Friday, December 7, 2007

Weekend Preview

Ah, December – finally time for college basketball to take center stage. There are no college football games (well, FBS college football, at least) on TV, so fans around the country can get back into the college hoops swing of things this weekend. Moreover, with over a month of the season done and conference play starting up in a few short weeks, teams across the country need to start beefing up their non-conference resumes with an eye on March and Selection Sunday. Luckily, there are plenty of quality games this weekend for teams to make a statement.

Arizona (+3) at Illinois (Saturday, 12:00 PM, ESPN): It’s going to be interesting to see how Arizona reacts with the recent news that Lute Olson is going to sit out the entire season and that he is divorcing his wife. It could be a relief to the Wildcats since the distraction of Olson could be somewhat lifted from the team. Kevin O’ Neill has done a solid job so far, led by the duo of guard Jerryd Bayless and forward Chase Budinger. Illinois has lost to ACC clubs Duke and Maryland, and could use a good win on its non-conference resume. Shaun Pruitt and Trent Meachem are the team’s lone-double figure scorers. Prediction: Illinois 69, Arizona 64

Wake Forest (+5) at Georgia (Saturday, 2:00 PM, Regional TV/ESPN FullCourt):
Two middling power-conference teams face-off in hopes to get some momentum heading into the league season. Wake has two losses by a combined seven points on the road, and is coming off a tough three-point defeat at Vanderbilt. Freshman forward James Johnson has emerged as a star. Georgia has played only one tough game, a 19-point deficit at the hands of Wisconsin. The guard duo of Billy Humphrey and Sundiata Gaines has been the team’s strength. Prediction: Georgia 72, Wake Forest 68

George Mason (+3.5) at Kent State (Saturday, 2:00 PM): A very solid mid-major match-up between two teams who could see themselves in the NCAA Tournament come March. George Mason has solid wins over South Carolina, Dayton and Kansas State, and is led by double-double machine Will Thomas, who has the ability to dominate down low. Kent State doesn’t have the marquee victories Mason does, but it is still a formidable opponent, especially at home. Mike Scott is a player to watch. Prediction: Kent State 70, George Mason 64

Michigan (+22) at Duke (Saturday, 2:00 PM, CBS):
Another projected blowout in what has been a series of blowouts. Michigan has struggled mightily this season, and is coming into the game on a three-game losing streak. Freshman Manny Harris has been one of the few highlights for this team so far. Duke is playing some of the best basketball in the country, and could be a potential threat to North Carolina in the ACC. Freshman Kyle Singler is going to be a star. Prediction: Duke 98, Michigan 74

Dayton (+12) at Louisville (Saturday, 2:00 PM, ESPN2): A match-up that might be closer than you think. Dayton has been solid this year, knocking off Miami (Ohio) and Holy Cross – both on the road. Chris Wright is one of the best freshmen in the country that doesn’t get enough pub, while Brian Roberts is a big-time scorer. Louisville has struggled at times this year, but the Cardinals sport nice victories over Miami (Ohio) and at UNLV. Earl Clark has been a double-double monster this year, while Derrick Caracter and Terrence Williams round out a loaded frontcourt. Prediction: Louisville 78, Dayton 69

DePaul (+20) at Kansas (Saturday, 2:00 PM, ESPN): This game would have been better last year (well, it was, DePaul upset the Jayhawks). The Blue Demons are only 2-2 this season, with a loss to North Carolina A&T “highlighting” their resume. Guard Draelon Burns is a scoring machine, though. Kansas is still not fully healthy and won’t be for another few weeks, but the Jayhawks are still winning games, including ones over USC and Arizona. Darrell Arthur has really come into his own this season. Prediction: Kansas 87, DePaul 68

St. Mary’s (-2.5) vs. San Diego State (Saturday, 3:00 PM, Regional TV): A fierce west coast battle. St. Mary’s has been one of the best teams in the country this season, knocking off Oregon, Seton Hall and a decent 6-1 Drake team. Freshman guard Patty Mills is a budding star, while Omar Samhan and Diamon Simpson anchor the paint. San Diego State is a solid 7-1 this season and has five guys averaging double-figures in points. Wing Lorrenzo Wade has been a very good all-around player, while Kyle Spain and Kelvin Davis are also shooting at least 41% from three. Prediction: Saint Mary's 80, San Diego State 75

