Friday, February 19, 2010

Weekend Preview

Bubble battles. Key conference tilts. Oh, and top-20 showdowns in the ACC, Big East and Big Ten. That's not even mentioning Bracket Busters, where mid-majors from across the country go at it on national television. This set of games could mean the difference between the NCAA and the NIT to many teams should they not win their conference tournament. No matter what games you are interested in, there are plenty of options to choose from this weekend; it has everything. To be honest, this might be the most important weekend of the regular season. With 42 games predicted below, this weekend has something for everyone – dig in.

Top Games

No. 22 Baylor at Oklahoma State (Saturday, 1:30 PM, Regional TV/ESPN FullCourt): A must-win for Oklahoma State if it wants to be in the NCAA Tournament bracket next week. The Cowboys have won two in a row, while Baylor has the makings of a sleeper in March. The Bears have won three in a row and five of six. LaceDarius Dunn vs. James Anderson should be fun to watch. Prediction: Oklahoma State 81, Baylor 76

Illinois at No. 4 Purdue (Saturday, 4:00 PM, ESPN): Illinois has shown an ability to beat anyone in the Big Ten, with wins over Michigan State and Wisconsin. However, Purdue will be a tough out at home. The Boilermakers have won eight in a row, including a road win at Ohio State on Wednesday. Prediction: Purdue 69, Illinois 54

No. 2 Kentucky at No. 17 Vanderbilt (Saturday, 6:00 PM, ESPN): The best game on Saturday. Kentucky is only up one game on Vandy, and the Commodores are notoriously difficult to beat on their home court. In the first match-up between the two, Vandy kept it close, but UK eventually pulled it out by 13. Look for an upset here. Prediction: Vanderbilt 75, Kentucky 72

No. 3 Villanova at No. 19 Pittsburgh (Sunday, 12:00 PM, CBS): Big-time battle in the Big East. Villanova is coming off of a home loss to Connecticut on Monday, and needs to bounce back to stay in the title hunt. Pittsburgh has won four in a row, including an impressive road victory at Marquette on Thursday. Prediction: Villanova 70, Pittsburgh 68

No. 9 Ohio State at No. 11 Michigan State (Sunday, 12:00 PM, CBS): Potentially the best game of the weekend, as the Big Ten race is heating up and both of these teams are in the hunt. Ohio State dropped a home game to Purdue on Wednesday, while Michigan State has looked much better since Kalin Lucas’ return. Prediction: Michigan State 69, Ohio State 65

Virginia Tech at No. 6 Duke (Sunday, 7:45 PM, FSN): Always an exciting game to watch, Virginia Tech will look to cement an NCAA bid with a win here. The Hokies have won five in a row to move to 8-3 in the ACC – just 1.5 games behind Duke. Duke has looked nearly unbeatable on its home court this season. Prediction: Duke 82, Virginia Tech 70

Bubble Battles 

Florida at Mississippi (Saturday, 12:00 PM, CBS): Two SEC teams firmly on the bubble. Florida picked up a home win over Auburn on Thursday after dropping two in a row, while Ole Miss fell at home to Vandy – the Rebels’ fourth loss in five games. Prediction: Mississippi 77, Florida 71

Georgia Tech at Maryland (Saturday, 2:00 PM, Regional TV/ESPN FullCourt): Both of these teams are in the NCAA Tournament for now, but neither can afford too many more losses. The winner of this game might move solidly in the Dance, while the loser will have to sweat it out on Selection Sunday. If either of these teams reaches the Big Dance, look out. Prediction: Maryland 87, Georgia Tech 78

Xavier at Charlotte (Saturday, 2:00 PM, Regional TV): Xavier should be fine for a bid right now, as the Musketeers have won 10 of their last 12 and are 9-2 in the Atlantic-10. On the other hand, Charlotte has dropped two in a row, including a bad home loss to Duquesne on Wednesday. Prediction: Xavier 84, Charlotte 79

UTEP at Tulsa (Saturday, 4:00 PM, CBS College Sports): Conference-USA has been surprising this season, as the preseason favorite, Tulsa, has struggled lately and might have fallen out of the bubble picture. UTEP is atop the standings and playing some of its best basketball of the season. Prediction: UTEP 70, Tulsa 65

Marquette at Cincinnati (Sunday, 2:00 PM, Regional TV/ESPN FullCourt): Another enormous bubble battle in the Big East. Had Marquette beaten Pittsburgh on Thursday, the Golden Eagles would be looking good for a bid. However, they didn’t, and now they might need a road win against a desperate Bearcats team. Prediction: Cincinnati 68, Marquette 62

Conference Clashes

Seton Hall at No. 8 West Virginia (Saturday, 12:00 PM, ESPN): Seton Hall is hobbled right now, and the Pirates desperately need a win to keep their remote at-large chances alive. Prediction: West Virginia 84, Seton Hall 67

No. 20 Tennessee at South Carolina (Saturday, 1:30 PM, Regional TV/ESPN FullCourt): South Carolina was blown out by Arkansas this week, and need to knock off the Volunteers at home. Prediction: Tennessee 81, South Carolina 74

No. 15 Texas at Texas Tech (Saturday, 2:00 PM, ESPN): This is an interesting game, as the Longhorns are reeling, while Texas Tech would love a big win to boost its resume. Prediction: Texas 83, Texas Tech 76

Quinnipiac at Robert Morris (Saturday, 7:00 PM): Robert Morris is 14-1 in the Northeast Conference, while Qunnipiac is lurking in the weeds at 12-3 and in second place. Prediction: Robert Morris 70, Quinnipiac 64

