Friday, March 5, 2010

Weekend Preview

Are you ready for the biggest weekend of the college basketball season? With several conference tournaments already underway, there are four automatic bids to hand out. Additionally, with one week until Selection Sunday, it is time for bubble teams to make a statement to the committee. Many of the teams on the fence go up against a top team with a chance to pick up a marquee win, while other bubble teams need to just continue winning and avoiding bad losses. On top of that, there are a handful of match-ups between championship contenders. Oh yeah, there's also several of the top rivalries in the country to be played.

Top Games

No. 10 West Virginia at No. 9 Villanova (Saturday, 12:00 PM, CBS): The best game of the weekend, both teams are still in the mix for a No. 1 seed after Duke and Kansas State both lost Wednesday. Prediction: Villanova 80, West Virginia 74

No. 2 Kansas at Missouri (Saturday, 2:00 PM, CBS): Kansas bounced back from its loss to Oklahoma State with an impressive performance against Kansas State. However, Missouri is at home and will give KU everything it has. Prediction: Missouri 73, Kansas 71

No. 1 Syracuse at Louisville (Saturday, 2:00 PM, ESPN): A rematch of one of two Syracuse losses this season. Louisville needs this game if it wants to solidify its spot in the NCAA Tournament. Prediction: Syracuse 76, Louisville 69

Texas at No. 21 Baylor (Saturday, 4:00 PM, ESPN): Baylor continues to rise up the Big 12 standings as well as the tournament seeds. Texas has yet to prove it can consistently beat quality teams in Big 12 play. Prediction: Baylor 74, Texas 66

Florida at No. 3 Kentucky (Sunday, 12:00 PM, CBS): A must-win for Florida since the Gators have lost three in a row. However, Kentucky is not going to roll over for Billy Donovan and co. Prediction: Kentucky 80, Florida 69

No. 15 Wisconsin at Illinois (Sunday, 2:00 PM, ESPN): A huge bubble game for Illinois; if the Illini win, they will be in next week’s field. Wisconsin is looking to sneak up the seedings. Prediction: Illinois 60, Wisconsin 54

Clemson at Wake Forest (Sunday, 6:00 PM, FSN): Two of the many middling ACC teams, Clemson has likely locked up a bid, while Wake Forest has lost four in a row and desperately needs a win to feel safe. Prediction: Wake Forest 72, Clemson 64

Automatic Bids on the Line

Big South Championship: Winthrop at Coastal Carolina (Saturday, 4:00 PM, ESPN2): Radford was knocked out in the semifinals by Winthrop, but Coastal Carolina is the top seed and comes into the title game as the favorite. Prediction: Coastal Carolina 69, Winthrop 61

Atlantic Sun Championship: (Saturday, 6:00 PM, ESPN2): Projected Title Game: East Tennessee State vs. Jacksonville

Ohio Valley Championship: (Saturday, 8:00 PM, ESPN2): Projected Title Game: Murray State vs. Morehead State

Missouri Valley Championship (Sunday, 2:00 PM, CBS): Projected Title Game: Northern Iowa vs. Illinois State

Bubble Battles

Connecticut at South Florida (Saturday, 2:00 PM, Regional TV/ESPN FullCourt): Both teams are in bad shape heading into the conference tournament, but UConn has a better chance of getting an at-large bid; the Huskies need a win here though. Prediction: Connecticut 70, South Florida 65

Notre Dame at Marquette (Saturday, 2:00 PM, Regional TV/ESPN FullCourt): The winner might as well lock up a bid to the NCAA Tournament. Marquette is in far better shape, but Notre Dame is playing excellent ball lately. Prediction: Marquette 73, Notre Dame 64

Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech (Saturday, 4:00 PM, Regional TV/ESPN FullCourt): A few weeks ago, no one would have thought this would be a huge bubble game for both teams. Georgia Tech has been extremely inconsistent, while Virginia Tech’s terrible NC SOS is hurting them. Prediction: Georgia Tech 71, Virginia Tech 63

UAB at No. 24 UTEP (Saturday, 9:05 PM): UTEP has locked up the Conference-USA title, but the Miners need to improve their at-large resume. UAB hurt itself with a home loss to Memphis during the week, so a win here would be huge. Prediction: UTEP 71, UAB 61

Win and In

Florida State at Miami (Fl.) (Saturday, 12:00 PM, ESPN2): Florida State picked up a big win by beating Wake Forest on Wednesday, so a win here would put the ‘Noles solidly in the Dance. Prediction: Miami (Fl.) 67, Florida State 65

Nebraska at Oklahoma State (Saturday, 1:30 PM, Regional TV/ESPN FullCourt): Oklahoma State really improved its resume with the win over Kansas last weekend, so a win here should just about lock things up for the Cowboys. Prediction: Oklahoma State 76, Nebraska 61