Pittsburgh (-3.5) at Washington (Saturday, 3:00 PM, FSN): East meets West. Pittsburgh has been one of the best teams in the country so far this season, destroying every team on their schedule, with the exception of a five-point win at Duquesne. The only problem is, the Panthers haven’t really played anyone of note yet besides the Dukes. Today will be a big test for forward Sam Young and co. Washington has lost three of four and needs to right the ship in order to stay in line for an at-large berth come March. Jon Brockman is averaging almost 20 points and over 11 rebounds per game. Prediction: Pittsburgh 83, Washington 78

Delaware (+3) at Southern Illinois (Saturday, 4:00 PM, ESPN): If you had to do a double-take at this game, I know why. This obviously isn’t basketball – it’s the semifinals of the FCS (formerly I-AA) Tournament. Since I go to UD, I figured I would throw this one in there. The Blue Hens knocked off the No. 1 seed last week, previously unbeaten Northern Iowa, and have to go on the road this week. Quarterback Joe Flacco will get drafted this year, and running back Omar Cuff is one of the best backs in the country. Southern Illinois only has a loss to Northern Iowa on its resume. The Salukis have an outstanding quarterback in Nick Hill, one of the most efficient passers in the country. Prediction: Delaware 45, Southern Illinois 38

Michigan State (+2) at BYU (Saturday, 4:00 PM, Regional TV): Going into the season, one might not think this was the best game of the day. But it is. Michigan State has not been winning pretty this season, but the Spartans are still 7-1 with only a loss to UCLA on its resume. Raymar Morgan has broken out this season from the wing, while Drew Neitzel does not have to do everything like he did last year. BYU has surprised some this year, but the Cougars are a close loss to North Carolina away from being undefeated. They also have a win over Louisville. Trent Plaisted is one of the best big men in the country. Prediction: BYU 67, Michigan State 63

Kentucky (+8.5) at Indiana (Saturday, 4:00 PM, CBS):
A rivalry game in the Midwest. Kentucky has had injuries and distractions galore this season, and received another one this week with the Alex Legion transfer/not transfer situation. The Wildcats are only 4-2 and need some quality wins. Joe Crawford and Patrick Patterson form a dynamite inside-outside duo. Indiana, on the other hand, is 7-1 and rolling. Eric Gordon is one of the best freshmen in the country, while D.J. White provides great inside balance down low. Prediction: Indiana 79, Kentucky 67

Purdue (+8) at Missouri (Saturday, 4:00 PM, ESPN2): Another Midwest battle. Purdue is 5-1 this season, with its only loss a three-point game at Clemson. Freshmen Scott Martin and E’Twaun Moore have been one of the better newcomer duos in the Big Ten, while JC transfer Nemanja Calasan has anchored the paint. Missouri started hot, but has since lost its last two games at Arkansas and California. Guard Stefhon Hannah is a very solid player, while forward DeMarre Carroll is active and athletic around the basket. Prediction: Missouri 71, Purdue 64

Davidson (+13) at UCLA (Saturday, 5:30 PM, Regional TV): Can Davidson finally break-through and get a win over a big-name team after falling just short against Duke and North Carolina? The way the Wildcats have played, probably not. Davidson also has losses to Charlotte and Western Michigan on its resume. Stephen Curry is one of the best scorers in the country, while Jason Richards is one of the top assist men in the nation. UCLA is coming off of a tough home loss to Texas, but the Bruins are still one of the best teams in the country. Freshman Kevin Love has been outstanding. Prediction: UCLA 74, Davidson 64

