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Top Ten Games Of The Week (12/8-12/14)

Posted by Zach on December 7, 2008

The November tournaments are complete. The ACC/Big Ten Challenge is complete. We’re starting to become more and more familiar with the contenders and pretenders as we inch closer and closer to conference season in college basketball. Even though exams are nearing and a bit of a lull in quality games may be upon us, there’s still ample opportunity for some teams to notch resume-building victories. Here’s my top ten intriguing matchups for this week:

1. #8 Texas vs. #17 Villanova- Jimmy V Classic, Tuesday (ESPNHD)– We’ve seen what the Texas Longhorns are capable of this season. They’ve already played two very difficult games- losing to Notre Dame by 1 in Maui and inching UCLA at home last week. We know A.J. Abrams is an impressive shooting when he’s hot, Damion James is an NBA scout’s dream with his rebounding and scoring skills, and players like Justin Mason and Dexter Pittman are fine secondary players. We know this team is capable of finishing their season in Detroit. But what do we know about Villanova? Not much considering their two best wins are on a neutral floor against Rhode Island and at Pennsylvania. I don’t necessarily blame Jay Wright for cooking up a cupcake schedule early for his young Villanova squad. The question remains: Does beating up on Houston Baptist really prepare you for physical and battle-tested Texas? We’ll find out Tuesday night. Dante Cunningham has been phenomenal for Villanova- 17.3 PPG, 8.0 RPG- and will need to play a huge role in a Wildcats victory at the Jimmy V. Prediction: Texas 77, Villanova 69

2. #18 Memphis at #20 Georgetown- Saturday (CBSHD)-
Speaking of being unable to properly evaluate contending teams, how about Memphis? They’ve played only one game since the Puerto Rico loss to Xavier, a thrashing of Marshall featuring the coming out party of Tyreke Evans, and will not play before this showdown in D.C. on Saturday afternoon. Memphis has five players scoring in double figures; we certainly know they can use their superior athleticism and penetration abilities to overwhelm the less-athletic Georgetown bunch. But, will this type of game come down to toughness? Free throws? Home court advantage? Inexperience at the point guard position with Wesley Witherspoon the new ball carrier for John Calipari? I expect the excellent Georgetown defense to confuse the Memphis offense in this basketball game and leave with a quality victory. Memphis’ Shawn Taggart is averaging a double-double thus far at 11 and 10. We’ll see if he can keep it up on Saturday. Prediction: Georgetown 68, Memphis 64

3. #14 Xavier at Cincinnati- Saturday (ESPN2)
– One of my favorite rivalries in college basketball has meaning this time around. The Xavier Musketeers will march into their inner-city rival’s home turf Saturday night 8-0 (assuming they beat Ohio at home) and likely ranked near the top ten in the nation. Cincinnati, with their rich heritage basketball tradition dating back to Oscar Robertson, has all of a sudden transformed into a football school with their Orange Bowl berth. It would be a monumental win for coach Mike Cronin if he can dethrone the hated Musketeers at home behind stars Deonta Vaughn and Mike Williams. Beating UNLV in Vegas and UAB on their home floor is a good start, but the Bearcats only scored 47 points against Florida State. Which Cincinnati squad will show up Saturday? Expect the fired up one. Prediction: Cincinnati 70, Xavier 68

4. #5 Gonzaga at Washington State- Wednesday– Pullman, Washington is not an easy place to win. The home crowd is always rowdy, the stifling Washington State defense is terrifying and the Cougars may desperately need a quality win for their NCAA Tournament resume before delving into a weakened Pac-10 schedule. They had an opportunity in New Jersey against Pittsburgh and lost. They had Baylor at home on Saturday and faltered. If they fall to Gonzaga, their only real chances in-conference are Arizona State and UCLA. Gonzaga doesn’t quite have the same problem- they already downed Maryland and Tennessee and have games vs. Connecticut, Memphis, Tennessee and Arizona on the slate (does Arizona really quality anymore?) Look for Taylor Rochestie, Aron Baynes, Klay Thompson and the balanced fighting Bennett’s give Gonzaga a scare in the first half before talents like Josh Heytvelt and Austin Daye down low are simply way too much to handle. Prediction: Gonzaga 67, Washington State 58