Wyoming at UNLV (Saturday, 4:00 PM, Versus): UNLV has done what it needs to in order to stay safe: avoid bad losses. The Runnin’ Rebels need to do it again at home against the Cowboys. Prediction: UNLV 83, Wyoming 64

California at Stanford (Saturday, 6:00 PM, FSN): Despite the Pac-10’s ineptitude this season, California has made a solid case for an at-large bid. If the Golden Bears win here but lose in the conference tournament, the Committee might have trouble leaving out a 13-5 Pac-10 champ with a top-30 RPI. Prediction: California 80, Stanford 67

Fighting for Bids/Conference Clashes

Cincinnati at No. 19 Georgetown (Saturday, 12:00 PM): The Hoyas have struggled without Austin Freeman, who discovered he had Diabetes just this week. Cincinnati is basically out of the at-large hunt, but a win here could change those fortunes. Prediction: Georgetown 70, Cincinnati 57

Tulsa at Memphis (Saturday, 1:00 PM, CBS College Sports): Memphis’ road win at UAB on Wednesday propels the Tigers into the at-large race. A win here would give them second-place outright in Conference-USA. Prediction: Memphis 78, Tulsa 69

Richmond at Charlotte (Saturday, 2:00 PM): Richmond is coming off of a great second half against Dayton, while Charlotte has lost its at-large hopes by losing five of its last six. Prediction: Richmond 65, Charlotte 60

Rhode Island at Massachusetts (Saturday, 4:00 PM, Regional TV): Rhode Island picked up a huge 22-point win over Charlotte on Wednesday to keep its at-large hopes alive. A win here would give the Rams 10 A-10 wins. Prediction: Rhode Island 84, Massachusetts 66

Mississippi at Arkansas (Saturday, 4:00 PM, Regional TV/ESPN FullCourt): Ole Miss has reignited its at-large hopes by winning three in a row. However, Arkansas has been competitive at times this season and will be at home. Prediction: Arkansas 82, Mississippi 75

UCLA at Arizona State (Saturday, 4:00 PM, CBS): Arizona State has kept its slim at-large hopes alive by simply racking up wins. Another victory here would leave the Sun Devils at 12-6 in the Pac-10, with 22 wins overall. Not a bad resume. Prediction: Arizona State 67, UCLA 52 

No. 16 Tennessee at Mississippi State (Saturday, 6:00 PM, ESPN): Mississippi State’s loss to Auburn this week really crippled its at-large hopes, so the Bulldogs need to pick up a resume-boosting win over the Vols. Tennessee has won four or five. Prediction: Mississippi State 72, Tennessee 64

Seton Hall at Providence (Saturday, 7:00 PM): Expect plenty of points and not a lot of defense in this match-up. Seton Hall still has at-large hope after beating Rutgers in a rivalry game, but Providence has been competitive lately and will look to spoil the Pirates’ dreams. Prediction: Providence 94, Seton Hall 87

Saint Louis at Dayton (Saturday, 7:00 PM, Regional TV): Dayton did itself no favors by blowing a double-digit lead and losing late to Richmond on Thursday. Saint Louis has played spoiler this season, and the Billikens can do it again here. Prediction: Dayton 67, Saint Louis 60

Washington at Oregon State (Saturday, 8:00 PM, Regional TV): Washington is like Arizona State: simply keep its at-large hopes alive by continuing to win. The Huskies don’t have much of an non-league profile, but they need a win here. Prediction: Washington 70, Oregon State 55

North Carolina at No. 4 Duke (Saturday, 9:00 PM, ESPN): The biggest rivalry in college basketball is fairly irrelevant this season, although Duke is still in the mix for a one seed in the NCAA Tournament. Could the Tar Heels end their crosstown rivals’ hopes? Prediction: Duke 87, North Carolina 72

San Diego State at Air Force (Saturday, 9:00 PM, Regional TV): San Diego State has won five of its last six to stay right at the cutline for an at-large bid. A win here would ruin those hopes, while a win would keep them alive. Prediction: San Diego State 68, Air Force 53

New Mexico State at Utah State (Saturday, 9:05 PM, Regional TV/ESPN FullCourt): Utah State has already locked up the WAC regular-season title, but the Aggies need to continue building an at-large profile in case they lose in the conference tournament. They can’t afford more than one loss. Prediction: Utah State 79, New Mexico State 66

Iowa at Minnesota (Sunday, 6:00 PM, Big Ten Network): Minnesota’s drubbing at the hands of Michigan this week likely ended the Golden Gophers’ at-large chances, but a win here would keep them on the periphery. Prediction: Minnesota 77, Iowa 64

West Coast Semifinal: Saint Mary’s vs. Portland/San Diego/Santa Clara (Sunday, 10:30 PM, ESPN2): The Gaels don’t have an opponent yet, but no matter who it is, they need to win in order to get to the WCC title game and try for a third time to beat Gonzaga.

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