Friday, February 15, 2008

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. None of the major conferences have been completely decided, and there are plenty of teams looking to make a move in the league standings to get back in the title hunt. These weekend features an abundance of games with postseason implications.

Top Games

Georgetown (-3) at Syracuse (Saturday, 12:00 PM, ESPN):
A rematch of the classic last month in which the Hoyas needed heroics from Jessie Sapp to finish off the Orange in overtime. This time, ‘Cuse absolutely needs to win this game if they have legit thoughts of an at-large bid. Back-to-back losses and a .500 league record have the Orange in an unfavorable position. Georgetown has to keep winning to stay atop the Big East. Prediction: Syracuse 73, Georgetown 71

Florida (+5.5) at Vanderbilt (Saturday, 3:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt/Regional TV): Two teams heading in opposite directions in the SEC East. Florida has lost three of its last four, including a 12-point defeat at home to LSU. The young Gators need to start winning to get back into the NCAA Tournament. Vandy has won four in a row, including a 41-point thrashing of a hot Kentucky team on Tuesday. The ‘Dores are rising. Prediction: Vanderbilt 81, Florida 68

Stanford (+1.5) at Arizona (Saturday, 3:30 PM, ABC): Can someone figure out the Pac-10 for me? Stanford, one of the hottest teams in the country, loses to Arizona State last night. Arizona looks terrible the past two weekends, then handles California last night – and is still in fourth in the conference. Jerryd Bayless could have a big game against the mediocre Cardinal backcourt, although Stanford’s Brook Lopez should be in-line for a monster performance. Prediction: Arizona 75, Stanford 70

Arkansas (+6) at Mississippi State (Saturday, 4:00 PM, ESPN): The SEC West is on the line when these two teams get together tomorrow afternoon. Arkansas is coming off a 21-point loss at Tennessee, while MSU has won back-to-back games since a two-game losing streak. Arkansas won the first meeting between the two. One thing to keep note of: Ben Hansbrough is back for MSU; he was out during the initial match-up. Prediction: Mississippi State 73, Arkansas 65

Texas (+2) at Baylor (Saturday, 6:00 PM, ESPN): If you like guards, you’ll love this match-up. Texas has one of the best guard duos in the country in D.J. Augustin and A.J. Abrams, while Baylor has one of the deepest and talented groups in the nation, led by Curtis Jerrells. The two teams are heading in opposite directions, though. Texas is coming off a big home win over Kansas, while Baylor has lost four of five since its five-overtime win at Texas A&M. Prediction: Baylor 79, Texas 74

California (+4.5) at Arizona State (Saturday, 6:00 PM, Regional TV): Bubble battle in the Pac-10. California had plenty of momentum heading into last weekend, but it has lost back-to-back games to Oregon and Arizona by a combined 32 points. It needs a win here against ASU, who has picked up two straight wins over Arizona and Stanford to solidify its spot in the NCAA Tournament. A win here would move them even higher in the pecking order. Prediction: Arizona State 69, California 63

Washington State (+1) at Oregon (Saturday, 9:00 PM, FSN): What a surprise, another outstanding match-up in the Pac-10. Washington State has bounced back nicely from its four-game losing streak, winning back-to-back double-digit games against USC and Oregon State. On the other side, Oregon is trying to make a late run at an NCAA bid, having won three of its last four, including consecutive victories over California and Washington. Prediction: Oregon 71, Washington State 67

Michigan State (+4) at Indiana (Saturday, 9:00 PM, ESPN): Despite the poor play this week by each team, expect this to be one of the best games of the Big Ten season. This game also holds more importance than one would expect in terms of the Big Ten standings. A loss here for Michigan State, and the Spartans could drop to fifth in the conference if Ohio State wins. That would not bode well for their seeding in the NCAA Tournament. Indiana has lost whatever momentum it built due to its hot start, and needs to pick-up a victory to get back on the right track. Prediction: Michigan State 66, Indiana 63

UNLV (+7) at BYU (Saturday, 9:00 PM, CSTV): First-place in the Mountain West is on the line tomorrow night, although both teams also need a win to keep their at-large profile NCAA Tournament-worthy. UNLV won the first meeting between the two teams, but BYU is nearly impossible to beat at home. Despite an abundance of quality teams in the MWC, these two are combined 13-1 in Mountain West play since January 19. Prediction: BYU 72, UNLV 66

UCLA at USC (Sunday, 10:00 PM, FSN): The battle for Los Angeles. USC won the first meeting, pulling off the upset of the Bruins at Pauley Pavillion. Both teams are hampered with injuries right now, as UCLA hasn’t been completely healthy all year, while USC could be without starting guard Daniel Hackett indefinitely. Can the Trojans pull off the improbable sweep of the cross-town rival? Well, that’s what they got star freshman guard O.J. Mayo for, right? Prediction: UCLA 74, USC 70

