Friday, March 6, 2009

Weekend Preview

Are you ready for the biggest weekend of the college basketball season? With several conference tournaments already underway, there are four automatic bids to hand out. Additionally, with one week until Selection Sunday, it is time for bubble teams to make a statement to the committee. Many of the teams on the fence go up against a top team with a chance to pick up a marquee win, while other bubble teams need to just continue winning and avoiding bad losses. On top of that, there are a handful of match-ups between championship contenders. Oh yeah, there's also two of the top games of the year, one on Saturday, one on Sunday.

Top Games

Connecticut at Pittsburgh (Saturday, 12:00 PM, CBS):
Two of the best teams in the country battle in a rematch of their classic game earlier this season. On the line could be a Big East championship and a potential No. 1 seed (unless both teams get one).
Prediction: Pittsburgh 72, Connecticut 68

Missouri at Texas A&M (Saturday, 2:00 PM, ESPN2):
Huge game for both teams. If Missouri wins and Kansas loses, the Tigers get a share of the Big 12 title. A&M would boost its at-large resume tremendously with a win.
Prediction: Missouri 79, Texas A&M 75

Syracuse at Marquette (Saturday, 2:00 PM, ESPNFullCourt/Regional TV):
Both teams are comfortably in the Tournament, but Marquette has yet to prove it can win without Dominic James, while Syracuse would like a good road win for its profile.
Prediction: Marquette 77, Syracuse 69

California at Arizona State (Saturday, 2:00 PM, CBS):
Pac-10 showdown. After Cal's win at Arizona on Thursday, and Arizona State's surprising home loss to Stanford, ASU needs to win in order to snatch third place from the Golden Bears. James Harden vs. Patrick Christopher is a great match-up.
Prediction: Arizona State 67, California 59

Oklahoma State at Oklahoma (Saturday, 3:30 PM, ABC):
Heated intrastate rivalry to close out the season. Oklahoma State has boosted its at-large profile over the past few weeks and would lock up a bid with a win, while Oklahoma has lost three of four and needs to win to have a shot at getting a share of the Big 12 title.
Prediction: Oklahoma 75, Oklahoma State 66

Texas at Kansas (Saturday, 4:00 PM, CBS):
Another Big 12 battle between two teams heading to the NCAA Tournament. Texas is look to get a bye in the conference tournament, while Kansas would clinch an outright Big 12 title with a win over the Longhorns.
Prediction: Kansas 72, Texas 63

Louisville at West Virginia (Saturday, 9:00 PM, ESPN):
With Oklahoma struggling lately, could Louisville get a No. 1 seed? Moreover, with a win here and a Connecticut loss, the Cardinals would win the Big East outright. West Virginia is just looking to improve its seed.
Prediction: West Virginia 74, Louisville 69

Purdue at Michigan State (Sunday, 12:00 PM, CBS):
Arguably the best two teams in the Big Ten do battle. Purdue is coming off a home loss to Northwestern, which will drop their seeding a few slots. Michigan State won the conference title, but has an outside shot at a No. 1 seed.
Prediction: Michigan State 66, Purdue 58

Virginia Tech at Florida State (Sunday, 2:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt/Regional TV):
After falling short against Duke and North Carolina at home, this is a must-win for Virginia Tech if it wants an NCAA Tournament bid. Florida State is starting to get some pub as a potential Big Dance sleeper.
Prediction: Florida State 70, Virginia Tech 63

Duke at North Carolina (Sunday, 4:00 PM, CBS):
As if this game needed added importance. UNC has a one-game lead on Duke right now, but a Blue Devils win would give them a share of the conference title. Furthermore, the Tar Heels need to hold onto their No. 1 seed. Oh, and it’s also the best rivalry in sports.
Prediction: North Carolina 84, Duke 78

Clemson at Wake Forest (Sunday, 6:00 PM, FSN):
The two teams next in line after North Carolina and Duke – both of which were in the mix for No. 1 and No. 2 seeds just a few weeks ago. Since then, Wake has been inconsistent while Clemson has struggled and is just 9-6 in the ACC.
Prediction: Wake Forest 82, Clemson 74