Marquette (+2.5) at Wisconsin (Saturday, 6:00 PM, ESPN2): An intrastate rivalry between two likely NCAA Tournament teams. Last year’s game was very good; this one should be the same. Marquette has played only once since its Nov. 21 loss to Duke, a win over Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Guards Dominic James, Jerel McNeal, David Cubillan and Wesley Matthews form one of the best backcourt quartets in the country. Wisconsin is 6-1, with – like Marquette – only a loss to Duke tarnishing its profile. Trevon Hughes is a very good scorer and playmaker, while Brian Butch is starting to develop into the player he was expected to be out of high school. Prediction: Marquette 65, Wisconsin 62

Utah (+12.5) at Oregon (Saturday, 6:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt): Battle on the west coast. Utah is 5-2 and could be a contender in the Mountain West. Center Luke Nevill is not putting up the numbers of a year ago, but he is still a force in the paint, while Johnnie Bryant is the leader on the perimeter. Oregon is coming off an overtime win at Kansas State, and needs to pick up some momentum heading into Pac-10 play. Malik Hairston is an all-around star, while Maarty Leunen is a double-double monster inside this year. Prediction: Oregon 78, Utah 63

Rhode Island (+4) at Syracuse (Saturday, 6:00 PM, Regional TV/ESPN FullCourt):
A potential upset surprise at the Carrier Dome. Rhode Island is the nation’s leader in wins this season with nine, as the Rams have knocked off Providence and UAB, among others. Guard Jimmy Baron can really shoot the ball, while forward Will Daniels is one of the best players in the Atlantic-10. Syracuse has struggled mightily on the defensive side of the ball this year, giving up at least 79 points four times. Donte Greene and Jonny Flynn have been one of the best freshmen duos in the country, while Eric Devendorf has been a scorer. Prediction: Syracuse 85, Rhode Island 79

Duquesne (+11.5) at West Virginia (Saturday, 7:00 PM, Regional TV/ESPN FullCourt): Expect a high-scoring contest between these two rising clubs. Duquesne has shown itself to be an Atlantic-10 contender this year, despite its back-to-back losses entering this game. Shawn James is a dominating force at both ends of the floor down low, while guard Kojo Mensah is a solid guard. West Virginia looks outstanding this season, with only a two-point game against Tennessee as its only loss. Alex Ruoff is a good scorer, while Joe Alexander and Da’Sean Butler are athletic forwards. Prediction: West Virginia 83, Duquesne 74

California (+2.5) at Kansas State (Sunday, 2:00 PM, Regional TV): Should be a battle of outstanding frontcourts. California is 6-0, with several quality wins highlighting the season so far. Up front, Ryan Anderson and DeVon Hardin are one of the best inside duos in the country, while guard Patrick Christopher is really filling it up from the perimeter. Kansas State is coming off back-to-back losses and needs to pick up a win to boost its profile. The Wildcats are led by freshman sensation Michael Beasley, one of the best scorers and rebounders in the country. Jacob Pullen and the talented Bill Walker help Beasley on the offensive end. Prediction: California 72, Kansas State 70

Saint Joseph’s (+7) at Creighton (Sunday, 3:05 PM, Regional TV): Both teams are looking to contend in conferences that are not guaranteed more than one bid this season. Saint Joseph’s has struggled lately after a hot start, losing to Holy Cross on Tuesday. Forwards Pat Calathes and Ahmad Nivins have been one of the best frontcourt duos in the Atlantic-10. Creighton won its first five games of the season before falling to Xavier this week. Senior Dane Watts has been the leader this year, while freshman P’Allen Stinnett is also a double-figure scorer. Prediction: Creighton 71, Saint Joseph's 65

Boston College (+4.5) at Maryland (Sunday, 7:30 PM, FSN): The ACC season starts with this quality Sunday night match-up. Boston College is a somewhat surprising 6-1 this season, with a quality win over Rhode Island. Tyrese Rice is one of the better guards in the conference, while forward Shamari Spears and Rakim Sanders have been impressive. Maryland has been up-and-down this year, and sits at 6-3 heading into this game. Greivis Vasquez has been inconsistent shooting the ball this year, while forward James Gist is pushing towards a break-out season. Prediction: Maryland 73, Boston College 67

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