Northwestern at No. 14 Wisconsin (Sunday, 2:00 PM, Big Ten Network): Northwestern’s home loss to Penn State might have knocked the Wildcats off the bubble, while Wisconsin suffered a surprising loss to Minnesota on Thursday. Prediction: Wisconsin 64, Northwestern 53

Must-wins for Bubble Teams

St. John’s at South Florida (Saturday, 12:00 PM, Regional TV/ESPN FullCourt): USF bounced back from a two-game losing streak with a home win over Cincinnati; it can’t afford a loss to scrappy St. John’s. Prediction: South Florida 64, St. John’s 55

Louisville at DePaul (Saturday, 2:00 PM, ESPNU): Louisville has been up-and-down all season, but it escaped against Notre Dame and looks to keep the winning ways going. Prediction: Louisville 76, DePaul 64

Fordham at Rhode Island (Saturday, 4:00 PM): Rhode Island has fallen from solidly into the dance to firmly on the bubble; the Rams should have no problem with Fordham. Prediction: Rhode Island 95, Fordham 69

Connecticut at Rutgers (Saturday, 4:00 PM, Regional TV/ESPN FullCourt): Connecticut salvaged its season on Monday with a road win at Villanova; the Huskies can only afford one loss the rest of the way. Prediction: Connecticut 72, Rutgers 61

Mississippi State at LSU (Saturday, 4:00 PM Regional TV/ESPN FullCourt): Mississippi State had a chance to make a name for itself by beating Kentucky on Tuesday, but the Bulldogs couldn’t hold on late. Prediction: Mississippi State 71, LSU 63

Colorado State at UNLV (Saturday, 6:00 PM, CBS College Sports): UNLV was in line for a No. 6 or No. 7 seed a couple of weeks ago, but the Rebels have now lost three in a row. Prediction: UNLV 78, Colorado State 65

Indiana at Minnesota (Saturday, 8:00 PM, Big Ten Network): Minnesota was essentially out of the bubble debate until it whooped Wisconsin at home on Thursday. The Gophers are back in the hunt. Prediction: Minnesota 67, Indiana 51

Houston at UAB (Saturday, 8:00 PM): UAB still has the best non-conference profile in Conference-USA, but the Blazers can ill-afford too many more C-USA losses the rest of the way. Aubrey Coleman should be fun to watch for Houston. Prediction: UAB 81, Houston 69

SMU at Memphis (Saturday, 8:00 PM, Regional TV): Memphis is looking to avenge its prior loss to SMU – a loss that is weighing down the Tigers’ at-large resume. Can Memphis get back into the at-large hunt? Prediction: Memphis 77, SMU 64

Utah at San Diego State (Saturday, 9:00 PM, Regional TV): San Diego State is rolling lately, having won three in a row and seven of nine. The Aztecs can’t overlook Utah, though, who beat UNLV and only lost to New Mexico by three. Prediction: San Diego State 70, Utah 61

UCLA at Washington (Saturday, 9:00 PM, ESPN): Going into the season, this might have been a marquee match-up for ESPN. Now, though, it’s a battle between two of the most disappointing teams in the country. Prediction: Washington 85, UCLA 70

Dayton at Duquesne (Sunday, 1:00 PM, ESPN2): Duquesne is not an easy team to beat at home, and the Dukes just knocked off Charlotte on the road. However, Dayton needs to win in order to keep its at-large hopes alive. Prediction: Dayton 79, Duquesne 74

Arizona State at Arizona (Sunday, 5:30 PM, FSN): Is Arizona State even a legit at-large threat? Probably not, but given the Sun Devils’ record and recent play (and the soft bubble), they might be in the mix. They need to win this intrastate rivalry game, though. Prediction: Arizona 67, Arizona State 63

Bracket Busters (Click here for March Madness All Season’s complete preview of BracketBusters weekend)

Old Dominion at Northern Iowa (Friday, 7:00 PM, ESPN2): Prediction: Northern Iowa 61, Old Dominion 54

William & Mary at Iona (Friday, 9:00 PM, ESPNU): Prediction: William & Mary 69, Iona 66

Siena at Butler (Saturday, 11:00 AM, ESPN2): Prediction: Butler 71, Siena 65

Morgan State at Murray State (Saturday, 12:00 PM, ESPNU): Prediction: Murray State 81, Morgan State 70

Louisiana Tech at Northeastern (Saturday, 1:00 PM, ESPN2): Prediction: Northeastern 73, Louisiana Tech 65

Nevada at Missouri State (Saturday, 3:00 PM, ESPN2): Prediction: Missouri State 79, Nevada 74

Akron at VCU (Saturday, 4:00 PM, ESPNU): Prediction: VCU 77, Akron 68

Charleston at George Mason (Saturday, 8:00 PM, ESPN2): Prediction: Charleston 82, George Mason 79

Western Carolina at Kent State (Saturday, 8:00 PM, ESPNU): Prediction: Kent State 75, Western Carolina 64

New Mexico State at Pacific (Saturday, 10:00 PM, ESPNU): Prediction: Pacific 73, New Mexico State 63

Wichita State at Utah State (Saturday, 11:59 PM, ESPN2): Prediction: Utah State 71, Wichita State 60

Fairfield at Vermont (Saturday, 2:00 PM): Prediction: Fairfield 76, Vermont 73

Morehead State at Illinois State (Saturday, 5:05 PM): Prediction: Illinois State 68, Morehead State 56

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