Friday, February 20, 2009

Weekend Preview

Bubble battles. Key conference tilts. Oh, and a top-10 showdown in the ACC. That's not even mentioning Bracket Busters, where mid-majors from across the country go at it on national television. This set of games could mean the difference between the NCAA and the NIT to many teams should they not win their conference tournament. No matter what games you are interested in, there are plenty of options to choose from this weekend; it has everything. To be honest, this is definitely the most jam-packed weekend of the season – I’ve never included so many games in the “Weekend Preview.” There’s 43 of them, so dig in.

Top Games

Tennessee at Kentucky (Saturday, 1:00 PM, CBS):
Rivalry in the SEC East – and potentially a must-win for one or both of these teams. They are each 7-4 in the conference, tied with Florida and South Carolina for first-place. UK needs a win to stay in the field, while Tennessee is heading in the wrong direction.
Prediction: Kentucky 72, Tennessee 66

Louisville at Cincinnati (Saturday, 2:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt/Regional TV):
A huge opportunity for Cincinnati to pick up a marquee win for its NCAA Tournament resume. The Bearcats have a solid profile, but it lacks a big win outside of Syracuse. Louisville has a chance to win the Big East and maybe get a No. 1 seed.
Prediction: Louisville 70, Cincinnati 67

Washington at USC (Saturday, 7:00 PM, FSN Regional):
Another big chance for a bubble team to pick up a win over a top-20 team. USC was the first team left out of my field on Monday, and the Trojans beat Washington State last night. Washington fell short at UCLA last night, but the Huskies are still in first in the Pac-10. Prediction: USC 69, Washington 64

Florida State at Virginia Tech (Saturday, 8:00 PM, Regional TV):
Big-time game in the ACC between a team who can basically clinch an NCAA bid with a win (FSU), and a team that needs to start winning games (Tech). FSU is coming off a win over Miami (Fl.), while Va. Tech has lost four of its last six games.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 66, Florida State 61

Oklahoma at Texas (Saturday, 9:00 PM, ESPN):
A battle in the Big 12. Texas has been struggling lately, but the Longhorns are tough at home and they have the depth inside to give Blake Griffin trouble. The Sooners haven’t played an NCAA team in several weeks; will their complacence catch up to them?
Prediction: Oklahoma 74, Texas 72

Villanova at Syracuse (Sunday, 1:00 PM, CBS):
Expect plenty of points and transition basketball in this one. Villanova has developed into one of the best teams in the Big East over the past month, while Syracuse is just 3-6 in its last nine games. However, the Orange face a favorable finishing schedule, which should get them a bid.
Prediction: Syracuse 86, Villanova 81

Illinois at Ohio State (Sunday, 1:00 PM, CBS):
Two teams who were upset during the week, but still have good enough profiles to feel comfortable about the NCAA Tournament. Illinois scored 33 points at home in a loss to Penn State – yes, seriously 33 points. Ohio State went into Northwestern and was knocked off by the Wildcats.
Prediction: Ohio State 55, Illinois 48

Wisconsin at Michigan State (Sunday, 3:00 PM, ESPN):
Surprisingly, if you look at the standings, only two games separate the Badgers and Spartans. Wisconsin has won five in a row since losing six in a row. Michigan State has the most talent in the Big Ten, but it was just obliterated by Purdue by 18 on Tuesday.
Prediction: Michigan State 58, Wisconsin 47

Wake Forest at Duke (Sunday, 7:45 PM, FSN):
Arguably the best game of the weekend. Both teams have been struggling lately, but both are still top-10 teams. Wake Forest has won two in a row since losing four of its previous six. Duke has lost four of its last seven to fall into a four-way tie for second place in the ACC.
Prediction: Duke 82, Wake Forest 77

Arizona at Arizona State (Sunday, 10:00 PM, FSN):
Intrastate rivalry in the southwest. Both teams are still in the hunt for a Pac-10 title, as ASU sits a half-game behind Washington and Arizona is just 1.5 games out. Both teams are also hot, as ASU has won four in a row and UA has picked up seven wins in a row. Prediction: Arizona State 68, Arizona 63

Bubble Battles

Notre Dame at Providence (Saturday, 12:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt/Regional TV): A must-win for both teams. Notre Dame needs to pick up a solid road win, while Providence simply can’t afford a loss at home to ND at this point.
Prediction: Providence 84, Notre Dame 74

Boston College at Miami (Fl.) (Saturday, 12:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt/Regional TV):
Battle in the ACC. Boston College boosted its resume with a win over Duke, while Miami has lost six of seven and absolutely needs to win this game.
Prediction: Miami (Fl.) 73, Boston College 66

Baylor at Oklahoma State (Saturday, 1:45 PM, ESPN FullCourt/Regional TV):
Expect a ton of points and not much defense in this one. Baylor snapped a six-game losing streak last week, while OK St. has won two in a row.
Prediction: Oklahoma State 90, Baylor 83

San Diego State at New Mexico (Saturday, 3:00 PM, Versus):
Two of the many Mountain West teams in the at-large mix. SDSU has won five of its last six, while New Mexico is making a late run, winning seven of 10.
Prediction: New Mexico 71, San Diego State 65

