Friday, December 21, 2007

Weekend Preview

Conference play is around the corner and non-conference games are winding down – finally. For many fans, we are reaching the point of the college basketball season where things really start mattering – the meat and potatoes of the season. Before we get there, though, there are still some loose ends to tie up in 2007. While there are only a couple of days left for Christmas shopping, don't forget to tune into a ton of college basketball on Saturday. It might be tough to find your last-minute gifts, but that can wait. There are no games on Monday or Tuesday and only one on Wednesday, so be sure to get your fill of college hoops with the handful of must-see match-ups and dozens of other quality contests this weekend.

Top Games

Georgetown (+4) at Memphis (Saturday, 12:00 PM, ESPN): This top-five match-up should be an outstanding game between two teams with their respective sights set on the Final Four. As a matter of fact, don’t be surprised to see these two squads meet up again in three and a half months in San Antonio. Saturday’s game will be a battle of varying tempos. Memphis wants to push the ball and play transition basketball, while Georgetown would rather have a half-court game in which it can run its offense and play tough defense at the other end. Memphis has shown the ability to play at slower tempos, but it is obviously much more comfortable in an up-and-down game. Prediction: Memphis 72, Georgetown 68 Click here for a complete preview for the Game of the Week

Miami (Ohio) (+18) at Kansas (Saturday, 1:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt/Regional TV): A surprisingly good match-up between a team that has a chance to upset a team or two in March and a Final Four favorite. Miami (Ohio) is 6-4, with the four losses coming by a combined nine points. The RedHawks have wins over Xavier, Illinois, Mississippi State and South Alabama. Michael Bramos and Tim Pollitz have been an excellent duo. Kansas has been one of the best teams in the country all season, sitting at 11-0 with wins over Arizona, USC, Georgia Tech and MAC contender Ohio. Five players average in double-figures, led by emerging forward Darrell Arthur and all-around guard Mario Chalmers. Prediction: Kansas 66, Miami (Ohio) 58

Tennessee (+4) at Xavier (Saturday, 2:00 PM, ESPN): An interesting match-up between two teams that can really score. Tennessee was the overwhelming favorite to win the SEC heading into the season but has struggled somewhat in the non-conference. The Volunteers were obliterated by Texas, but have also defeated West Virginia and Western Kentucky. Chris Lofton’s shooting numbers have fallen dramatically since last season, while JaJuan Smith and Tyler Smith have played well. Xavier is still the favorite in what is a much-improved Atlantic-10. It has wins over Indiana, Kent State and Creighton, but is coming off a blowout loss to Arizona State. Six players average in double-figures for the Musketeers. Drew Lavender is one of the best point guards in the country, while Derrick Brown is a freak athlete who can rebound and score very well. Prediction: Xavier 79, Tennessee 74

Florida (+6.5) at Ohio State (Saturday, 4:00 PM, CBS): A rematch of last season’s title game, both teams lost a lot of talent but still have enough quality personnel to make a run at the NCAA Tournament. Florida is 11-1, with the lone defeat coming at the hands of Florida State on the Gators’ home floor. Freshman Nick Calathes has been one of the best newcomers in the country, while big man Marreese Speights has emerged as a potential force down low. Ohio State has struggled somewhat this season, sitting at only 7-3. Freshman center Kosta Koufos is a future lottery pick with his inside-outside ability, while guards Jamar Butler and David Lighty form a solid backcourt. Prediction: Ohio State 70, Florida 65

Clemson (-3) vs. Mississippi (Saturday, 5:30 PM): Too bad this game will not be on television – it’s going to be an outstanding contest with plenty of scoring. Both teams are undefeated and can get up-and-down the floor quickly. Will one of them be exposed on Saturday? Clemson has a couple of nice wins, including victories over Mississippi State, South Carolina and Purdue. K.C. Rivers has adapted well to a starting role on the wing, while James Mays has made an impact when he isn’t injured. Trevor Booker is an outstanding rebounder on the interior. On the other side, Mississippi has surprised many by becoming a team to watch in the SEC West. The Rebels were expected to finish in last place in the division. Their best wins are over New Mexico, South Alabama and Winthrop – not exactly murderers’ row. Dwayne Curtis is a very good big man down low, while Chris Warren is an exciting scorer and passer who tends to turn the ball over. Six players average at least 9.5 points per game. Prediction: Clemson 85, Mississippi 80

