Saturday, December 26, 2009

Weekend Preview

The weekend surrounding Christmas is always a light one, especially when it’s the two days directly after the holiday. The story of the week thus far is clearly USC’s shocking turnaround due to the additions of Mike Gerrity and Leonard Washington. The Trojans have won six in a row – including a victory over Tennessee and a Diamond Head Classic championship – since starting the season 2-4. Will anything top that this weekend?

No. 6 West Virginia at Seton Hall (Saturday, 3:30 PM, CBS): Easily the best game of the weekend, and the type of the game that will set the stage for a wide-open Big East campaign. West Virginia is one of six undefeated teams left in college basketball, as the Mountaineers sit at 9-0, including wins over Mississippi and Texas A&M. They are led by a terrific forward tandem in Da’Sean Butler and Devin Ebanks, while Kevin Jones has developed into a very good third option up front. Guards Darryl Bryant and Casey Mitchell need to provide outside punch. On the other side, Seton Hall started off the season with eight straight wins before losing at home to Temple. The Pirates bounced back with a 38-point victory over Navy on Tuesday, though. Jeremy Hazell is a big-time scorer, while Robert Mitchell and double-double lock Herb Pope anchor the frontcourt. Eugene Harvey and Missouri transfer Keon Lawrence are two more perimeter options. Against Ole Miss’ outstanding perimeter group, West Virginia started five forwards and absolutely destroyed the Rebels on the glass. Will Bob Huggins try a similar strategy against Seton Hall? The difference in this game will be the WVU defense. Prediction: West Virginia 76, Seton Hall 71

Radford at Louisville (Sunday, 1:00 PM, Regional TV): Louisville has won three in a row since moving Preston Knowles to the sixth man role, but need to continue its winning ways against Radford, the Big South favorite. The Highlanders have the nation’s best rebounder, Art Parakhouski. It will be interesting to see him go against Samardo Samuels of Louisville. Prediction: Louisville 86, Radford 73

Iona at No. 11 Connecticut (Sunday, 2:00 PM, ESPNU): On paper, this looks like a blowout – and it very well might be. However, Iona has won four in a row, including a road game at Providence. The Gaels also own a win over Creighton. Furthermore, Connecticut has struggled against far inferior teams at points this season, although it has not cost them yet. However, UConn has too much talent – will this be the game Ater Majok breaks out? Prediction: Connecticut 74, Iona 60

Austin Peay at Missouri (Sunday, 3:00 PM, Regional TV): Another game that could be a blowout on paper, but has a chance to be closer than expected. Austin Peay has won six of its last seven since starting the season 2-4; the Governors are also tied for first in the Ohio Valley at 2-0. Wes Channels and Anthony Campbell form a good 1-2 scoring combo on the wing. Missouri is coming off of a very impressive win over Illinois on Wednesday, the Tigers’ third victory in a row. The deep and balanced Tigers are beginning to hit their stride. Prediction: Missouri 83, Austin Peay 64


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