Friday, January 8, 2010

Weekend Preview

This is the sort of weekend college basketball fans live for. Although we still haven’t learned much after about a week or so of conference play, the uncertainty about most teams just adds to the excitement and intensity of this weekend. There are dozens of big games throughout the two days, including every type of game you could ask for. Marquee match-ups? Key non-conference contests? Important conference games in the smaller conferences? Two NCAA Tournament contenders matching up? A sleeper looking to make a statement? Yes, they are all here – and more. So just kick back and take it all in – and only check the NFL games if you have to.

Top Games

No. 13 Connecticut at No. 12 Georgetown (Saturday, 12:00 PM, ESPN): The second tier of Big East contenders battle it out in DC. Last year, Georgetown ended Connecticut’s perfect season before fading the rest of the year. Will Greg Monroe be able to dominate again? Prediction: Georgetown 71, Connecticut 64

No. 4 Purdue at No. 17 Wisconsin (Saturday, 1:30 PM, Big Ten Network): Big-time match-up in the Big Ten. Both teams like to play a half-court game with rugged defense. Purdue is one of four unbeatens still remaining, but the Boilermakers have not had a road game like this yet. Prediction: Wisconsin 62, Purdue 57

Mississippi State at No. 14 Mississippi (Saturday, 1:30 PM, Regional TV/ESPN FullCourt): Fight for SEC West supremacy. Mississippi State has been inconsistent and is still awaiting the debut of Renardo Sidney, while Ole Miss is looking like the clear favorite in the West. Mississippi is loaded on the perimeter, but it will need to stop Jarvis Varnado down low. Prediction: Mississippi 77, Mississippi State 71

No. 5 Duke at No. 20 Georgia Tech (Saturday, 2:00 PM, ESPN): Georgia Tech might have the most talent in the ACC, but the Yellow Jackets are coming off of a loss to SEC cellar-dweller Georgia. Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors need to dominate the paint if Tech has a chance. Prediction: Duke 81, Georgia Tech 78

No. 11 Kansas State at Missouri (Saturday, 2:00 PM, ESPN2): Don’t overlook this game. Missouri has been playing excellent basketball lately, while Kansas State is looking like a potential sleeper come March. The backcourt battles in this one should be great – can J.T. Tiller slow down Jacob Pullen? Prediction: Missouri 86, Kansas State 80

UNLV at No. 15 New Mexico (Saturday, 4:00 PM, Versus): The Mountain West promises to be an absolute zoo again this season, with both of these teams fighting for the top spot (along with BYU and San Diego State). Each team is coming off of a loss, and needs to get back on the right track. Prediction: New Mexico 74, UNLV 66

No. 8 West Virginia at Notre Dame (Saturday, 8:00 PM, ESPNU): Prior to its win over Rutgers this week, West Virginia had struggled somewhat. The Mountaineers can’t afford to slip-up on the road at the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame is always tough at home and Luke Harangody can carry them. Prediction: West Virginia 75, Notre Dame 72

No. 25 BYU at UTEP (Saturday, 9:00 PM, CBS College Sports): Might be the most important non-conference game of the weekend. BYU is a Mountain West favorite, while UTEP has been a completely different team since the arrival of Derrick Caracter. I wouldn’t be surprised to see both teams with at-large bids. Prediction: UTEP 72, BYU 68

No. 1 Kansas at No. 16 Tennessee (Sunday, 4:30 PM, CBS): This game would be a lot more entertaining had Tyler Smith not been dismissed and three other Vols had not been suspended. With that said, Kansas has looked vulnerable at times this season, and Tennessee could be motivated to prove itself. Prediction: Kansas 80, Tennessee 71

Virginia Tech at No. 9 North Carolina (Sunday, 7:45 PM, FSN): An interesting battle in the ACC. Virginia Tech has been flying under the radar, but the Hokies had a nice win over Seton Hall last weekend. UNC is coming off of a loss to Charleston earlier in the week. Don’t be shocked to see VT hang around. Prediction: North Carolina 84, Virginia Tech 74

Non-BCS Conference Clashes

Niagara at Siena (Saturday, 1:00 PM): The two perennial favorites in the MAAC go head-to-head. Siena has the early edge in the league race. Prediction: Siena 87, Niagara 75

Northern Iowa at Illinois State (Saturday, 4:00 PM, ESPN2): A battle in the Missouri Valley. Northern Iowa looks like the favorite, but ISU can score. Prediction: Illinois State 69, Northern Iowa 66

