Northwestern Wins: A College Hoops Blog

An ode to Verne Lundquist’s calls and everything college basketball

Top Ten Games Of The Week (12/1-12/7)

Posted by Zach on November 30, 2008

While the non-conference tournaments are complete, take a long look at this week’s slate of games and you won’t be disappointed. I doubt I’ll have a harder time picking out the best ten out of these the entire month of December.

1. #4 Duke at #9 Purdue– Tuesday (ESPNHD)- The premiere game of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge was supposed to be the battle at Ford Field between North Carolina and Michigan State. I give a slight edge to undefeated and #7 Duke heading to West Lafayette to face Purdue in front of a surely raucous crowd pumped for the biggest basketball game for the Boilermakers in years. No longer the Baby Boilers (still young though), Purdue fell to Oklahoma in OT in the Preseason NIT final for their only loss, led by the sharpshooting E’Twaun Moore, do-everything sophomore Robbie Hummel and defensive stalwart Chris Kramer. This will be the first true road test for Duke, who will certainly need a big performance from junior Gerald Henderson and point guard Nolan Smith. These two teams could be #1 and #2 for the 2009-10 season. Not a bad game for this season, either. Prediction: Purdue 70, Duke 69

2. #1 North Carolina at #13 Michigan State
– Wednesday (ESPNHD)- Rumblings suggest this game could hold the largest regular season crowd in college basketball history. And why not? Most pundits pointed to this game as the one stumbling block for the seemingly unstoppable Tar Heels. Those notions have been put to bed by three things: 1) Goran Suton may be out with a knee injury, 2) North Carolina straight up dominating Maui in epic fashion, 3) Michigan State slipping in the first round of the Old Spice to bubble-bound Maryland. But this is college basketball, and in front of tens of thousands at Ford Field, Tom Izzo and the Spartans could come out firing behind Raymar Morgan and Kalin Lucas. Prediction: North Carolina 88, Michigan State 75

3. #12 UCLA at #8 Texas
– Thursday (ESPNHD)- These two teams are likely barely separated in the rankings now that Texas lost, but if UCLA should march into Austin and take down the Longhorns, that would be considered a pretty big upset following the Bruins stinker against Michigan just two weeks ago. Texas impressed me at Maui- they lost to a very strong Notre Dame team by 1- with their size, athleticism and clear improvement on defense. A.J. Abrams and/or Damion James can have monstrous games at any time and Justin Mason has turned into the best passer on the Texas team. Darren Collison, Josh Shipp and the veterans of the UCLA squad will have to be the ones to lead the Bruins in a difficult environment. Prediction: Texas 73, UCLA 66

4. Wisconsin at #25 Marquette- Saturday (ESPNU)- How this always entertaining rivalry game isn’t on ESPN confuses the hell out of me. Both of these teams and their fans have a general disdain for each other. Don’t count out the Badgers just because the game is in Milwaukee, either. Road teams have won the last two games of this contest, with the Golden Eagles scratching out a rare victory in Kohl Center last season. It’s also a battle of contrasting styles: Dom James, Jerel McNeal and fast-paced Marquette will try to keep the tempo high against sluggish-but-always-efficient Wisconsin and Marcus Landry. I know I’m going to regret picking against Wisconsin, but Marquette should be fired up this week after losing to Dayton. Prediction: Marquette 70, Wisconsin 67

5. USC @ #6 Oklahoma
– Thursday (ESPNHD)- These were my two sleeper Final Four contenders before the season. Fair to say, at least thus far, I whiffed on USC and hit a grand slam on Oklahoma. If anyone can contain Blake Griffin individually (usually takes a team effort- ask Purdue), it could be Taj Gibson in the paint. Which means Oklahoma’s secondary pieces must contribute to the winning cause once again, players like Taylor Griffin, Cade Davis and Austin Johnson. This would be an excellent bounce back win for the Trojans following the disaster in Puerto Rico. Will this finally be DeMar DeRozan’s breakout party? Plenty of storylines in this one that I’m excited to see how it plays out. Prediction: Oklahoma 77, Southern Cal 72

