memphis is dominating Conference-USA, and could be as good as a year ago. Chris Douglas-Roberts and Jeremy Hunt are top-notch wing scorers, while Robert Dozier is a versatile forward. Joey Dorsey anchors the interior. Prediction: Memphis 82, Gonzaga 76

Oregon at Stanford (Saturday, 8:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt): Intriguing contest in the Pac-10. Oregon was looking like a potential Pac-10 champion only a few weeks ago. However, they have lost five of seven to drop to 8-6 in conference. Aaron Brooks and Malik Hairston lead a terrific perimeter group for the Ducks, while Maarty Leunen is solid inside. Stanford has lost three of five to drop to 8-5 in the Pac-10. Robin and Brook Lopez lead the way inside for the Cardinal, while Lawrence Hill is a very good inside-outside forward. They will be without Anthony Goods, their second-leading scorer, who is out with an injury. Prediction: Stanford 68, Oregon 61

North Carolina at Boston College (Saturday, 9:00 PM, ESPN): Battle for first in the ACC. Both teams are coming off of a disappointing home loss, UNC to Virginia Tech, and BC to Duke. The Tar Heels are in the mix for a #1 seed, and are a threat to win it all. Tyler Hansbrough and Brandan Wright are dominant in the paint, while Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington from a very good backcourt. Boston College is 9-3 in the ACC, and is led by my pick for ACC Player of the Year, Jared Dudley. He does it all for the Eagles. Guards Tyrese Rice and Sean Marshall combine with Dudley to form one of the best trios in the country. Prediction: Boston College 74, North Carolina 73

Louisville at Marquette (Saturday, 9:00 PM, ESPNU): All of a sudden, this game is for third place in the Big East. Louisville pulled off one of the biggest wins of the season, when they went into Pitt and knocked off the Panthers. They have won six of their last eight. Terrence Williams and Juan Palacios are tough to match-up with, and David Padgett can dominate the paint at times. Marquette has lost back-to-back games, and needs to get back on track. Dominic James has struggled mightily lately, but he and Jerel McNeal form a terrific backcourt. Wesley Matthews is another good perimeter player for the Golden Eagles. Prediction: Marquette 70, Louisville 65

Georgia Tech at Duke (Saturday, 1:00 PM, CBS): An ACC battle between two teams looking for a win. Georgia Tech has won four in a row to get to 5-6 in the ACC, and possibly a bid to the Big Dance. Javaris Crittenton and Thaddeus Young form one of the best freshman combos in the country, while Anthony Morrow is a very good perimeter shooter. Duke had lost four in a row prior to their road win at Boston College, and is 6-6 in the ACC. Josh McRoberts is a do-it-all player for the Blue Devils, and Jon Scheyer and DeMarcus Nelson are decent wing scorers. Greg Paulus has played better lately at the point for Duke. Prediction: Duke 66, Georgia Tech 57

Maryland at Clemson (Saturday, 4:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt): Big-time bubble game in the ACC. Maryland has made a run towards the Field of 65 in the past week or so, with back-to-back wins to move to 5-6 in the conference. D.J. Strawberry can do a lot on the perimeter, while Greivis Vasquez is a developing freshman guard. Ekene Ibekwe and James Gist are active, athletic big men. Clemson has really faltered since their 17-0 start, losing six of eight. James Mays is athletic on the inside, and Vernon Hamilton and Cliff Hammonds are quick in the backcourt. K.C. Rivers is one of the best sixth men in the country. Prediction: Clemson 79, Maryland 75

Other Games to Watch with NCAA Tournament Implications

Florida State at Virginia (Saturday, 1:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt): Very quality ACC battle. Florida State absolutely needs a win after their recent three-game losing streak and subsequent 5-7 ACC record. Virginia has a chance to win the ACC given their somewhat easy schedule down the stretch. They are getting closer to locking up a bid. Prediction: Virginia 72, Florida State 64

Washington at Pittsburgh (Saturday, 2:00 PM, ESPN): Similar to last weekend’s UCLA-West Virginia game, this one is a cross-country non-conference contest. Washington is only 6-8 in the Pac-10, and needs a win here if they have at-large hopes. Pitt is coming off of a home loss to Louisville, not a good time for UW to come to town. Prediction: Pittsburgh 71, Washington 56

Iowa at Michigan State (Saturday, 2:30 PM, ESPN FullCourt): Two teams going in the wrong direction in the Big Ten. Iowa has made a run as of late, winning four of their last five to get to 7-5 in the conference. Michigan State had lost four in a row before their home victory over Michigan this week. They are only 5-6 in the Big Ten. Prediction: Michigan State 60, Iowa 55