5. #22 Davidson vs. West Virginia- Jimmy V Classic, Tuesday (ESPNHD)- Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Sorry, but why else would you watch this game? No offense to Alex Ruoff or Devin Ebanks, but let’s be honest here. Prediction: Davidson 77, West Virginia 67

6. Butler at Ohio State- Saturday (BTN)– Don’t look now, folks, but perennial contender Butler is unbeaten in this early season. They’ve downed Northwestern, who has beaten Florida State and crushed DePaul, and won a big conference game at Cleveland State. The road becomes a bit more treacherous for Brad Stevens and Butler in the next couple weeks, though- @ Bradley, @ Ohio State, @ Xavier and UAB at home. Luckily, none of these matter an incredible amount because Butler probably isn’t going to grab an at-large berth anyway. The point is: Butler, supposedly in a down year after losing A.J. Graves, Pete Campbell and Mike Green, is still winning and it shows how tremendous of a problem they have in Indianapolis. Ohio State has two great wins @ Miami after the McClinton Swipe and in Indy against Notre Dame with Harangody playing. I won’t let Pat take credit for predicting Ohio State’s resurgence, either, because his entire reasoning was that B.J. Mullens will dominate college basketball and he’s not even averaging 7 PPG. Prediction: Ohio State 66, Butler 58

7. Dayton at Creighton- Wednesday- Mmmm, nothing like a yummy quality mid-major game on a Wednesday night! Okay, that was weird. But seriously, how about those Dayton Flyers? They downed mighty Mercer at home, defeated Auburn in Chicago and won a 54-50 nail biter at Akron Saturday that sent basketball back about 50 years. Oh, and they toppled Marquette in that same Chicago tournament for a win that will surely be discussed in March along with Dayton’s seed. When forward Chris Wright- 13.6 PPG, 7.3 RPG- is playing, Dayton wins. They have an extremely difficult test in Omaha against a Creighton team that needs a resume-building win after New Mexico has flopped and the Jays lost to Arkansas Little Rock and Nebraska. Booker Woodfox and P’Allen Stinnett (I did not make up those names) are two outstanding players for Creighton and I expect them to defend their always packed home court and take down mighty Dayton. Prediction: Creighton 78, Dayton 70

8. #10 Tennessee at Temple- Saturday (ESPN)
– Could the Temple Owls be hitting their stride? They were outplayed by Buffalo and Miami (OH) in two games prior to an underrated win in Happy Valley against Penn State. The most positive sign for Temple? They won while receiving only two points from Dionte Christmas, who may be the best all-around player in the Atlantic 10 (19.0 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 2.9 APG). Still, let’s be real, we’re talking about Penn State here. Not exactly Tennessee and their incredible talent, depth and athleticism. Temple will need an upset of epic proportions to win this game and most likely a 30+ point performance from Christmas. If you didn’t know, Tyler Smith notched the first triple-double in Tennessee basketball history on Wednesday. Prediction: Tennessee 83, Temple 67

9. #5 Gonzaga vs. Arizona in Phoenix- Sunday (FSNHD)
– Speaking of teams that need a quality win. Arizona not only needs to win this game to stay alive for an at-large berth, they may need this win to keep their basketball program in tact. Forget the Olson drama and the departing players and Brandon Jennings, this team has now lost two heartbreakers: the UAB fiasco that prevented them from notching two high-quality wins in Madison Square Garden and the 11-point halftime lead blown at Texas A&M on Friday ending in a game-winning Aggies three. Chase Budinger is doing his part at 20.1 PPG and Jordan Hill has been phenomenal at 17.4 PPG and 12.3 RPG. But can they stop Gonzaga? My guess is no. Prediction: Gonzaga 85, Arizona 75

