Friday, February 6, 2009

Weekend Preview

With just over four weeks to go until Selection Sunday, the NCAA Tournament picture is starting to clear up in some areas--but becoming increasingly more blurry in others. Bubble teams are not really separating themselves from the rest of the pack, while conferences races are getting tighter and tighter around the country. Conference tournaments are around the corner – it's time for teams to get some momentum. This weekend has plenty of key games on the slate.

Top Games

No. 20 Syracuse at No. 17 Villanova (Saturday, 12:00 PM, ESPN):
Two Big East teams coming off impressive wins this week, as Syracuse defeated West Virginia at home and Villanova knocked off Providence on the road. Before the win, ‘Cuse had lost four of its previous five. ‘Nova has won four in a row to get into the top-four seed conversation for the Big Dance. Prediction: Villanova 82, Syracuse 75

Notre Dame at No. 15 UCLA (Saturday, 1:00 PM, CBS):
Can Notre Dame snap its six-game losing streak against the Bruins? The Fighting Irish are in a huge rut, and are not even in consideration for the Big Dance right now. However, a win here would jumpstart their turnaround. However, UCLA has won three in a row and 14 of its last 16 games overall. They are sitting atop the Pac-10.
Prediction: UCLA 79, Notre Dame 64

Miami (Fl.) at No. 4 Duke (Saturday, 1:30 PM, ESPN FullCourt/Regional TV): Two teams that were both a part of the two biggest surprises of the week – Miami’s slaughtering of Wake Forest at home and Clemson’s demolition of Duke by 27. Can Miami keep its hot streak going, or will Duke bounce back? I can’t see Mike Krzyzewski allowing the Blue Devils to lose again. Prediction: Duke 76, Miami (Fl.) 66

Michigan at No. 1 Connecticut (Saturday, 6:00 PM, ESPN): Another non-conference game that has plenty of meaning for the visitor. Before Michigan’s victory over Penn State Thursday night, the Wolverines had lost five of their previous six. A win here would do wonders for their at-large hopes. Connecticut is playing the best basketball in the country right now after its road win at Louisville. Prediction: Connecticut 77, Michigan 63

Florida State at No. 10 Clemson (Saturday, 7:00 PM, Regional TV): An ACC battle featuring plenty of athletes on both sides. Florida State escaped Georgia Tech at home on Thursday, but could use a marquee win for its at-large resume. Clemson destroyed Duke at home on Wednesday, proving once again that this year’s Tigers are not the Tigers of the past few years. Prediction: Clemson 85, Florida State 78

No. 19 Minnesota at Ohio State (Saturday, 8:00 PM, Big Ten Network): Two 6-4 Big Ten teams looking to keep pace in the league race. Minnesota caught Michigan State at the wrong time on Wednesday, getting run out of the building from the opening tip. Ohio State, on the other hand, picked up a big win this week, knocking off Purdue in overtime to run its winning streak to three.
Prediction: Ohio State 68, Minnesota 62

No. 14 Memphis at No. 18 Gonzaga (Saturday, 9:00 PM, ESPN): A big-time non-conference game between two of the best non-BCS teams in the country. Memphis is quietly looking like a contender, having won 13 games in a row after starting 6-3. Gonzaga has also bounced back since a lull in midseason, as the Bulldogs have won nine in a row. Can either of these teams make a run in March? Prediction: Gonzaga 83, Memphis 77

No. 12 Purdue at No. 23 Illinois (Sunday, 1:00 PM, CBS): Two Big Ten teams that need a bounce-back win after falling on the road this week. Purdue, who might be without Robbie Hummel, lost in overtime at Ohio State on Tuesday. Illinois, who has been struggling somewhat lately, was defeated by Wisconsin on Thursday. Will either of these teams make a run at Michigan State in the standings? Prediction: Purdue 69, Illinois 66

Boston College at No. 7 Wake Forest (Sunday, 4:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt/Regional TV): The two teams that defeated North Carolina this season face off in a rematch of Wake’s 20-point victory up in Boston. BC has won five in a row after a four-game losing streak, while the Demon Deacons have lost two in a row and three of their last four after a 27-point thrashing at the hands of Miami (Fl.) on Wednesday. Prediction: Wake Forest 83, Boston College 68

Bubble Battles

Cincinnati at Georgetown (Saturday, 12:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt/Regional TV):
Major bubble contest in the Big East. Cincinnati has played itself into the at-large picture with a 5-5 Big East record and five wins in its last seven games. Georgetown snapped a five-game losing streak with a win over Rutgers on Tuesday, but the Hoyas need to keep winning. Prediction: Georgetown 71, Cincinnati 62