Texas A&M at Oklahoma (Saturday, 3:30 PM, ABC):
Does Oklahoma have any shot at an at-large bid? Their loss at Iowa State severely crippled their hopes, but a win here gets them back on track. Texas A&M is one of the most complete teams in the country, but they are coming off of a heartbreaking home loss to Texas Tech. Prediction: Texas A&M 67, Oklahoma 63

Connecticut at Syracuse (Saturday, 3:30 PM, ABC): Usually a big-time rivalry game, it has lost some of its luster this year. Connecticut has won three of four to get 5-6 in the Big East, but they are still not a good team. Syracuse is right on the bubble at 7-5 in the conference. They have to hold serve at home for the rest of the season. Prediction: Syracuse 68, Connecticut 55

Indiana at Michigan (Saturday, 4:00 PM, ESPN): A rematch of a comfortable Indiana win three weeks ago. The Hoosiers are close to locking up a bid to the Dance, despite losing two of their past three games. Michigan was no different this year than last year—and they are likely to miss the NCAA Tournament at only 5-6 in the Big Ten. Prediction: Michigan 70, Indiana 66

Mississippi at Arkansas (Saturday, 5:05 PM, ESPN FullCourt): Crucial SEC West battle. Mississippi has come out of nowhere to take the lead in the division at 6-5, winning four in a row. Arkansas has struggled mightily lately, losing seven of their last ten. At only 4-7 in the conference, the Razorbacks absolutely need a win here. Prediction: Arkansas 75, Mississippi 69

Bracket Busters

Note: Click here for my complete preview of the Bracket Buster games, and here for my Southern Illinois-Butler preview.

Winthrop at Missouri State (Friday, 7:00 PM, ESPN2)- A battle between two teams that will make noise in the NCAA Tournament should they get there. Winthrop is undefeated in the Big South, and played North Carolina and Wisconsin very tightly in the non-conference season. Mike Jenkins and Torrell Martin are a very good scoring duo on the wing. Both can really shoot the lights out. Craig Bradshaw is a potential go-to-player in the paint, while Chris Gaynor is an underrated performer at the point guard spot. Missouri State started off the season very strong, knocking off Wisconsin at a neutral site. They struggled to open MVC play, but have won five in a row heading into the week. Blake Ahearn is one of the best shooters in the country, while wing Tyler Chaney and Spencer Laurie flank him in a very good perimeter group. Deven Mitchell is one of the best sixth men around. Prediction: Missouri State 69, Winthrop 62

Albany at Boise State (Friday, 9:00 PM, ESPNU)- One of the two worst games of the televised Bracket Busters games. However, both teams are solid "mid-majors" who can be tough on any given night. Albany reached the NCAA Tournament last season, and nearly knocked off Connecticut in the first round. They had won eight in a row prior to their home loss to Vermont this week. Jamar Wilson is a tremendous point guard. He can do-it-all for the Great Danes. Jason Siggers is a good wing, and Brent Wilson is solid up front. Boise State has been solid in the WAC all season long, sitting at 7-5 in the conference and 13-10 overall. Coby Karl is one of the more underrated wings in the West. Matt Nelson and Reggie Larry are a dominant rebounding duo down low. Prediction: Boise State 71, Albany 64

Appalachian State at Wichita State (Saturday, 1:00 PM, ESPNU)-
Two teams that are at-large contenders, but are on the outside looking in right now. Appalachian State had an outstanding non-conference campaign, knocking off Vanderbilt and Virginia in Puerto Rico, then going to VCU and defeating the Rams. However, they have some bad losses in Southern Conference play, which have put them on the wrong side of the bubble. D.J. Thompson is an underrated guard who can do a little of everything, while Nathan Cranford and Demetrius Scott are also solid perimeter players. Jeremy Clayton and Donte Minter are good up front. Wichita State, like Appalachian State, started hot, with victories over LSU and Syracuse, but the Shockers have struggled in MVC play, sitting at 8-8. Kyle Wilson is a very good inside-outside scorer, while P.J. Couisnard is a versatile wing. Sean Ogirri can shoot. Prediction: Wichita State 63, Appalachian State 59

Holy Cross at Hofstra (Saturday, 3:00 PM, ESPNU)-
Last week, this would have been a battle between an undefeated Patriot team and a CAA team primed to jump into first-place. However, Holy Cross lost at Bucknell and Hofstra loss at home to Drexel last week. The Crusaders are still tied for first place in the Patriot at 10-1. Prior to the loss, they had won 12 in a row. Keith Simmons is the best player in the conference, while point guard Torey Thomas is a very good distributor and defender. Tim Clifford anchors the interior. Hofstra is one-game back of VCU in the CAA standings, but that home loss will likely cost them a share of the conference title. The Pride have one of the best backcourts in the country in wings Loren Stokes, the CAA Player of the Year favorite; Antoine Agudio, an unbelievable shooter; and Carlos Rivera, a solid point guard. Prediction: Hofstra 74, Holy Cross 64