10. San Diego State vs. Saint Mary’s- Saturday (HDNET)
– Is this San Diego State team flying under the radar? They beat struggling San Diego at home and led most of the game vs. Arizona State, but you’ll have to search hard for any quality wins. Beating tournament-bound Saint Mary’s on a neutral floor is a nice start. Kyle Spain is setting himself up to contend for Mountain West Player of the Year at 17.9 PPG and 5.3 RPG for the Aztecs. Unfortunately, they may be getting Patrick Mills when he’s hitting his stride. In his last three games against Fullerton, Providence and Kent State, he’s scored 20+ points and made 25 of 55 shots. Prediction: Saint Mary’s 74, San Diego State 68

Honorable Mention

  • California at Utah- Wednesday (MTN)
  • San Diego State at Arizona- Wednesday
  • Saint Joseph’s at Villanova- Thursday (ESPN2)
  • Iowa State at Iowa- Friday (BTN)
  • VCU at Richmond- Saturday (ESPNU)
  • Indiana at Kentucky- Saturday (CBSHD)
  • Utah at Oklahoma- Saturday (ESPN2)
  • DePaul vs. UCLA- Saturday (HDNET)
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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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Top Games Of The Week (November 24-30) Tournament Edition

Posted by Zach on November 23, 2008

Ah, the best week of the non-conference schedule is finally upon us. This slate of Thanksgiving week games is quite possibly the most intriguing and competitive we’ve ever had. The tournaments in Orlando, Maui, Anaheim, Kansas City, Virgin Islands, New Jersey, Vegas and New York are all highlighted by top-25 matchups and historic programs. This week, settle down with some turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie, and enjoy some outstanding holiday hoops.

Maui Invitational– Normally this tournament provides the top November games, and even though the honor goes to the Old Spice this time around, Maui certainly does not disappoint. North Carolina should cruise to their final past the likes of Chaminade, Oregon and Alabama. On the other side of the bracket, Texas will likely face Notre Dame in a captivating semifinal between two top-10 caliber teams. And it only gets more difficult in the final with the Tar Heels on the way. Some players to look out for: Alabama freshman JaMychal Green, Texas forward Damion James, and whether Tyler Hansbrough is close to 100%. He’ll need to be healthy in case a battle with Notre Dame’s Luke Harangody waits. Predicted winner: North Carolina over Notre Dame

Old Spice Classic– Even the first round matchups in this tournament are phenomenal: Tennessee taking on experienced and upset-minded Siena, Wichita State battling Georgetown, Maryland facing Michigan State, and explosive Oklahoma State taking on Gonzaga. This sets up a possible final four of Tennessee, Georgetown, Michigan State and Gonzaga. If you can find a better preseason tournament, please let me know. Keep an eye on whether Bobby Maze can control tempo for Tennessee at the point, if Gonzaga shows why they’re a Final Four contender or if Raymar Morgan has a huge tournament for the Spartans. Predicted winner: Gonzaga over Tennessee

NIT Season Tip-Off– The semifinal matchups at the Garden are BC-Purdue and UAB-Oklahoma, which most likely sets up a very fun final between the Boilermakers and Sooners if they can contain Tyrese Rice (who struggled badly against Saint Louis in a loss) and Robert Vaden (who led the Blazers to an underrated win at Old Dominion), respectively. It’ll be interesting to see how Purdue and coach Matt Painter’s always reliable defense attempts to contain the likes of Griffin inside and Crocker and Warren behind the arc. BC and UAB are both possible bubble teams looking to build their resume while Purdue and Oklahoma can snatch up some quality wins. Predicted winner: Oklahoma over Purdue

Legends Classic- This four-team tournament doesn’t have quite the November matchup that Tennessee vs. Texas provided last year, but there’s still reason to tune in. The first semifinal pits two defensive-minded teams in Washington State vs. Mississippi State, giving us a look at freshman Klay Thompson and shot-blocker extraordinaire Jarvis Varnado. High-scoring Texas Tech and Pat Knight take on Pittsburgh, who happens to be playing great basketball led by a healthy Levance Fields, in the other semi. Once again, you have a team like Pitt trying to build their March resume with the other three squads looking to sneak into the NCAA Tournament and pick up some quality wins early. Predicted winner: Pittsburgh over Washington State

