Friday, December 11, 2009

Weekend Preview

After an exciting week that featured plenty of top-notch battles between top-25 teams, another jam-packed weekend of quality contests is upon us. With final exams starting up at universities around the nation, there will likely be a lull in big-time games over the next week or so – you can even tell by the relative lack of teams in action this weekend. However, there is still plenty of hoops to keep an eye on this weekend.

Top Games

No. 13 Ohio State at No. 22 Butler (Saturday, 12:00 PM, ESPN): A Midwest battle between two teams with something to prove. Butler is coming off of a loss to Georgetown and has struggled somewhat against top teams this season, while Ohio State has yet to be tested since Evan Turner’s injury. Without Turner, Ohio State will rely on the perimeter trio of Jon Diebler, William Buford and David Lighty. On the other side, Butler will need more consistent production from Gordon Hayward, Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack than it received against Georgetown. Prediction: Butler 64, Ohio State 56

No. 15 Georgetown vs. No. 17 Washington (Saturday, 2:00 PM, FSN): Another top-25 contest between two teams that seem to be finding themselves despite hot starts. Georgetown is unbeaten and coming off of a win over Butler, but it will need more 20-and-10 outings from Greg Monroe if it wants to continue to be successful. The Hoyas are improved from last season, and the improvement of Jason Clark is a major reason. Washington has only one loss, an overtime defeat at Texas Tech, but the Huskies are relying too heavily on Isaiah Thomas and Quincy Pondexter. A consistent third option needs to step forward. Prediction: Washington 74, Georgetown 70

No. 16 Texas A&M vs. New Mexico (Saturday, 6:00 PM, Regional TV): Two surprising teams square off in a Southwest battle. Texas A&M owns wins over Clemson and Minnesota from the 76 Classic, and sits at 8-1. The Aggies are deep and have plenty of options, including the backcourt of Donald Sloan and Derrick Roland. New Mexico is unbeaten up to this point, but the Lobos don’t own any impressive victories outside of a home win over California. This would add to their resume. The forward tandem of Darington Hobson and Roman Martinez form one of the better duos in the Mountain West. Prediction: Texas A&M 72, New Mexico 65

Kansas State at No. 18 UNLV (Saturday, 7:00 PM, Regional TV): Another Big 12-Mountain West contest between a couple of surprising clubs. Kansas State has gotten off to an 8-1 start, including a couple of solid victories over Atlantic-10 favorites Dayton and Xavier. Denis Clemente and Jacob Pullen form a dynamite backcourt, but Connecticut transfer Curtis Kelly has been key. UNLV is still undefeated, and owns home wins over Louisville and Nevada and a road victory at Arizona. The Runnin’ Rebels have 11 players playing more than 12 minutes per game, and are led by big-time scorer Tre’Von Willis. Prediction: UNLV 78, Kansas State 73

Siena at Northern Iowa (Saturday, 8:05 PM, Regional TV): While neither team has a gaudy record or owns a boatload of quality wins, these are two of the best mid-majors in the country and will be teams to watch come March. Siena has lost to its three toughest opponents, but Edwin Ubiles, Alex Franklin and Ronald Moore form one of the best trios around, although Ubiles has struggled this season. Northern Iowa, on the other hand, has solid wins over Boston College and at Iowa State. Guard Kwadzo Ahelegbe and forward Adam Koch are the go-to scorers for the Panthers, but whichever team plays better defense will get the win. Prediction: Northern Iowa 66, Siena 60

No. 19 Cincinnati at Xavier (Sunday, 7:00 PM, ESPNU): One of the best rivalries in college basketball, the Crosstown Shootout. Cincinnati is looking like a potential sleeper in the Big East behind freshman Lance Stephenson and the inside-outside duo of Deonta Vaughn and Yancy Gates. The Bearcats have defeated Maryland and Vanderbilt and fell in overtime to Gonzaga. Xavier is down from last season and is 0-3 against BCS conference teams this year. A win here would get the Musketeers back on the right track, but someone besides guard Jordan Crawford will need to step up offensively. Expect a tightly contested, hard-fought battle. Prediction: Cincinnati 70, Xavier 67

Other Games to Watch

No. 4 Kentucky at Indiana (Saturday, 12:00 PM, CBS): Two of the historically best programs in the country square off in what looks like a mismatch on paper, but could be closer than people think. Kentucky has been prone to playing down to its competition, and Indiana is coming off of a win over Pittsburgh. Prediction: Kentucky 72, Indiana 60

La Salle at No. 1 Kansas (Saturday, 2:00 PM, ESPN): While La Salle likely won’t threaten Kansas too much, the Explorers have their best team in awhile, led by do-it-all guard Rodney Green. An interesting battle to watch will be La Salle freshman center Aaric Murray taking on All-American Cole Aldrich. Prediction: Kansas 85, La Salle 68

Oklahoma at Utah (Saturday, 4:00 PM, Versus): While Oklahoma has won four in a row since its three-game losing streak, the Sooners need a road win here to pad their non-conference resume. Utah is coming off of a dominant victory over Michigan, and has also defeated Illinois. The Utes are always tough to beat at home. Prediction: Utah 68, Oklahoma 61

Mississippi State at UCLA (Saturday, 4:30 PM, FSN): Can UCLA finally snap out of its funk with a win at home? The Bruins are struggling mightily and need to bounce back. However, Mississippi State has five players averaging in double-figures, led by shot-blocking extraordinaire Jarvis Varnado. Prediction: Mississippi State 70, UCLA 62

Marquette at No. 20 Wisconsin (Saturday, 5:00 PM, ESPN2): An intra-state battle between two teams looking to find some consistency this season. Marquette has been surprising, but the Golden Eagles have lost two of three. Wisconsin followed up its win over Duke with a loss to Wisconsin-Green Bay a week later. Prediction: Wisconsin 59, Marquette 54

Richmond at VCU (Saturday, 7:30 PM): Another intra-state contest. Richmond has defeated Mississippi State, Missouri and Old Dominion, and could contend for an A-10 title. VCU lost its CAA opener to William & Mary last weekend, but the Rams do own victories over Oklahoma, Nevada and Rhode Island. Prediction: VCU 84, Richmond 76

No. 5 Purdue at Alabama (Saturday, 9:00 PM, ESPN2): Purdue is one of the top teams in the country and could compete for a Final Four berth, but Alabama has some quality pieces and owns wins over Michigan, Baylor and Providence. If the Crimson Tide are going to pull the upset, JaMychal Green will need to dominate the interior. Prediction: Purdue 77, Alabama 65

Arizona at San Diego State (Saturday, 10:00 PM, Regional TV): A couple of west coast teams that will get better as the season progresses go at it. Arizona is young and has lost three of four, while San Diego State is still finding ways to mesh all of its quality newcomers and transfers with its returnees. Prediction: San Diego State 71, Arizona 59

No. 3 Villanova at Temple (Sunday, 3:00 PM, CBS College Sports): A Big Five battle in Philly. Villanova looks like it could be even better than its Final Four team of a year ago, while Temple took Georgetown to the wire and beat Siena. On paper, Villanova should blow out the Owls, but that never happens when these city rivals get together. Prediction: Villanova 72, Temple 63

Rhode Island at Boston College (Sunday, 6:45 PM, FSN): Two New England squads looking for a win go head-to-head. Rhode Island is 7-1, but needs a solid road win for its resume, while Boston College is coming off of a home loss to Harvard and can’t afford another defeat on its home floor. Prediction: Boston College 65, Rhode Island 57


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