Southern Illinois at Butler (Saturday, 4:00 PM, ESPN2)-
Easily the best game of the weekend. Both teams are in the running for a Top-4 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and could be the two best “mid-majors” in college basketball this season. Southern Illinois is the hotter team of the two, having won seven in a row. The Salukies lead the MVC at 13-3 in the conference. Ranked #9 in the RPI, SIU has solid non-conference wins over Virginia Tech, Saint Louis, and at Western Kentucky. They are led up front by the forward duo of Randal Falker, one of the favorites for Missouri Valley Player of the Year, and Matt Shaw, a very good inside-outside scorer. The guard tandem of Jamaal Tatum and Tony Young is excellent defensively, and also very solid on the other end. The Salukis are one of the best defensive teams in the country, and they are clutch offensively. Butler is one of the biggest surprise teams this season. Prior to their loss at Wright State this past weekend, the Bulldogs had won nine in a row. They are 22-3 overall, 11-2 in the Horizon. Ranked #31 in the RPI, Butler has wins over Tennessee, Gonzaga, Notre Dame, Indiana, and Purdue. A.J. Graves is one of the best guards in the country, and he combines with Mike Green to form an outstanding backcourt. Brandon Crone is a good all-around player up front, providing balance. Expect a low-scoring, defensive-minded battle in this one. Prediction: Southern Illinois 56, Butler 53

Kent State at George Mason (Saturday, 4:00 PM, ESPNU)-
An interesting game between two of the history-making mid-major programs in the country. Kent State made a run to the Elite Eight a few years ago, while George Mason, as we all know, reached the Final Four last season. This year, neither team is primed to reach the NCAA Tournament, but this will be a good game nonetheless. Kent State is second in their division of the MAC at 9-3, and the Golden Flashes have won seven of their last eight. Omni Smith is a good scorer in the backcourt, while Armon Gates and Mike Scott are also solid. George Mason is only 8-8 in the CAA, and have lost five of their last eight games. However, two returning starters from last year, Folarin Campbell and Will Thomas, form one of the best inside-outside duos in the CAA. Prediction: George Mason 67, Kent State 61

Austin Peay at Akron (Saturday, 5:00 PM, ESPNU)-
Two of the hotter teams in the mid-major world go head-to-head. Austin Peay has won 15 of their last 16, and is the surprise leader of the Ohio Valley at 15-2 in league play. The Governors have a very good forward tandem in Drake Reed and Fernandez Lockett, who both can score and rebound well. Landon Shipley, Todd Babington, and 5-9 point guard Derek Wright form a solid perimeter group. Akron, prior to their loss over the weekend at Toledo, had won nine in a row. They are 9-2 in the MAC, tied with Toledo for the overall conference lead. Romeo Travis is a dominant big man at times, and can carry the Zips. 6-0 guards Cedrick Middleton and Dru Joyce are small but talented in the backcourt. Nick Dials can really shoot the ball. Prediction: Akron 72, Austin Peay 67

Northern Iowa at Nevada (Saturday, 6:00 PM, ESPN2)-
A couple of weeks ago, this would be one of the best games of the weekend. At that time, Northern Iowa was 6-2 in conference play and 14-4 overall. Since then, though, they have lost 6 of 7, and are fading fast. The Panthers are led by their big man duo of Eric Coleman and Grant Stout. Both are excellent rebounders, and have the ability to take over a game with their offense. Brooks McKowen is one of the best distributors in the country. Nevada is a legit Top 20 team, and has one of the best players in the country in big man Nick Fazekas. The Wolf Pack are a lock to go dancing in March. In addition to Fazekas, Nevada has a much underrated guard duo in point guard Ramon Sessions and wing Marcelus Kemp. Sessions is playing like he did as a freshman (that’s a good thing), while Kemp can fill it up. Prediction: Nevada 70, Northern Iowa 58

Old Dominion at Toledo (Saturday, 6:00 PM, ESPN360)-
A very interesting game between the CAA and the MAC. Old Dominion has won seven in a row in the Colonial to move within one game of league-leader VCU and right into the at-large discussion. Valdas Vasylius and Arnaud Dahi form one of the better forward duos in the conference, while Drew Williamson can score and distribute well at the point guard spot. Brandon Johnson can do a little of everything. Toledo has won eight of their last ten, including a victory over Akron this past weekend. The Rockets are tied for first in the MAC at 9-2. They own one of the best mid-major backcourts in the country in Keonta Howell and Justin Ingram. Both can score very well, and are also decent rebounders. Florentino Valencia is somewhat undersized at 6-5, but he gets points and rebounds on the interior. Prediction: Old Dominion 71, Toledo 62

