Friday, December 12, 2008

Weekend Preview

After one of the least enticing weeks of the college basketball season so far, the upcoming weekend is no different. 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. Oh, and welcome back to the Weekend Preview – I’m starting ratchet things up here again, as my final exams and semester wind down.

Butler at Ohio State (-7) (Saturday, 12:00 Noon, Big Ten Network): Two of the dwindling number of unbeatens remaining (more on that in a post coming Tuesday), the Midwest powers battle it out. Butler has four road wins, including ones over mid-major threats Drake and Cleveland State, as well as a home victory over Northwestern. Matt Howard is one of the better big men around, while Shelvin Mack has done an admirable job replacing A.J. Graves and Mike Green. Ohio State leapt back into the nation’s mind with back-to-back road wins against Miami (Fl.) and Notre Dame. Evan Turner looks like the next Buckeyes’ star, while Jon Diebler can really shoot the ball. Freshman phenom B.J. Mullens has yet to break out. Prediction: Ohio State 67, Butler 61

Tennessee at Temple (+7.5) (Saturday, 12:00 Noon, ESPN): The Volunteers come up north for a tough non-conference game. Temple was expected to compete for an NCAA berth out of the Atlantic-10, but the Owls have struggled, starting just 4-3, including a loss to Buffalo. Dionte Christmas is one of the premier shooting guards in the country, and Lavoy Allen is a double-double threat on the inside. Tennessee has just one blemish on its resume, a loss on a neutral court to Gonzaga. The Vols have not missed a beat from last year, with Tyler Smith becoming more of a go-to-guy and Cameron Tatum and J.P. Prince stepping up on the perimeter. Prediction: Tennessee 88, Temple 76

Memphis at Georgetown (-6.5) (Saturday, 2:00 PM, CBS): Two top-25 teams go at it in their annual marquee match-up; it should be the game of the weekend. Georgetown has just one loss on its record, a 12-point defeat against Tennessee. Since then, the Hoyas have not allowed a team to score 50 points, winning their last three by almost 38 points per game. DaJuan Summers and Greg Monroe lead five players averaging double-figures. Memphis is obviously not as good as it was last year, as the Tigers fell to Xavier a couple of weeks ago by five points. Tyreke Evans is their leading scorer, but he needs to curtail his shot selection. Robert Dozier is very tough to guard, and Shawn Taggart is averaging a double-double. Prediction: Georgetown 76, Memphis 70

Indiana at Kentucky (-16.5) (Saturday, 4:00 PM, CBS): This is not going to be a good game at all, but given the rivalry and the fact that it’s the second game of CBS’ double-header, I figured I should include it. Indiana is expectedly struggling this season, although forward Tom Pritchard has been a bright spot. Kentucky has won six of seven since starting 0-2. Jodie Meeks is filling it up offensively, while Patrick Patterson is dominating the interior. Prediction: Kentucky 83, Indiana 66

Saint Mary’s at San Diego State (+3) (Saturday, 4:30 PM, Regional TV):
A West Coast battle in southern California. Saint Mary’s is looking to keep pace with conference brethren Gonzaga, as the Gaels have just one loss, to UTEP, on their docket. Patty Mills has established himself as one of the best point guards in the country, while Omar Samhan and Diamon Simpson control the frontcourt. San Diego State had won six in a row before falling to Arizona on Wednesday; the Aztecs’ only two losses are to the Wildcats and Arizona State. Kyle Spain can really shoot the ball, while Lorrenzo Wade is a tough match-up on the wing. Prediction: Saint Mary’s 77, San Diego State 73

San Diego at Oregon (-6.5) (Saturday, 8:00 PM, Regional TV): Both teams need to turn their season around if they want to make noise in their respective conferences. San Diego was expected to compete with Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference, but Brandon Johnson was lost for the season and the Toreros have lost three in a row and five of their last seven. Forwards Gyno Pomare and Rob Jones need to pick up the slack. Oregon is likely going to finish near the bottom of the conference, but the Ducks have looked solid at times – before dropping three of their last four. Tajuan Porter and freshman Michael Dunigan are a decent inside-outside duo. Prediction: Oregon 72, San Diego 65

Xavier at Cincinnati (+2) (Saturday, 8:00 PM, ESPN2):
The Crosstown Shootout picks up some added importance this season, as both teams are very competitive and have a chance to reach the postseason (well, that’s always the case with Xavier; Cincinnati is the potential surprise). The Musketeers, ranked in the top-10, are undefeated, with wins over Memphis, Missouri and Virginia Tech. Wings B.J. Raymond and C.J. Anderson are solid, while Derrick Brown is a freakish athlete up front. Terrell Holloway is back from injury at the point. Cincinnati could be a threat to reach the Dance if the Big East wasn’t so deep this season. Still, the Bearcats only have a loss to Florida State marking their record. Deonta Vaughn is one of the best guards in the conference, while Mike Williams leads a slew of forwards. Prediction: Xavier 74, Cincinnati 71

Texas A&M at Alabama (-3.5) (Saturday, 8:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt/Regional TV): This game could have potential NCAA Tournament implications, as both teams are expected to be on the Big Dance bubble come March. Texas A&M is one of seven Big 12 teams with exactly one loss; the Aggies’ defeat came to Tulsa. They are also coming off of a win over Arizona. Josh Carter is one of the top three-point shooters in the country, while Donald Sloan is developing quickly as a solid guard. Bryan Davis has stepped into the frontcourt and become a factor. Alabama has won four in a row since starting the season 1-2. Ronald Steele leads the team in scoring despite not looking like his old self after two years of injuries. Senario Hillman has been a surprise, and Alonzo Gee has been tough on the wing. Prediction: Alabama 70, Texas A&M 65

Gonzaga at Arizona (Sunday, 6:00 PM, FSN):
If you like a lot of points – and not a ton of defense, to put it kindly – this is the game for you. Expect a lot of up-tempo basketball with exciting finishes at the basket and fast-break offense. Gonzaga is establishing itself as a national title contender with its 7-0 start, which includes wins over Tennessee, Washington State, Maryland and Oklahoma State. Josh Heytvelt looks like the version from two years ago, while Austin Daye continues to assert himself offensively. Jeremy Pargo is one of the best point guards in the country. Arizona could really use a marquee win here to establish itself in the Pac-10 discussion. The Wildcats’ two losses – to UAB and Texas A&M – were by one point each. Chase Budinger has been a scoring machine this season, while Jordan Hill is absolutely dominating on the inside, averaging more than 18 points and 12 rebounds per contest. Nic Wise is solid at the point. Prediction: Gonzaga 85, Arizona 79

Portland State at Washington (Sunday, 8:00 PM, Regional TV): This game might not stand out to that many people, but look a little closer at this Pacific Northwest battle between intrastate opponents. Portland State reached the NCAA Tournament last season, and is off to a good start this season, sitting at 7-1 currently. Six players are averaging at least 9.8 points per game, including three D-1 transfers, chief among them Portland transfer Jamie Jones. He leads the team in scoring and rebounding. Washington has won three in a row since losing three of its first five. The Huskies need to develop consistency if they want to reach the NCAA Tournament from the Pac-10. Jon Brockman is a 20-10 threat every night, and is one of the best power forwards in the country. Guards Isaiah Thomas, a 5-8 freshman, and Justin Dentmon, a 5-11 senior, are leading the way on the perimeter. Prediction: Washington 75, Portland State 64

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