No. 19 Gonzaga at Portland (Saturday, 10:00 PM, ESPNU): This game looked a lot better in November, but it still should be a fun game to watch. Prediction: Gonzaga 82, Portland 79

Xavier at George Washington (Sunday, 12:00 PM, Regional TV): GW is off to a solid 11-3 start, while Xavier can’t afford another loss. Prediction: Xavier 73, George Washington 66

No. 21 Temple at Rhode Island (Sunday, 1:00 PM, Regional TV): Could both of these teams compete for at-large bids come Selection Sunday? Prediction: Rhode Island 81, Temple 75

Butler at Detroit (Sunday, 1:05 PM, Regional TV): Butler is still the favorite in the Horizon, but Detroit has the frontcourt to compete. Prediction: Butler 66, Detroit 61

Western Kentucky at Denver (Sunday, 3:00 PM, Regional TV): Western Kentucky is the best in the Sun Belt, but Denver is in first in the West Division. Prediction: Western Kentucky 79, Denver 72

Other Games to Watch

Florida at Vanderbilt (Saturday, 12:00 PM, ESPN2): With Tennessee depleted, one of these teams could be the best bet to finish second in the East. Prediction: Vanderbilt 73, Florida 67

St. John’s at Louisville (Saturday, 12:00 PM, Regional TV/ESPN FullCourt): St. John’s needs a big win to get back on the right track, while Louisville is improving. Prediction: Louisville 71, St. John's 62

Marquette at No. 6 Villanova (Saturday, 2:00 PM, Regional TV/ESPN FullCourt): Marquette finally broke through in a close game this week against Georgetown, but the Golden Eagles want revenge for their loss to ‘Nova last weekend. Prediction: Villanova 70, Marquette 62

Ohio State at Minnesota (Saturday, 3:30 PM, Big Ten Network): Ohio State is completely different with Evan Turner, but Minnesota is hungry and needs a win. Prediction: Minnesota 64, Ohio State 60

Boston College at Clemson (Saturday, 4:00 PM, Regional TV/ESPN FullCourt): Boston College has too many bad losses, while Clemson has to get more consistent. Prediction: Clemson 76, Boston College 63

Nebraska at Texas A&M (Saturday, 4:00 PM, Regional TV/ESPN FullCourt): Nebraska has a gaudy record right now, but not much meat to its resume. Prediction: Texas A&M 71, Nebraska 61

Wake Forest at Miami (Fl.) (Saturday, 6:00 PM, ESPNU): The middle of the ACC is a muddled mess; could either of these two make a top-three or four finish? Prediction: Miami (Fl.) 74, Wake Forest 65

Oklahoma at Baylor (Saturday, 6:00 PM, Regional TV/ESPN FullCourt): Oklahoma needs to start picking up wins, while Baylor is the Big 12 surprise. Prediction: Baylor 78, Oklahoma 69

Cincinnati at Seton Hall (Saturday, 6:00 PM, Regional TV/ESPN FullCourt): Two teams that have suffered some tough losses this season; both are dangerous squads. Prediction: Seton Hall 84, Cincinnati 77

No. 22 Texas Tech at Oklahoma State (Saturday, 8:05 PM, Regional TV/ESPNFullCourt): Expect plenty of points in this one. Both teams are going to compete for bids in the Big 12. Prediction: Oklahoma State 82, Texas Tech 73

USC at California (Saturday, 10:30 PM, FSN): The Pac-10 is unpredictable, but it will be interesting to see if either team can bounce back from tough losses on Wednesday. Prediction: California 68, USC 62

South Florida at No. 7 Syracuse (Sunday, 2:00 PM, Regional TV/ESPN FullCourt): South Florida has some talented pieces, but it’s not good enough to beat ‘Cuse on the road. Prediction: Syracuse 79, South Florida 64

Washington State at Arizona State (Sunday, 2:30 PM, FSN): Both teams had nice wins on Friday night, and could make a run at the Pac-10 title. Prediction: Arizona State 67, Washington State 59

Northwestern at Michigan (Sunday, 2:30 PM, Big Ten Network): Northwestern came into conference play looking for an at-large bid, but it has struggled. Michigan needs to string together some wins. Prediction: Michigan 66, Northwestern 60

No. 24 Washington at Arizona (Sunday, 5:30 PM, Regional TV): Two teams that suffered a disappointing loss on Friday – UW needs a win badly. Prediction: Washington 75, Arizona 66

No. 18 Florida State at Maryland (Sunday, 5:30 PM, FSN): Keep an eye on this match-up. FSU has to prove it can be a top-three ACC team, while Maryland needs a win. Prediction: Maryland 80, Florida State 72

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