Texas (+4.5) at Michigan State (Saturday, 6:30 PM, ESPN2): Another game that could be a preview of the Final Four in San Antonio. Both teams are in the top-10 and are playing very good basketball. Texas has arguably been the country’s most impressive team this year, with wins over UCLA and Tennessee. The Longhorns have been blowing out teams left and right all year. D.J. Augustin has improved greatly since last season, and could be the Player of the Year this season. Damion James and surprise double-figure scorer Connor Atchley provide balance up front, while A.J. Abrams can knock down threes from beyond the arc. Michigan State struggled at the outset of the season, losing to a Division-II Grand Valley State in an exhibition game. However, the Spartans have bounced back and are 10-1, with wins over Missouri, BYU, North Carolina State and Bradley. Drew Neitzel is one of the best guards in the country, while Raymar Morgan is a developing star up front. Goran Suton has been a solid asset down low. Prediction: Michigan State 67, Texas 63

Other Games to Watch

UC-Santa Barbara (+21.5) at North Carolina (Saturday, 1:00 PM, Regional TV): Don’t laugh; this could be a surprisingly good game. UCSB is 10-1 and is the favorite to win the Big West. Alex Harris is one of the best players in the country that you’ve never heard of, while Chris Devine is also a solid player. North Carolina is the No. 1 team in the country, but are coming off of a bad performance against Nicholls State. Danny Green has been a surprise for the Tar Heels. Prediction: North Carolina 91, UC-Santa Barbara 73

San Diego State (+11.5) at Arizona (Saturday, 3:00 PM, Regional TV): Battle on the West Coast. San Diego State is 9-2 with the lone defeats coming at the hands of California and Saint Mary’s – two likely NCAA Tournament participants. Lorrenzo Wade and Kyle Spain are a terrific wing duo. Arizona has won five in a row since struggling early, including wins over Texas A&M, Illinois and UNLV. Jordan Hill has emerged as a go-to option down low. Prediction: Arizona 81, San Diego State 72

Western Kentucky (+4) at Southern Illinois (Saturday, 3:05 PM, Regional TV): Two of the best mid-majors in the country heading into the season, neither team has been overly impressive this year. Western Kentucky has three losses and its best wins are over Nebraska and Michigan. Courtney Lee is still one of the best wings in the country, though. Southern Illinois has been one of the biggest disappointments in the nation. The Salukis are only 4-5, losing five of their last six games. Randal Falker and Matt Shaw are a solid forward tandem. Prediction: Southern Illinois 58, Western Kentucky 53

Florida State (+3.5) at Providence (Saturday, 4:00 PM, Regional TV): For two teams that could eventually have the credentials to make a case for an at-large bid in March, this would be a solid resume win. Florida State is 10-3 with wins over Florida and Minnesota, but losses to South Florida and Cleveland State. Isaiah Swann leads a very good three-man backcourt. Providence is 7-3 with impressive victories over Arkansas and Boston College. Brian McKenzie is leading the team in scoring, but the Friars need injured point guard Sharaud Curry back and healthy – eight minutes per game from him isn’t going to cut it. Prediction: Providence 80, Florida State 73

Stanford (-5.5) at Texas Tech (Saturday, 4:30 PM, ESPN2): Solid game between two teams looking for a quality win. Stanford is 9-1 but doesn’t really have any noteworthy wins, but Brook Lopez is finally back and ready to lead the Cardinal to the NCAA Tournament. Texas Tech has a win over Gonzaga but a horrible loss to Centenary. Martin Zeno is one of the best scorers in the Big 12 in the backcourt, while Alan Voskuil has stepped up beside Zeno. Prediction: Stanford 64, Texas Tech 61

