Friday, January 9, 2009

Weekend Preview

This is the sort of weekend college basketball fans live for. Although we still haven’t learned much after two weeks or so of conference play, the uncertainty about most teams just adds to the excitement and intensity of this weekend. There are dozens of big games throughout the two days, including every type of game you could ask for. Marquee match-ups? Key non-conference contests? Important conference games in the smaller conferences? Two NCAA Tournament contenders matching up? A sleeper looking to make a statement? Yes, they are all here – and more. So just kick back and take it all in – and only check the NFL games if you have to (or if you’re going to one, in my case).

Top Games

Louisville at Villanova (Saturday, 12:00 PM, ESPN): Two teams in the Big East trying to make their way towards the top of the standings. Louisville hasn't played to its potential, while Villanova needs a couple of marquee wins for its profile. Prediction: Villanova 74, Louisville 69

West Virginia at Marquette (Saturday, 12:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt/Regional TV):
With this being a Big East battle, expect a tough, physical contest. With this being West Virginia and Marquette, expect a close game filled with outstanding on-ball defense and exciting individual play. Prediction: Marquette 73, West Virginia 67

Kansas at Michigan State (Saturday, 1:00 PM, CBS
): The best non-conference game of the weekend. Kansas is starting to play better as its freshmen get more experience, while Michigan State is really hitting its stride as conference play heats up. Prediction: Michigan State 74, Kansas 65

California at Washington (Saturday, 6:00 PM, Regional TV):
Surprisingly, two of the best teams in the Pac-10 square off. California is 3-0 in the conference, including a win over Arizona State. Washington has won nine in a row and is 2-0 in league play. Prediction: Washington 74, California 68

Wisconsin at Purdue (Sunday, 1:30 PM, CBS):
Can either of these teams contend with Michigan State for the Big Ten title? Wisconsin started slow, but has quietly played much better lately. Purdue has started 0-2 in conference play and is struggling.
Prediction: Purdue 61, Wisconsin 56

North Carolina at Wake Forest (Sunday, 8:00 PM, FSN): The best game of the weekend as two top-four teams do battle on Tobacco Road. North Carolina is looking to bounce back after its upset loss to Boston College, while Wake Forest wants to stay undefeated. Prediction: Wake Forest 89, North Carolina 87

UCLA at USC (Sunday, 10:30 PM, FSN):
Battle for Los Angeles. UCLA does not have a very attractive profile, but it is starting to play well at the right time. USC might have more overall talent than the Bruins, but the Trojans are inconsistent and have a loss to Oregon State. Prediction: USC 70, UCLA 65

Other Games to Watch

North Carolina State at Clemson (Saturday, 12:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt/Regional TV): Can Clemson continue its undefeated season against a solid Wolfpack team? NC State will have to take care of the ball if it hopes to come out with a win. Prediction: Clemson 71, North Carolina State 59

Providence at Georgetown (Saturday, 1:00 PM, ESPNU): One team is 3-0 in the Big East, the other is 1-2. Can you guess which team is which? If you said that the unbeaten was Providence and the team with multiple losses is Georgetown, you would be right. Prediction: Georgetown 77, Providence 64

Oklahoma at Kansas State (Saturday, 1:30 PM, ESPN FullCourt/Regional TV):
Oklahoma has struggled defensively somewhat this season, and Kansas State will be hungry for a marquee win at home. KSU has the guards to potentially make it a game. Prediction: Oklahoma 70, Kansas State 57

Vanderbilt at Kentucky (Saturday, 2:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt/Regional TV):
SEC East tussle between neighbor states. The SEC is wide-open this season, and both of these teams need to pad their resumes if they want a chance at an NCAA berth. Prediction: Kentucky 63, Vanderbilt 55

Duke at Florida State (Saturday, 2:00 PM, ESPN): Duke blanketed Stephen Curry most of the game in the Blue Devils' win over Davidson -- can they shut down Toney Douglas? Florida State always seems to get up for big games, and this would certainly fit the bill. Prediction: Duke 83, Florida State 70

Connecticut at Cincinnati (Saturday, 4:30 PM, ESPN FullCourt/Regional TV):
Another interesting battle in the Big East. Connecticut has bounced back nicely from its loss to Georgetown, while Cincinnati has done nothing to show that it can compete for a bid. Prediction: Connecticut 75, Cincinnati 67

Miami (Fl.) at Boston College (Saturday, 7:00 PM, ESPNU):
Will either of these teams push for a top-four finish in the ACC? Miami was expected to at the beginning of the season, but it has been inconsistent. One can say the same for BC, who followed a win over UNC with a loss to Harvard. Prediction: Boston College 71, Miami (Fl.) 65

Texas A&M at Oklahoma State (Saturday, 9:00 PM, ESPNU):
Expect plenty of points in this Big 12 battle. Texas A&M has been a surprising team this year, starting 14-1 so far. Oklahoma State has a ton of perimeter options and can create match-up problems. Prediction: Oklahoma State 83, Texas A&M 74

Stanford at Washington State (Saturday, 10:00 PM, Regional TV): Two of the conference's best last season have fallen back to the pack, with Stanford 1-2 in the conference and Washington State 0-2. It will be interesting to see if either will finish in the upper half of a soft Pac-10. Prediction: Washington State 63, Stanford 56

LSU at Alabama (Sunday, 1:30 PM, ESPN FullCourt/Regional TV): The SEC West is even more wide-open than the conference as a whole. Arkansas is the only team that has impressed so far, but both of these clubs have the talent and experience to make a run. Prediction: Alabama 68, LSU 64

Penn State at Minnesota (Sunday, 3:30 PM, Big Ten Network):
The Big Ten is much better than expected this season, and these two teams are a main reason why. Penn State is 13-3, including a win over Purdue, while Minnesota is 14-1 after a tough road win at Iowa. Prediction: Minnesota 65, Penn State 57

Key Conference Clashes

Utah at San Diego State (Saturday, 4:00 PM, Versus):
The Mountain West is going to be at least a two-bid league, with BYU and UNLV at the top. However, both of these teams kicked off conference play with a win and could make a run towards the top of the standings. Prediction: San Diego State 71, Utah 64

Memphis at UCF (Saturday, 5:00 PM, CBS College Sports): Memphis is likely to suffer its first loss in Conference-USA loss in two years this season; will it be here against Jermaine Taylor and the Golden Knights? They have won five in a row and will be looking for an upset. Prediction: Memphis 85, UCF 73

UAB at Houston (Saturday, 8:00 PM):
Conference-USA has been a one-bid league because of Memphis' domination, but that could change this year. Each of these teams will make a push for second place behind the Tigers; a win here would give the victor momentum. Prediction: UAB 79, Houston 75

Creighton at Bradley (Saturday, 8:05 PM, Regional TV):
After Bradley ruined Illinois State's unbeaten season on Tuesday, the Braves stood alone atop the Missouri Valley at 4-0. Preseason favorite Creighton has lost two in a row to fall back to the middle of the pack. Prediction: Bradley 68, Creighton 62

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