CBE Classic– It seems like we can’t fully gauge how good the four teams in the CBE Classic will be this season, and this tournament should provide an early barometer on whether Florida, Syracuse, Kansas and Washington are contenders or pretenders. Florida has been playing outstanding basketball this season led by all-around guard Nick Calathes. The determining factor in their game against Syracuse could be if anyone on Florida can contain Arinze Onuaku in the paint. The revamped Kansas Jayhawks will be playing on a national stage for the first time, facing a Washington team looking to shake off some early season disappointment. Predicted winner: Syracuse over Kansas

Paradise Jam- Two excellent games Monday night in the Virgin Islands with the consolation game pitting Miami vs. San Diego and the championship spelling Wisconsin vs. Connecticut. Jack McClinton exploded in a one-man offense vs. Connecticut and will look to carry it over against scoring guard Brandon Johnson and a solid mid-major Torero squad. In the championship, Wisconsin’s solid defense will look to confuse the athletic and explosive Connecticut offense. Who performs better in the Trevon Hughes vs. A.J. Price matchup could determine the winner. Also, who will contain Hasheem Thabeet down low? Prediction: Connecticut 66, Wisconsin 58

Anaheim Classic– I absolutely love this tournament. Every single team brings something different to the table to set up quality games in both the winners and losers bracket. On Thursday, Saint Mary’s and Patrick Mills look to squash a dangerous UTEP team. Al-Farouq Aminu, James Johnson and Jeff Teague need to contain outstanding scorer Josh Akognon in the Wake-Cal State Fullerton clash. A-10 contender Charlotte, who nearly took down Clemson on Saturday, faces a tough matchup in Arizona State. To conclude Thanksgiving Day, explosive Baylor and Curtis Jerrells takes on high-scoring Providence. And that’s just the first day, folks. Games like Saint Mary’s-Wake Forest and Arizona State-Baylor in the semis give me no reason to leave the couch. Predicted winner: Baylor over Wake Forest

Cancun Challenge- Four teams will travel to Cancun for some decent games: Drake vs. Vanderbilt and VCU vs. New Mexico. Keep an eye on some standout players like Josh Young of Drake, A.J. Ogilvy of Vanderbilt and Eric Maynor of Virginia Commonwealth. The VCU-New Mexico game is one to watch as both could be battling for one of the last spots on Selection Sunday in two conferences that may receive multiple bids. Predicted winner: VCU over Vanderbilt

Las Vegas Invitational– The four-team tourney in Vegas fails to live up to the standard of many others on this list, but a field of Kentucky, West Virginia, Iowa and Kansas State is still worth watching. Predicted winner: West Virginia over Kentucky

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Top Ten Games Of The Week (November 17-23)

Posted by Zach on November 17, 2008

The first week of the college hoops season was filled mostly with low-majors attempting to pull off miraculous upsets or two of the top mid-majors in the country doing battle. I’m not saying it was a snoozer seven days; there were certainly a fair share of thrilling games and nail biting finishes for the debut week of the season. But this week we start getting into the meat of November and the preseason tournaments. It’s not quite Old Spice/Maui time yet, but these matchups should keep your plate filled until Thanksgiving break.

1. Coaches vs. Cancer Semis/Finals (November 20, 21, ESPN2)
– I made the dire mistake last week of assuming Houston would beat Georgia Southern and advance to play Duke, so rather than place Duke vs. UCLA as my #1 game, I’ll lump the entire tournament together as my number one game. The semis are both very intriguing with Southern Illinois playing the mid-major that everyone will be rooting for to topple big bad Duke. In the second game, Michigan will need another virtuoso performance from Manny Harris to take down UCLA and their deep, talented squad. Seeing as Rhode Island nearly won at Cameron Sunday, it’d be foolish to write Duke-UCLA in pen. But I’d be shocked if you didn’t see that beautiful matchup Friday night at the Garden. Prediction: Duke 70, UCLA 66 in final

2. Puerto Rico Tip-Off (November 20-23, ESPNU/ESPN2)
– Plenty of quality contests in Puerto Rico beginning on Thursday with Missouri taking on Xavier in the afternoon in what should be a very close game. The winner of that gets to take on Virginia Tech Friday afternoon. On the other side of the bracket, Memphis should defeat Chattanooga while USC will likely handle Seton Hall, setting up an Evans vs. DeRozan battle on Friday night between two very athletic teams. The final could feature any of these teams on Sunday on ESPN. You know the tournament is strong when I’m looking forward to the consolation game, as well. Prediction: USC 75, Virginia Tech 69 in final