Automatic Bids on the Line

Big South Championship: Radford vs. VMI (Saturday, 11:30 AM, ESPN2): The top two seeds in the conference will battle for the first automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Radford won nine of its last 10 games to end the season and win the league by two games over VMI, who lost three of its final five games. The difference could be Radford's 6-11 center, Artsiom Parakhouski; VMI has no one with his size and ability. Prediction: Radford 94, VMI 89

Atlantic Sun Championship (Saturday, 5:00 PM, ESPN2): March Madness All Season’s projected title game: Lipscomb vs. East Tennessee State.

Ohio Valley Championship (Saturday, 7:00 PM, ESPN2): March Madness All Season’s projected title game: Tennessee-Martin vs. Murray State.

Missouri Valley Championship (Sunday, 1:00 PM, CBS): March Madness All Season’s projected title game: Creighton vs. Northern Iowa.

Bubble Battles

Michigan at Minnesota (Saturday, 12:00 PM, ESPN):
The winner of this Big Ten bubble battle will have a great argument for a bid. Right now, I think Minnesota is solidly in, and would clinch a bid with a win. Michigan has plenty of good wins and this victory would add to it.
Prediction: Minnesota 62, Michigan 55

Kentucky at Florida (Saturday, 2:00 PM, CBS): Both teams are on the wrong side of the bubble right now, with each suffering a loss to an inferior team on Wednesday. The Wildcats have more work to do after their loss to Georgia, while Florida needs a win.
Prediction: Florida 72, Kentucky 67

UNLV at San Diego State (Saturday, 10:00 PM, CBS College Sports):
One of several interesting Mountain West games going on this weekend. UNLV is atop my bubble rankings right now, but a loss here would be its seventh conference loss. San Diego State needs another solid win for its resume.
Prediction: San Diego State 68, UNLV 61

Northwestern at Ohio State (Sunday, 5:00 PM, Big Ten Network):
Suddenly, Northwestern is in the mix for a bid. A win here and the Wildcats would be 9-9 in the Big Ten and a potential at-large team. Ohio State could potentially clinch a bid with a win.
Prediction: Ohio State 65, Northwestern 54

Win and In

Georgia Tech at Boston College (Saturday, 12:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt/Regional TV):
Boston College is ahead of the rest of the ACC bubble teams and would finish with a 9-7 conference record with a win. Combine that with wins over UNC, Duke and Florida State, and the Eagles are in.
Prediction: Boston College 75, Georgia Tech 65

Penn State at Iowa (Saturday, 2:00 PM, Big Ten Network): Don’t expect much scoring between these teams – although you can say that about most Big Ten games. Anyway, Penn State picked up a huge win over Illinois on Thursday on Talor Battle's shot with 0.3 seconds left and could lock up a bid with a road victory over the Hawkeyes. The Nittany Lions could tie for second in the conference with a win. Prediction: Iowa 51, Penn State 47

Princeton at Cornell (Saturday, 7:00 PM): Cornell has a 1.5 game lead on Princeton currently, with the Big Red having two more games and the Tigers three. No matter what, if Cornell defends its homecourt, they are heading to the Big Dance. Prediction: Cornell 65, Princeton 54

Duquesne at Dayton (Saturday, 8:00 PM, Regional TV): Dayton could have clinched a bid with a win over Xavier on Thursday, but the Flyers are still in good shape as long as they knock off the Dukes. A win would give them third place in the Atlantic-10. Prediction: Dayton 80, Duquesne 71

Air Force at BYU (Saturday, 9:00 PM, Mountain Network):
With a win, BYU would clinch at least a share of the Mountain West title. Throw in a phenomenal RPI and a great finish to the season, and the Cougars would become a lock if they beat AFA at home.
Prediction: BYU 73, Air Force 55