6. #21 Miami (FL) @ Kentucky
– Saturday (ESPNHD)- Is Kentucky getting back on track like they did after the Gardner Webb loss last season? Remember, the SEC isn’t exactly loaded with NCAA-caliber teams at this point (Tennessee must be licking their chops). They’ll look to defend their home turf against a very underrated Miami team led by Jack McClinton, who is due for a huge performance, and solid secondary pieces like Dwayne Collins and Brian Asbury. Kentucky is receiving improved point guard outings from Michael Porter and DeAndre Liggins (when he decides to play…I would suspend him for that). Winning the Las Vegas Invitational was huge for Billy Gillispie. This win would be even bigger. Prediction: Miami 69, Kentucky 68

7. #4 Duke @ Michigan
– Saturday (ESPNHD)- This is Duke’s second game in five days going on the road to face a Big Ten opponent in their building. If they should escape Purdue with a victory, Coach K would be wise to not overlook a Michigan team that is beginning to click (look at me giving Coach K advice). They dodged the always-horrid Savannah State on Saturday in a shocker, so maybe Michigan is falling back to earth sooner than expected? Regardless, Duke pretty much dismantled the Wolverines in the final of Coaches vs. Cancer, and even though this game is in Ann Arbor, I expect more of the same. Although there’s epic upset potential here. Prediction: Duke 75, Michigan 65

8. Clemson @ Illinois
– Tuesday (ESPN2HD)- Quietly this game has become one of the top pairings in the ACC-Big Ten challenge this season. Clemson is 7-0 and have beaten teams like Charlotte, TCU and Temple behind double-double machine Trevor Booker and three-point threat Terrence Oglesby, while Illinois is 6-0 with wins at Vanderbilt, Kent State and Tulsa behind Mike Davis and Demetri McCamey. So it’s not like these teams have been beating up on total cupcakes, although they both lack a real quality win. Here marks the first opportunity. The game being played in Champagne is a big advantage for the Illini in my mind. Prediction: Illinois 68, Clemson 66

9. #23 Florida @ Florida State
– Sunday (FSN)- The debut of Sunday night FSN games (the return of Tim Brando!) is an interstate rivalry game that was settled on the football field just yesterday. These two talented teams will do battle on the hardwood in a difficult one for Billy Donovan and his Gators. We can look at the Seminoles in two ways: 1) they struggled badly with Jacksonville, La Salle and Stetson at home and their 7-0 record is deceiving or 2) they toppled two quality opponents- Cincinnati and California- in Las Vegas over the weekend and could be a sleeper in the ACC. We’ll find out a lot more about Florida State after this game, surely. Prediction: Florida 77, Florida State 70

10. #24 Baylor @ Washington State– Saturday (FSN)- I think this game is hugely underrated. In fact, I can’t wait to see how the run-and-gun Baylor Bears, who have certainly impressed followers with their performance in Anaheim over the weekend, match up with Tony Bennett and, well, let’s just say Washington State doesn’t run the same offense. This could prove a VERY difficult road game for Baylor, not only because it’s in Pullman, but the Wazzu defense is always a difficult one to figure out and could confuse the Bears. I expect the talent of Baylor to prove victorious in a nail biter. Prediction: Baylor 65, Washington State 62

Other Games To Watch

  • Wisconsin @ Virginia Tech (Monday)
  • Ohio State @ Miami (FL) (Tuesday)
  • Michigan @ Maryland (Wednesday)
  • Oklahoma State @ Washington (Thursday)
  • Arizona @ Texas A&M (Friday)
  • NC State vs. Davidson (Saturday)
  • UAB @ Cincinnati (Saturday)
  • Rhode Island @ Providence (Saturday)
  • Ohio State vs. #7 Notre Dame (Saturday)
  • San Diego @ San Diego State (Saturday)
  • California @ Missouri (Sunday)
  • #6 Oklahoma @ Tulsa (Sunday)
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