BYU at UNLV (Saturday, 11:00 PM, CBS College Sports):
The top teams in the preseason battle for an at-large spot. BYU is rising, winning five in a row, while UNLV is heading the opposite way, dropping three of its last five league games.
Prediction: UNLV 72, BYU 68

Northwestern at Minnesota (Sunday, 7:00 PM, Big Ten Network):
Both of these teams on the bubble, you ask? Yup. Northwestern has five wins against the top-50, while Minnesota is struggling lately, losing four of five.
Prediction: Minnesota 55, Northwestern 44

Conference Clashes

Holy Cross at American (Saturday, 2:00 PM): The Patriot League lead is up-for-grabs in this one. Holy Cross is 9-2 in the league, one game back of the Eagles. American has some talent, and has won 12 of its last 13 games. HC won the first meeting. Prediction: American 68, Holy Cross 56

Southern Miss at UAB (Saturday, 2:00 PM, CBS College Sports):
Conference-USA is likely a one-big league, but UAB is its best hope for an at-large bid. The Blazers need to keep winning to pad their record for the Selection Committee.
Prediction: UAB 77, Southern Miss 63

Marquette at Georgetown (Saturday, 2:00 PM, ESPN):
A must-win for Georgetown if the Hoyas still harbor at-large hopes. They’ve lost seven of nine. Marquette is just a half-game behind Connecticut for first place in the league.
Prediction: Georgetown 72, Marquette 68

Vanderbilt at Florida (Saturday, 3:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt/Regional TV):
Battle in the SEC East. Vanderbilt is coming off of a solid win over Kentucky, while Florida can’t afford another slip-up to an inferior SEC team. The Gators are just 4-4 in their last eight.
Prediction: Florida 75, Vanderbilt 65

North Carolina at Maryland (Saturday, 3:30 PM, ABC):
Every time Maryland plays a top ACC team, the Terrapins implode. They lost by 41 to Duke, 17 to North Carolina and 29 to Clemson. Can they pull off the huge upset for their resume?
Prediction: North Carolina 94, Maryland 84

Nebraska at Kansas (Saturday, 4:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt/Regional TV):
Nebraska still has a chance at an at-large bid, and a win here would do wonders for its resume. KU is one game back of Oklahoma, ahead of their showdown in Norman on Monday.
Prediction: Kansas 76, Nebraska 62

Radford at VMI (Saturday, 4:00 PM, MASN):
A battle between the top teams in the Big South. Radford holds a two-game lead on VMI, winning 12 of its last 13. VMI has lost two in a row, but won the first meeting between the two teams.
Prediction: VMI 96, Radford 89

Texas A&M at Texas Tech (Saturday, 6:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt/Regional TV):
A&M’s at-large hopes are fading quickly, as it has lost seven of its last 11. OK State won at Tech on Wednesday; A&M needs to do the same thing.
Prediction: Texas A&M 77, Texas Tech 71

Kansas State at Iowa State (Saturday, 6:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt/Regional TV):
Another Big 12 team in need of a win to keep its at-large hopes alive. KSU has won seven of its last eight, the most recent one coming over North Carolina Central. That won’t help the non-conference SOS.
Prediction: Kansas State 69, Iowa State 60

Arkansas at South Carolina (Saturday, 7:00 PM):
Surprise, surprise: a must-win for an SEC East team. South Carolina fell on the road to Mississippi State on Wednesday, and needs to keep pace for the division crown and an at-large bid.
Prediction: South Carolina 82, Arkansas 70

St. Bonaventure at Temple (Sunday, 2:00 PM, FS Ohio):
Temple is making a late run at an at-large bid out of the Atlantic-10, winning four in a row. Combined with the Owls’ impressive computer numbers and they might have a shot at a bid.
Prediction: Temple 79, St. Bonaventure 61

Michigan at Iowa (Sunday, 5:05 PM, Big Ten Network):
Michigan has won two in a row in the conference to get back to .500 in the Big Ten. A road win here would make them an interesting case come Monday for the updated field. Prediction: Michigan 57, Iowa 54

Bracket Busters (Click
here for a complete preview of BracketBusters weekend)

Illinois State at Niagara (Friday, 7:00 PM, ESPN2):
Not much postseason hope for either of these teams, despite their gaudy records. They will both have to win their conference tournaments. Illinois State started the season 14-0 before going 5-5 in its next 10. It has since won three in a row to get within two games of the league lead. Niagara is second in the MAAC, behind Siena. The Purple Eagles are fun to watch and have plenty of options offensively.
Prediction: Niagara 76, Illinois State 70

VCU at Nevada (Friday, 9:00 PM, ESPNU):
Two teams with high expectations coming into the season, but have disappointed somewhat – more so Nevada. VCU overtook Northeastern for the lead in the CAA after beating Delaware on Wednesday. Nevada was expected to win the WAC heading into the year, but some off-the-court problems slowed them early and Utah State has run away with the league.
Prediction: VCU 72, Nevada 69