3. Paradise Jam Semifinals (November 23, FCS Pacific)
– Assuming we avoid some stunning upset like Southern Miss over Miami, the semis at the Paradise Jam on Sunday night should be Miami vs. Connecticut and San Diego vs. Wisconsin. You’re wondering the same thing I am: why are the two best teams in the tournament on the same side of the bracket? Maybe a nod of respect to Bo Ryan and his recent success in Madison. Regardless, Miami-Connecticut is a battle of top-15 caliber teams featuring Jack McClinton trying to score over Hasheem Thabeet, while San Diego nearly beat UNLV on the road with four key players suspended, so don’t count them out against the Badgers. Prediction: Connecticut vs. Wisconsin final

4. #21 Davidson at #12 Oklahoma (November 18, ESPN2)
– The premiere matchup of the College Hoops Tip-Off 24-hour marathon on the ESPN family is not Kentucky vs. North Carolina. The best game is Davidson vs. Oklahoma for a trip to New York. You all know what to expect from the Wildcats- plenty of Stephen Curry shooting threes. And we can all agree that’s not such a bad thing, right? Also not a bad thing: Watching Blake Griffin score and rebound in the post. Because I don’t see anyone containing my National Player of the Year pick, the Sooners advance. Also keep an eye on Tony Crocker and Austin Johnson trying to contain Curry for forty minutes. Prediction: Oklahoma 80, Davidson 72

5. Kentucky at #1 North Carolina (November 18, ESPN)
– Sure, this game has lost some of its luster. Kentucky is no longer a national powerhouse and lost Friday to VMI. North Carolina declared Tyler Hansbrough out for Tuesday’s contest. Still, College Gameday will be there, it’s a historic and entertaining rivalry, and we get to see great players like Pat Patterson and Wayne Ellington. So stop complaining. Why will North Carolina prevail? I expect Ty Lawson to exploit the Kentucky point guards and have a huge game. Prediction: North Carolina 83, Kentucky 70

6. UAB at Arizona (November 18, ESPN2)- The UAB Blazers are a dangerous team this year in Conference USA, folks. They feature an ultra-talented two headed monster in Paul Delaney and Robert Vaden and Mike Davis, for all of his past transgressions, is a fine basketball coach. They’ll travel to Tuscon fearless and primed for an upset over Chase Budinger, Nic Wise, Jordan Hill and the Wildcats. Unless Budinger asserts himself from the tip, I think an upset is very possible here, with Vaden showcasing his talents on national television much like he did last year in Freedom Hall. Prediction: UAB 69, Arizona 68

7. Nevada at San Diego (November 18, ESPN FC)
– This game isn’t part of the ESPN Tip-Off Marathon, but it very well should be. I’ll certainly be flipping over to ESPN Full Court to watch freshman phenom Luke Babbitt lead the charge for Nevada into San Diego to take on Brandon Johnson, Gyno Pomare and the Torreros. Credit San Diego coach Bill Grier for scheduling so many top mid-majors early in the season; a victory over Nevada, a tournament team, could prove vital on Selection Sunday.  Prediction: San Diego 70, Nevada 67

8. #15 Arizona State at San Diego State (November 18, CBS College Sports)
– Yet another tremendous basketball game on Tuesday, this one possibly resulting in Upset City. The Aztecs return 96% of their scoring and 84% of their rebounding from last season under head coach Steve Fisher, led by stars Lorrenzo Wade and Marquette transfer Ryan Amoroso. Kyle Spain and Tim Shelton also boost an outstanding frontcourt, meaning Jeff Pendergraph is going to have his hands full. I’m calling this one, folks. Prediction: San Diego State 70, Arizona State 68

