Friday, December 14, 2007

Weekend Preview: Basketball Edition

Oklahoma State (+13) at Pittsburgh (Saturday, 12:00 PM, ESPN): A match-up between an unpredictable team and one of 14 undefeated clubs remaining. Both squads faced Washington this year, with OSU beating the Huskies by 25 and Pitt defeated them by only one. However, OSU was at home and Pitt was on the road, so don’t really look into that too much. The Cowboys have won three in a row and have one of the best players in the Big 12 in freshman James Anderson. Pittsburgh is 9-0, continuing its now six-year streak of starting with that mark. Sam Young is finally blossoming into the player everyone expected, while freshman DeJuan Blair has been a force down low. Prediction: Pittsburgh 75, Oklahoma State 62

Oregon (-3) at Nebraska (Saturday, 2:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt/Regional TV): Don’t overlook this game if you are a Ducks fan. Nebraska is 7-2 and undefeated at home; furthermore, the Cornhuskers have one of the best centers in the country in Aleks Maric. Nebraska also has a deep perimeter group. Oregon has just one blemish on its record, a loss at St. Mary’s without Bryce Taylor. Taylor is back and the Ducks have one of the best starting lineups in the country. Maarty Luenen has developed into a star down low. Prediction: Oregon 71, Nebraska 67

UAB (+5) at Kentucky (Saturday, 2:00 PM, ESPN): A battle between two of the most disappointing teams in the country thus far. Both teams were expected to reach the NCAA Tournament, but they have combined for a mediocre 11-7 record. UAB had won five in a row before falling to South Florida last weekend. Robert Vaden and Walter Sharpe have made immediate impacts as transfers. Kentucky is coming off of back-to-back losses to Indiana and North Carolina. Joe Crawford and Patrick Patterson are a solid inside-outside duo. Prediction: Kentucky 72, UAB 64

Arkansas (+4) at Oklahoma (Saturday, 3:00 PM, ESPN2): Two teams going in opposite directions right now. Arkansas struggled at the outset of the season, falling to Providence in the Puerto Rico Classic. However, the Razorbacks have rattled off six straight wins, including victories over Missouri, Missouri State and VCU. Patrick Beverley leads the way for Arkansas. On the other side, Oklahoma lost to Stephen F. Austin at home last weekend and looks like a team who can lose to anyone when its guards aren’t playing well. Forward Blake Griffin has been one of the better freshmen in the country this season. Prediction: Arkansas 69, Oklahoma 67

Georgia Southern (+14.5) at Florida (Saturday, 3:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt/Regional TV): Don’t laugh. Georgia Southern is 7-1, including victories over a decent Appalachian State team, as well as UAB. The Eagles are led by forward Louis Graham and guard Willie Powers. Florida was rolling along until Florida State came into Gainesville and knocked off the Gators. Still, Florida is 9-1 and could be an NCAA Tournament team. Freshman Nick Calathes has been solid in the backcourt, while big man Marreese Speights is efficient down low. Prediction: Florida 82, Georgia Southern 65

Louisville (-2.5) at Purdue (Saturday, 3:30 PM, CBS): Not really sure what to expect from this game. On the one hand, Louisville is more experienced and more talented, but the Cardinals are coming off two losses: at home to Dayton and forward Derrick Caracter to rules violations. Edgar Sosa needs to play better at the point for Rick Pitino. Purdue has one of the youngest lineups in the Big Ten, and it showed late in losses at Clemson and Missouri. Freshmen Scott Martin and E’Twaun Moore lead the way for the deep Boilermakers.
Prediction: Purdue 66, Louisville 61

Xavier (-3.5) at Arizona State (Saturday, 4:00 PM, FSN): First off, how about the Atlantic-10? I told you before the season that the A-10 would be a very good conference, but I didn’t expect so many high-profile wins at this point in the year. Louisville, Syracuse, Indiana, Boston College, Southern Illinois, and the list goes on. Xavier is still the favorite, as it has won seven in a row. Six players are averaging at least 10.9 points per game. Arizona State is 6-2, but has lost badly against both Illinois and Nebraska, the only quality opponents it has played so far. Freshman James Harden is a budding star on the wing. Prediction: Xavier 68, Arizona State 63

Ohio (+17) at Kansas (Saturday, 5:00 PM, ESPN2): Don’t overlook this game when looking at the schedule on Saturday. Ohio is coming off of an impressive road win at Maryland this week, and has only lost two games by a combined four points. Leon Williams and Jerome Tillman form one of the best big man duos in the country. Kansas is clearly one of the best teams in the country, especially when healthy and complete. Darrell Arthur and Darnell Jackson are emerging as a very good inside tandem, taking the pressure off of Kansas’ outstanding perimeter group. Prediction: Kansas 78, Ohio 69

Florida State (+5.5) at Butler (Saturday, 6:00 PM, Regional TV): Could be the best game of the weekend. Florida State came into the season with lowered expectations due to the loss of Al Thornton, but the Seminoles have bounced back from a sluggish start – in which they lost back-to-back games by a total of four points – to win six straight, including wins over Florida and Minnesota. Butler was undefeated until Wright State knocked off the Bulldogs last weekend, for the third consecutive time. Still, Butler has solid wins throughout its schedule, including one over Ohio State. A.J. Graves and Mike Green are an outstanding backcourt duo. Prediction: Butler 67, Florida State 58

Mississippi State (+1) at South Alabama (Saturday, 8:05 PM, ESPN FullCourt/Regional TV): Although it isn’t mentioned amongst the more well-documented failures, Mississippi State is one of the biggest disappointments of the season so far. The Bulldogs were expected to contend for the SEC West and the top-25, but they are only 5-4 with the best win over Tennessee-Martin. South Alabama is 6-3 and coming off a win over Southern Mississippi. The Jaguars have lost their three games to Vanderbilt, Miami (Ohio) and Mississippi – three teams with a combined three losses – by a total of 11 points. Guard Demetric Bennett is one of the best players in the Sun Belt; he can really fill it up. Prediction: South Alabama 79, Mississippi State 75

Western Kentucky (+9) vs. Tennessee (Saturday, 10:30 PM, ESPNU): Expect a end-to-end game filled with plenty of scoring and athletic plays by a deep group of perimeter players for both teams. Western Kentucky is 7-2 and is coming off two straight wins. The Hilltoppers lost to Gonzaga earlier in the year by just three points. Courtney Lee is one of the best wings in the country; ten players average at least 14 minutes per game. Tennessee is 8-1 and has bounced back nicely from its demolition at the hands of Texas earlier this season. All-America Chris Lofton has struggled all season with his shot and needs to find it again. Two pieces of news to keep an eye on: forward Duke Crews is out indefinitely with a heart condition and Saturday will mark the debut of Arizona transfer J.P. Prince. Prediction: Tennessee 89, Western Kentucky 81

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