Conference Clashes

Cleveland State (+12) at Butler (Saturday, 2:00 PM, Regional TV):
Rematch of two of the best teams in the Horizon. Cleveland State won the first meeting between the two, handing Butler one of just two losses on the season. However, CSU lost five in a row midway through the league season to lose any grasp it has on the league standings. Butler has proven itself to be one of the best teams in the country. Prediction: Butler 64, Cleveland State 53

Ohio (+7) at Kent State (Saturday, 3:00 PM, Regional TV): A few weeks ago, it seemed like the MAC might have a chance to get an at-large bid for the first time in several years. However, Ohio has lost two of its last three games to fall two games behind Kent State in the league standings, essentially killing any shot it had at a bid. KSU has won three in a row after surprisingly losing at Toledo. Prediction: Kent State 71, Ohio 65

UNC-Wilmington (+12.5) at George Mason (Saturday, 6:00 PM, ESPNU): Although VCU has a two-game lead on the rest of the competition in the CAA, these two teams are next in the pecking order. George Mason lost last week at Old Dominion, which was a big blow to its at-large hopes, but they do own the tiebreaker over VCU. UNCW has won seven of its last nine, with the two losses coming by a combined five points. Prediction: George Mason 70, UNC-Wilmington 62

Oral Roberts (OFF) at IUPUI (Saturday, 7:00 PM): In its first year of existence, the Summit League has been an underrated conference all season long, mainly due to these two teams. Oral Roberts is 13-0 in the conference, a surprise considering it went just 6-5 in non-conference play. IUPUI is arguably the most talented team in the conference, led by George Hill, but it is 12-2 in the league. ORU won the first meeting between the two. Prediction: IUPUI 74, Oral Roberts 67

Pacific (+7) at CSU Fullerton (Saturday, 7:05 PM, Regional TV): The Big West always seems to be competitive, and usually produces a team with the talent to knock off a higher-seeded team in the first-round. Cal State Northridge leads the league, but CSU Fullerton has won six of its last seven and is hot. Pacific lost by 15 in its last effort, a road game at UC-Irvine. The winner of this could have the inside track to a title. Prediction: CSU Fullerton 77, Pacific 71

Memphis (+8) at UAB (Saturday, 8:00 PM, Regional TV): This could be the Tigers’ last challenging road game of the season – can the Blazers pull the upset? Memphis has not been at its peak lately, beating Houston at home by single-digits and struggling to finish off UTEP a couple of weekends ago. UAB has won nine of its last 11; a win here could potentially catapult them into the at-large discussion. Prediction: Memphis 85, UAB 79

Other Games to Watch

Virginia Tech (+13) at North Carolina (Saturday, 1:00 PM, CBS):
Last chance for Tech to move itself into the bottom part of the at-large picture with a marquee win here; UNC has a ton of injury problems right now. Prediction: North Carolina 88, Virginia Tech 76

Louisville (-5.5) at Providence (Saturday, 2:00 PM, ESPN): With the Cardinals only one game out of first-place and Georgetown playing on the road, Louisville could be on top come Sunday. PC has fallen off lately. Prediction: Louisville 78, Providence 73

Clemson (-5.5) at North Carolina State (Saturday, 3:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt/Regional TV):
North Carolina State absolutely needs this game if it wants to think about an at-large; a 4-6 ACC record won’t cut it. Prediction: North Carolina State 70, Clemson 65

Oklahoma (+2.5) at Texas Tech (Saturday, 4:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt/Regional TV):
Without Longar Longar, OU has fallen in the Big 12; Tech is looking for another big win after beating KSU Wednesday. Prediction: Texas Tech 68, Oklahoma 62

Temple (+4) at Dayton (Saturday, 4:00 PM, Regional TV): The A-10 is looking more and more like a two-three bid league instead of a five-bid league. Dayton is falling, while Temple is trying to make a late run. Prediction: Temple 66, Dayton 64

Seton Hall at West Virginia (Sunday, 2:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt/Regional TV):
West Virginia is trying to solidify itself in the NCAA Tournament, while Seton Hall has lost four in a row since its five-game winning streak. Prediction: West Virginia 77, Seton Hall 63

Duke at Wake Forest (Sunday, 7:30 PM, FSN): The Blue Devils are playing some of the best basketball in the country; Wake are just one game out of third-place in the conference. Could they pull the upset here? Prediction: Duke 82, Wake Forest 72

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