Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Week Ahead

Arguably the worst week of the college basketball season is this week. Every year, there is an extreme lull in terms of quality games two weeks before Christmas. Colleges and universities across the country have final exams this week and many teams do not even schedule games during finals. With that said, though, there are still several quality games to keep an eye on.

Bradley at Wright State (Tuesday, 7:00 PM): A solid match-up between two teams looking to chase the league favorites in their respective conferences. Bradley is coming off of a five-point home loss to Michigan State, leaving the Braves at 6-3. Daniel Ruffin is one of the most underrated point guards in the country. Wright State is fresh off its 43-42 upset win over previously unbeaten Butler, and will look to pick up some more momentum. Todd Brown and Vaughn Duggins are a solid backcourt.

Saint Mary's at Southern Illinois (Tuesday, 8:05 PM): Two of the better mid-majors in the country square off. Saint Mary's is poised to make a run at Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference, especially with wins over Oregon and Seton Hall. The top-ranked team in the RPI is lead by freshman guard Patty Mills and big men Diamon Simpson and Omar Samhan. Southern Illinois has struggled somewhat this season, sitting at only 3-3 so far this year. Randal Falker and Matt Shaw form a very good frontcourt duo.

Cincinnati at Xavier (Wednesday, 7:00 PM, ESPN2): Although this looks like a mismatch on paper, the Crosstown Shootout is always a tight game. This year should be no different. Cincinnati is only 4-4 this season, including losses to Belmont, Bowling Green and Illinois State. Guard Deonta Vaughn has been one of the few bright spots so far. Xavier started off a little slow, with a loss to Miami (Ohio), but the Musketeers have rattled off six straight wins, including victories over Kent State, Creighton and Indiana. Six players are averaging at least 11 points per game for them.

Vanderbilt at DePaul (Wednesday, 8:30 PM, ESPN Classic): Another game that looks like a mismatch on paper, but could be closer than expected. Vanderbilt is 9-0 right now, but the Commodores have only one true road win this season, early in the season over Toledo. Shan Foster and A.J. Ogilvy form one of the best inside-outside combos in the country. DePaul is struggling, sitting at only 2-3 this season. Draelon Burns is a big-time scorer, but he's somewhat inconsistent.

Massachusetts at Boston College (Wednesday, 9:00 PM, ESPNU): Intrastate rivalry match-up. Massachusetts has surprised some this season, knocking off Syracuse on the road and going 6-2 thus far. Gary Forbes and Ricky Harris form a very high-scoring wing tandem. Boston College is another team surpassing its preseason expectations. The Eagles only have one loss, in overtime to Providence, but have wins over Rhode Island and Maryland. Tyrese Rice is one of the best guards in the ACC.

New Orleans at Colorado (Wednesday, 9:00 PM, Regional TV): This game doesn't look that attractive on paper, but New Orleans could be a potential sleeper this season, as the Privateers have knocked off North Carolina State, but also lost at home to Nicholls State. Bo McCalebb is one of the best all-around players in the country. Colorado is arguably the worst team in the Big 12, but the Buffaloes do have some talent, led by former early-entry Richard Roby and guard Marcus Hall.

Winthrop at Mississippi (Thursday, 8:00 PM, Regional TV/ESPN FullCourt): One of the best games of the week. Winthrop is consistently one of the best mid-majors in the country, and although the Eagles are down a little this year, they are still a tough out. Michael Jenkins is one of the more underrated shooters in the nation. Mississippi has surprised many this season, starting the year 7-0, although only one game was on the road and none of the wins really stand out. Five players are averaging double-figures, including freshman point guard Chris Warren.

Miami (Fl.) at Mississippi State (Thursday, 8:00 PM, Regional TV/ESPN FullCourt): Another very solid match-up between two teams that will be fighting for NCAA Tournament bids come March. Miami (Fl.) has started off the season extremely strong, sitting at 7-0 and No. 2 in the RPI. Anthony King is a double-double threat every night out. Mississippi State was expected to contend for the SEC West title, but the Bulldogs are only 5-3 right now, with the best win coming over Tennessee-Martin. Jamont Gordon has carried the team at times.

Drake at Iowa (Friday, 8:05 PM, Big Ten Network): This game isn't the most attractive match-up on paper, but Drake has emerged as a potential contender in the Missouri Valley and a win on the road over Iowa could solidify its status as a sleeper. The Bulldogs are 8-1, with Duquesne as their marquee win. Josh Young and Leonard Houston form a very solid backcourt. Iowa is only 6-5 and is coming off a road loss to Iowa State over the weekend. Justin Johnson and Tony Freeman are threats from the wing.

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