Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Week Ahead

After an solid weekend of college basketball that featured several upsets and top-25 showdowns, it will be interesting to see if this week can continue the trend. With final exams sweeping the nation, there aren’t too many marquee match-ups on the docket in the next couple of days, but there are still several intriguing battles. To wit, there are only 10 games on Monday, 22 on Tuesday, 18 on Thursday and 11 on Friday. There are just a couple of weeks left for teams to improve before conference play, so don’t overlook these games.

No. 25 Cincinnati at UAB (Wednesday, 7:00 PM, CBS College Sports): Cincinnati has not lost a game in regulation yet this season, but the Bearcats are coming off of a loss in the Crosstown Shootout against rival Xavier. UAB has not beaten anyone of note yet, but the Blazers are undefeated at home and Elijah Millsap can really fill it up. Cincinnati doesn’t want to drop two road games in a row.

Richmond at South Carolina (Wednesday, 7:00 PM, Regional TV): I wouldn’t be surprised if one or both of these teams were on the bubble come March. They are both inconsistent but have talent and some decent wins. Richmond has defeated Missouri and Mississippi State but the Spiders have yet to win a road game. Meanwhile, South Carolina has struggled with injuries; Devan Downey needs to carry the Gamecocks.

UTEP at No. 20 Mississippi (Wednesday, 8:00 PM): This game became a lot more interesting over the weekend because UTEP gained the services of former prep phenom Derrick Caracter. Combine him with Randy Culpepper and four other double-figure scorers and the Miners have some firepower. Ole Miss might have the most underrated perimeter group in the country, and the Rebels are the favorites to win the SEC West.

Oklahoma State at Stanford (Wednesday, 11:00 PM, FSN): This game doesn’t really stand out, but it could be closer than it should be. Oklahoma State is 8-1 and is more talented than Stanford, but the Cowboys lost their only road game this season by 21. Stanford took Kentucky to overtime and has one of the most productive players on the west coast in forward Landry Fields. He is putting up 23.0 and 8.4 per game.

Auburn at Florida State (Thursday, 7:00 PM, Regional TV): Auburn has split its two games against the ACC this season, beating Virginia but falling to North Carolina State. Can the Tigers win the rubber match? Doubtful. Florida State has only lost two games this season, road contests at Florida and Ohio State, while Auburn has lost to Troy and Central Florida and has yet to win a road game this season. 

Pacific at Saint Mary’s (Friday, 10:05 PM): Battle on the west coast between two teams that have been better than anticipated this season. I projected Pacific to be at the bottom of the Big West, but the Tigers have defeated Nevada, Fresno State and San Diego State and are 7-2. On the other side, Saint Mary’s looks to be a contender again in the WCC. The Gaels have defeated Utah State, San Jose State and Oregon on the road, and also beat New Mexico State and San Diego State. Omar Samhan has been dominant.

Utah State at Long Beach State (Friday, 10:05 PM): Another interesting contest pitting two west coast teams against each other – two west coast teams that have not hit their strides yet. Long Beach State owns a win over UCLA, but they are only 3-4 against Division-I teams right now. Utah State beat BYU, but lost to Saint Mary’s, Northeastern and Utah. Both of these teams could easily win their conferences and get an NCAA bid.

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