Alabama at Tennessee (Sunday, 12:00 PM, CBS):
After Tennessee's excellent second half blowout of South Carolina on the road, the Volunteers are essentially a lock for an at-large bid. They clinched the SEC East title. A win here at home would allow the Vols to rest easy come Selection Sunday.
Prediction: Tennessee 84, Alabama 72

Fighting for Bids

North Carolina State at Miami (Fl.) (Saturday, 12:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt/Regional TV): Miami might have blown its at-large chances with the loss at Georgia Tech on Wednesday, but they need to win this one to have any shot.
Prediction: Miami (Fl.) 75, North Carolina State 62

Seton Hall at Cincinnati (Saturday, 12:00 PM):
Cincinnati took a huge step back when it lost to South Florida during the week, and the Bearcats might be completely out of the running. However, a win gets them back to .500 in the Big East.
Prediction: Cincinnati 71, Seton Hall 60

Colorado at Kansas State (Saturday, 1:30 PM, ESPNFullCourt/Regional TV):
With a win, Kansas State gets to 10 wins in the Big 12, but the Wildcats missed a chance at Oklahoma State during the week and might not have a good enough profile either way.
Prediction: Kansas State 80, Colorado 64

South Carolina at Georgia (Saturday, 2:00 PM): After getting blown out in the second half by Tennessee on Thursday, South Carolina badly needs a win to here keep its at-large hopes alive. Can Georgia follow its upset at Kentucky with another big win? Prediction: South Carolina 81, Georgia 68

Massachusetts at Rhode Island (Saturday, 2:00 PM, Regional TV): Rhode Island might have gained the most of any team this week, with all the losses by major-conference bubble teams around the country. URI could get a share of the A-10 title with a victory. Prediction: Rhode Island 81, Massachusetts 66

New Mexico at Wyoming (Saturday, 3:30 PM, Mountain Network):
This might be a case of win and in for New Mexico, despite the Lobos’ relatively low standing in the bubble discussion. If they win, they get at least a share of the Mountain West title, with just four losses. As John Gasaway of Basketball Prospectus pointed out, if UNLV loses at SDSU, I don’t know if the committee takes a seven-loss UNLV team over a four-loss UNM team that split the league title.
Prediction: New Mexico 80, Wyoming 73

Maryland at Virginia (Saturday, 3:30 PM, ABC):
Maryland could have picked up a huge win against Wake Forest earlier this week, but the Terps struggled in the second half and fell to the Deacons. Now, the Terrapins need a win here and also has to do some work in the ACC Tournament.
Prediction: Maryland 76, Virginia 68

Stanford at Arizona (Saturday, 7:30 PM, FOX Sports Arizona):
The Wildcats are in serious bubble trouble, after their home loss to California on Thursday. It was their fourth straight loss after seven straight wis, dropping them to 8-9 in the Pac-10. They need a win over suddenly dangeous Stanford, who won at Arizona State on Thursday.
Prediction: Arizona 69, Stanford 57

Oregon State at USC (Saturday, 8:00 PM):
USC is almost completely off the bubble, but the Trojans stay in the mix for now, after its win over Oregon Thursday. With a win against OSU, USC would finish 9-9 in the Pac-10 and could be in the conversation with a couple wins in the Pac-10 Tournament.
Prediction: USC 66, Oregon State 53

Indiana at Wisconsin (Sunday, 7:00 PM, Big Ten Network):
Wisconsin would have locked up a bid to the NCAA Tournament if it had beaten Minnesota on Wednesday, but the Badgers fell. However, they are still in decent position and can’t afford a loss to the Hoosiers. Prediction: Wisconsin 68, Indiana 51

Saint Mary’s vs. Portland/Pepperdine/San Francisco (Sunday, 11:30 PM, ESPN2): Saint Mary’s has to prove it is an NCAA Tournament-worthy team with Patty Mills healthy. A win here and a good showing against Gonzaga (I think the Gaels will win), and they are deserving of an invite.

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