Northeastern at Wright State (Saturday, 11:00 AM, ESPN2):
The early game on Saturday features the former season-long leader in the CAA and a potential sleeper in the Horizon. Northeastern dropped into second in the CAA after losing four of its last five. Wright State is fourth in the Horizon, but the Raiders have some pieces to make a run.
Prediction: Wright State 58, Northeastern 50

Liberty at Old Dominion (Saturday, 11:00 AM, ESPNU): If
Stephen Curry doesn’t play this weekend, at least you can see his brother, Seth, lead the way for Big South contender Liberty. Old Dominion is one of seven teams in the CAA with at least nine wins in the league.
Prediction: 70, Liberty 63

Butler at Davidson (Saturday, 12:00 PM, ESPN):
Two of the best mid-majors in the country all season long are both heading into this game on a sour note. Butler has lost two in a row, to Loyola (Chicago) and Wisconsin-Milwaukee, while Davidson has lost two of its last four, as well as the country’s leading scorer, Stephen Curry, to an ankle injury. Curry might be back for this game.
Prediction: Davidson 67, Butler 62

Buffalo at Vermont (Saturday, 1:00 PM, ESPN2):
You might see both of these teams pop up in your bracket come Selection Sunday. Vermont is the best team in the America East, a game up on Binghamton. Buffalo took Connecticut to the wire earlier this season, foreshadowing a potential MAC title run. Two straight losses ended a 9-0 start in league play, though.
Prediction: Vermont 75, Buffalo 69

Northern Iowa at Siena (Saturday, 3:00 PM, ESPN2):
This game was a lot more enticing when it first announced. Northern Iowa has lost three of its last four and is now only a half-game up in the Missouri Valley standings. Siena has clinched the MAAC title. UNI has five players averaging at least nine points per game, indicative of its balanced offense. Siena is a potential sleeper come March – if the Saints make the Tournament. Their non-conference resume is not all that impressive; they might need the MAAC’s automatic bid. Prediction: Siena 74, Northern Iowa 64

Miami (Ohio) at Evansville (Saturday, 3:30 PM, ESPNU): Miami (Ohio) has some very good computer numbers and have moved to within a game of Buffalo in the MAC standings. Evansville started hot but has since fizzled in Missouri Valley play, sitting below .500 in the league. Prediction: Miami (Ohio) 61, Evansville 56

Utah State at Saint Mary’s (Saturday, 5:00 PM, ESPN2):
Two teams that will be sweating on Selection Sunday should they not win their respective conference tournaments. Saint Mary’s will be sweating more, as the Gaels are just 3-4 without leading scorer Patty Mills, who is likely out until the West Coast Conference Tournament. Utah State lost its first WAC game of the season last weekend against Boise State, and can’t afford too many more slip-ups. Prediction: Utah State 71, Saint Mary’s 68

Wisconsin-Green Bay at Long Beach State (Saturday, 5:30 PM, ESPNU):
Two potential NCAA Tournament teams, if they pull an upset over the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament. Both teams are currently in second-place in their respective leagues, but both have also already shown the ability to beat the frontrunner in their league. Green Bay defeated Butler earlier this season in the Horizon, while LBSU knocked off CSU-Northridge in the Big West. Prediction: Wisconsin-Green Bay 81, Long Beach State 75

Hofstra at Fairfield (Saturday, 7:00 PM, Hofstra is a dangerous team in the CAA, led by scoring guard Charles Jenkins. The Pride have won four in a row. Fairfield looked like a threat in the MAAC, but the Stags had two separate three-game losing streaks in league play. Prediction: Hofstra 77, Fairfield 74

Morehead State at Kent State (Saturday, 7:00 PM): Morehead State has the inside track to the automatic bid in the Ohio Valley, but the Eagles are only a half-game up with two league games left. Kent State was the preseason MAC favorite, but struggled early before winning its last seven games. Prediction: Kent State 68, Morehead State 54

Boise State at Portland State (Saturday, 7:30 PM, ESPNU): I guess the third-place team in the WAC taking on the third-place team from the Big Sky is worthy of a BracketBusters television game. Boise State defeated Utah State over the weekend, but lost to Idaho Wednesday night. Portland State has disappointed in league play after an impressive non-conference campaign. Prediction: Portland State 78, Boise State 73

North Dakota State at Wisconsin-Milwaukee (Saturday, 8:00 PM): Probably the best non-TV game of the weekend. North Dakota State has a chance to make some noise come March, thanks to their outstanding three-point shooting ability and ability to take care of the ball. Wisconsin-Milwaukee is coming off of a huge win over Butler at home on Wednesday night, moving into a tie for fourth in the Horizon. That should give them momentum heading into this game. Prediction: Wisconsin-Milwaukee 76, North Dakota State 74

George Mason at Creighton (Saturday, 9:00 PM, ESPNU): Two perennial mid-major powers that won’t get to the NCAA Tournament without the automatic bid from their respective conferences – although Creighton does have a very slim outside shot at an at-large. George Mason is one game out of the CAA lead with just two conference games remaining. Creighton is coming on strong lately, having won its last seven games to move within a half-game of the MVC lead. Prediction: Creighton 73, George Mason 67

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