Providence at West Virginia (Saturday, 4:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt/Regional TV):
Providence missed a chance to move closer to the at-large field with a three-point home loss to Villanova on Wednesday. West Virginia has the credentials for a bid, but its sub-.500 record in the Big East needs improvement. Expect plenty of points and up-and-down action in this game. Prediction: West Virginia 86, Providence 75

Kansas State at Texas A&M (Saturday, 4:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt/Regional TV): Two teams looking to get back to the NCAA Tournament battle it out. Kansas State has won four in a row after starting 0-4 in Big 12 play, while Texas A&M missed a huge chance by falling late at Oklahoma on Wednesday. The Aggies are just 3-5 in conference play and need a victory. Prediction: Texas A&M 72, Kansas State 60

UNLV at New Mexico (Saturday, 8:00 PM, CBS College Sports): Two of the several Mountain West teams looking to win the regular-season title. Right now, five teams are within one game of each other at the top of the standings. UNLV lost to San Diego State at home on Tuesday, while New Mexico has won five of its last seven games after dropping to start the New Year. Prediction: New Mexico 68, UNLV 65

Wisconsin at Penn State (Sunday, 3:00 PM, Big Ten Network):
Major clash between two teams looking to get another bid out of the Big Ten. Wisconsin still has plenty of work to do after its six-game losing streak, but a win over Illinois on Thursday night was a good start. Penn State defeated Michigan State on the road Sunday, but then was blown out by Michigan on Thursday. Prediction: Penn State 66, Wisconsin 59

Conference Clashes

No. 16 Texas at Nebraska (Saturday, 2:00 PM, ESPN):
Is Nebraska a legit at-large contender? A win here could definitely get the Cornhuskers in contention, as they are 4-4 in the Big 12 and have a couple of decent wins on the docket. Texas has lost two in a row at home, to Kansas State in overtime and Missouri on Wednesday. A loss here would drop them to .500 in Big 12 play.
Prediction: Texas 70, Nebraska 65

Oklahoma State at No. 21 Kansas (Saturday, 3:30 PM, ABC): Two of the more athletic teams in the Big 12 battle it out. Oklahoma State came back to knock off Texas Tech at home on Wednesday, keeping its at-large hopes alive. They are now 3-4 in Big 12 play. Kansas is tied with Oklahoma atop the Big 12, sitting at 7-0 in conference play. The Jayhawks could get a top-four seed come Selection Sunday. Prediction: Kansas 80, Oklahoma State 69

No. 22 Washington at Stanford (Sunday, 5:30 PM, FSN): The Pac-10 has been topsy-turvy this season, and this week was no different. Washington, who had five of six games, was blown out by California, who had lost four of five heading into the game. The Huskies are now one game back of UCLA. Stanford snapped a three-game losing streak with a solid victory over Washington State.
Prediction: Washington 84, Stanford 77

Mid-Major Madness

Siena at Rider (Saturday, 1:00 PM): Two of the better teams in the MAAC go head-to-head. It’s also one of the last legit spots for Siena to lose in conference play. The Saints are 12-0 in the MAAC, and are playing some of their best basketball of the season. Rider is just 4-4 since starting conference play 3-0. Ryan Thompson is a player who can give Siena trouble on the wing.
Prediction: Siena 81, Rider 74

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi at Nicholls State (Saturday, 4:00 PM): Two of the best teams in the Southland try to gain conference supremacy. Corpus Christi lost its first game of the league season last week against Sam Houston State, and are now tied at 6-1 with SHS atop the West Nicholls State is 6-2, tied for first in the East with Stephen F. Austin, after defeating SFA on Wednesday. Prediction: Nicholls State 64, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 57

Charleston at Davidson (Saturday, 6:00 PM, ESPN2):
One of Davidson’s toughest games of the Southern Conference season thus far was a four-point win at Charleston back in December. However, Charleston has since struggled, losing three of its last four to drop to third place in the South division. This might be the last legit spot for Davidson to lose in league play.
Prediction: Davidson 82, Charleston 70

Wisconsin-Milwaukee at Wisconsin-Green Bay (Saturday, 8:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt/Regional TV): The two teams chasing Butler in the Horizon League face-off to try to stay within striking distance of the Bulldogs. Milwaukee has won two in a row since losing by 30 at Butler two weeks ago. Green Bay handed Butler its first league loss on Monday and has won eight of nine.
Prediction: Wisconsin-Green Bay 63, Wisconsin-Milwaukee 56

Creighton at Northern Iowa (Sunday, 2:05 PM, ESPN FullCourt/Regional TV): Northern Iowa has a three-game lead over the competition in the Missouri Valley with just six games left, and look like it has the title wrapped up. However, Creighton has won three in a row and needs a win to have a chance at a league title or an at-large bid. UNI has won 11 in a row, although the last five were by single-digits. Prediction: Northern Iowa 67, Creighton 61

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