VCU (+4.5) at Bradley (Saturday, 8:05 PM, Regional TV): One of the best mid-major match-ups of the day between two teams with NCAA Tournament hopes. VCU has won four in a row since struggling to a 3-3 start. Eric Maynor is one of the best point guards in the country, while Jamar Shuler has stepped up on the wing. Bradley could use a signature win, as it as fallen short in its previous three tries against Vanderbilt, Michigan State and Butler. Daniel Ruffin and Jeremy Crouch form a very solid backcourt. Prediction: VCU 76, Bradley 74

Illinois (+3.5) vs. Missouri (Saturday, 8:30 PM, ESPN2): Match-up between two teams that could really use a win if it harbors at-large hopes heading into conference play. Illinois is 6-4 and only 4-4 in its last eight games, including overtime losses at home to Miami (Ohio) and Arizona. Shaun Pruitt needs to continue his dominance down low. Missouri has won three in a row since a rough 2-3 stretch last month. Stefhon Hannah and DeMarre Carroll form a good inside-outside combo. Prediction: Missouri 70, Illinois 65

Keep an Eye on these Games

Holy Cross (OFF) at Siena (Saturday, 1:00 PM): Decent mid-major battle between two teams that could eventually make the NCAA Tournament from the MAAC (Siena) and Patriot (Holy Cross). Both teams have given major-conference teams trouble this year. Prediction: Siena 67, Holy Cross 59

James Madison (+7.5) at Seton Hall (Saturday, 1:00 PM): Potential upset alert. Seton Hall has struggled somewhat against lesser teams that can score with them, and James Madison has been a surprise in the Colonial. Prediction: Seton Hall 88, James Madison 78

New Mexico State (+13.5) at Louisville (Saturday, 2:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt/Regional TV): Both teams have been disappointing this season, although Louisville has an excuse with injuries. Can NMSU turn it around? Prediction: Louisville 83, New Mexico State 70

UCLA (-14.5) at Michigan (Saturday, 2:00 PM, CBS):
Likely a blowout on paper, but John Beilein gave UCLA a lot of trouble when he was coaching at West Virginia. He also had better teams in Morgantown than he does now, though. Prediction: UCLA 72, Michigan 56

Nevada (+5) at Northern Iowa (Saturday, 2:05 PM, ESPN FullCourt/Regional TV): Both teams were expected to have down years are losing a lot to graduation, but both teams will contend in conferences that have struggled this season. Prediction: Northern Iowa 69, Nevada 62

Texas-Arlington (OFF) at Oklahoma State (Saturday, 3:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt/Regional TV):
Texas-Arlington was one of the last undefeated teams before falling in overtime Monday to TCU; Oklahoma State is coming off a 15-point loss to Oral Roberts. Prediction: Oklahoma State 73, Texas-Arlington 63

Arkansas-Little Rock (+14) at Creighton (Saturday, 3:05 PM, Regional TV): Could be a decent game. Arkansas-Little Rock is 9-1 with the lone loss coming to UT-Arlington, while Creighton is 8-1 and the potential favorite in the Missouri Valley. Prediction: Creighton 70, Arkansas-Little Rock 55

Utah (+7) at California (Saturday, 6:00 PM, Regional TV): A decent match-up in the west. Three of the country’s best big men will be on display in Cal’s Ryan Anderson and DeVon Hardin and Utah’s Luke Nevill. Prediction: California 72, Utah 61

Missouri State (+2) vs. Alabama (Saturday, 8:00 PM): Another chance for a Missouri Valley team to pick-up some momentum heading into conference play. MSU is 7-3, while Alabama has won three in a row to move to 7-3. The Tide need a win here for at-large purposes. Prediction: Alabama 71, Missouri State 65

Valparaiso (+13) at Wisconsin (Saturday, 8:30 PM, Big Ten Network): Another potential upset game, although it’s unlikely. Valpo is 2-0 in the Horizon and will contend with Butler for the regular-season crown, while Wisconsin has struggled at times this year. Prediction: Wisconsin 71, Valparaiso 59

Virginia Tech at Wake Forest (Sunday, 5:30 PM, FSN): The bottom-feeders in the ACC battle it out to see who starts the season in last place. Wake is coming off nice wins over Bucknell and South Florida, while Tech has won four of its last five. Prediction: Wake Forest 68, Virginia Tech 58

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