Utah State at Oral Roberts (Saturday, 7:00 PM, ESPNU)-
Two teams that reached the NCAA Tournament last season go at it. Utah State was expected to be down somewhat this year, but the Aggies are in third-place in the WAC, and have won eight of their last eleven. Jaycee Carroll is one of the best guards you’ve never heard of—he can really shoot the ball. Chaz Spicer and Stephen DuCharme form a solid frontcourt duo. Oral Roberts is a deep sleeper in March, as shown by their road win at Kansas this season. The Mid-Continent leaders are led by Caleb Green, one of the best big men in the country. Ken Tutt provides balance on the perimeter with his scoring, and Marchello Vealy is a versatile wing. Prediction: Oral Roberts 73, Utah State 66

Cal State Fullerton at Wright State (Saturday, 8:00 PM, ESPN360)-
Don’t sleep on this game. Cal State Fullerton is second in the Big West with an 8-4 record, and an 16-6 mark overall. The Titans have one of the best players in the country in point guard Bobby Brown. He is a legit NBA prospect. Balancing him out on the interior is forward Scott Cutley, who is a threat to go for 17 and 10 every night out. CS Fullerton has five guys averaging double figures. Wright State is coming off of a win over Butler, their seventh in a row. Matching up with Brown will be another outstanding guard in Dashaun Wood. He can do-it-all on the court, and is an excellent scorer. Vaughn Diggins and Todd Brown flank him on the perimeter. Drew Burleson is tough down low. Prediction: Wright State 78, Cal State Fullerton 70

Bradley at VCU (Saturday, 8:00 PM, ESPN2)-
Another Colonial vs. Missouri Valley battle. Bradley is sitting on the bubble currently, although their grip on it is slipping. The Braves have wins over DePaul and Southern Illinois, but they are only 9-7 in the conference and are not consistent enough. Bradley has one of the best perimeter trios in the MVC, with Daniel Ruffin, a terrific passer; Jeremy Crouch, a very good scorer; and Will Franklin, who can do a little of everything. VCU is a real sleeper for March. The Rams are sitting atop the CAA at 14-2, but likely won’t get an at-large bid. However, they are tough. They play pressure defense, and have an outstanding guard group in B.A. Walker, Jesse Pellot-Rosa, and Eric Maynor. Wil Fameni is a solid big man with a nice touch. Prediction: VCU 75, Bradley 65

Drexel at Creighton (Saturday, 10:00 PM, ESPN2)-
Both teams are in the mix for an at-large bid, and will be a tough out if they can get to the Big Dance. Drexel had a hot start to the season, knocking off Syracuse, Villanova, and St. Joseph’s—all on the road. They didn’t play well in the middle part of CAA play, but have bounced back. The Dragons have a very good perimeter group, led by guards Dominick Mejia and Bashir Mason. Frank Elegar is one of the best post players in the conference, and Chaz Crawford is an excellent defender, both with blocking shots and rebounding. Creighton went only 6-4 in non-conference play after being a preseason favorite to win the MVC. However, they have played well lately, and are in second place in the conference, at 12-4. Nate Funk and Anthony Tolliver form an excellent inside-outside combo. Dane Watts is a very good option offensive, who can also rebound. Nick Porter is a talented guard. Prediction: Creighton 68, Drexel 59

Ohio at New Mexico State (Saturday, Midnight, ESPN2)-
Two teams coming off of disappointing weeks. Ohio had one of the more surprising losses of the season, at home to Northern Illinois, a team who had 4 wins prior to that. The Bobcats, 7-4 in the MAC, have five guys averaging in double-figures, led by the post duo of Leon Williams and Jerome Tillman. They combine for over 30 points and 18 rebounds per game. Bubba Walther and Sonny Troutman are the main perimeter threats. New Mexico State was in the mix for an at-large bid heading into last week, but they went 0-2 on the road, and are falling. Justin Hawkins can do-it-all for the Aggies, while Tyrone Nelson is a dominating big man, at times. Fred Peete can shoot the ball well, while center Hatila Passos is solid down low. Prediction: New Mexico State 73, Ohio 65


  1. There is an error in your linked SIU-Butler preview. The Butler win over Notre Dame wasn't before the NIT, it was part of the NIT. The winner of the Butler-ND game got the winner of Indiana-somebody (I forget who Indiana's first-round opponent was), so that's how Butler ended up playing Indiana, which of course they won, advancing to MSG and ultimately winning the title.

  2. Wow, you're right. Good find. I really thought it came prior to it.