9. Massachusetts at #13 Memphis (November 17, ESPN)
– I’ll be staying up late to watch this one on ESPNHD, with John Calipari coaching against his former assistant (Derek Kellogg) and school (Massachusetts, whom he coached to prominence in the 90’s). This will be my first look at Tyreke Evans and his ability to run the point for the Tigers. Chris Lowe, Anthony Gurley and Ricky Harris may be able to hang around with Memphis for a while, but the muscle of Taggart and Dozier down low will be too much to handle. Prediction: Memphis 84, Massachusetts 74

10. Illinois at Vanderbilt (November 20, ESPN FC)
– Both of these teams will likely end up in the NIT, but it’s still Big Ten vs. SEC in November, which means I’ll be tuning in. A.J. Ogilvy is one of the top players in the SEC while Chester Frazier and Robert Meachem lead the way for Bruce Weber’s Illini in a difficult road environment. If Demetri McCamey is shooting well from deep, Illinois has a chance.  Prediction: Vanderbilt 69, Illinois 64

Honorable Mention

  • Georgia at #11 Purdue (November 18)
  • Miami (OH) at #6 Pittsburgh (November 17)
  • Tennessee-Martin at #13 Tennessee (November 18)
  • Cleveland State at Washington (November 18)
  • Tulsa at Oklahoma State (November 20)
  • Vermont at Maryland (November 21)
  • UAB at Old Dominion (November 22)
  • VCU at Rhode Island (November 22)
  • Clemson at Charlotte (November 22)

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Top Ten Games Of The Week (11/10-11/16)

Posted by Zach on November 9, 2008

The college basketball season is finally upon us. After the March Madness recap, the recruiting rampage, clinics and camps, transfers, injuries, Midnight Madness and weeks worth of practice, real, unedited college basketball will be shown on my television for the first time since Mario Chalmers led Kansas to the national title last April. It makes no difference to me that the score will likely be Duke 104, Presbyterian 55. It’s college basketball, it’s live, and even the sight of the Cameron Crazies are enough to get me excited.

Most of these games in my first edition of the Top Ten Games of the Week are assumptions. That is, we’d need Michigan and Northeastern to beat Division II or awful Division I teams to reach that matchup. Unless we have another Gardner Webb on our hands (and most of these teams are even worse), I’d say most of these are fair bets to occur. So without further ado, here’s the Top Ten in order:

1. San Diego @ UNLV (Saturday, MTN)– The best game of the first week features two mid-majors looking to advance to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. First team all-WCC forward Gyno Pomare and senior guard Brandon Johnson lead the way for the Toreros in this difficult early road game in Las Vegas. UNLV is the preseason Mountain West favorite after returning three starters from a 27-win team. Wink Adams is the floor general and best player on the Rebels, while this game will give us the first look at Memphis transfer Tre’Von Willis. Prediction: San Diego 70, UNLV 74

2. New Mexico @ Creighton (Sunday)– Our second best game displays another Mountain West contenders- the New Mexico Lobos and head coach Steve Alford. Many feel they can contend for the top spot in the conference with Tony Danridge at the helm of the offense. Look out for combo guard Chad Toppert as a capable compliment to the scoring leader Danridge. Creighton is the near-unanimous preseason favorite in the Missouri Valley, and will look for super sophomore P’Allen Stinnett to carry the Jays to a big road victory. Prediction: New Mexico 69, Creighton 76

3. Clemson vs. Temple (Sunday, Sport South)– This matchup assumes both teams get through two easy rounds at the Charleston Classic over the weekend. Clemson is looking like a bubble team in the middle of the ACC pack, while Temple could be a true contender in the Atlantic 10 with Xavier and Massachusetts. This would be a huge resume building win for Dionte Christmas and Temple notching a victory over an ACC school like Clemson, who will attempt to hold off the Owls with the help of K.C. Rivers and Trevor Booker. Prediction: Clemson 67, Temple 65

4. Massachusetts @ Southern Illinois (Wednesday)– If both of these teams take care of business against cupcakes in the first round of the Carbondale regional in Coaches vs. Cancer, Southern Illinois will get a tough home test in a battle for a game with Duke in Madison Square Garden. If that’s not a motivating factor, then I don’t know what is. The dynamic guard duo of Ricky Harris and Chris Lowe lead the charge for UMass against Bryan Mullins and the Salukis in a contest of offensive firepower vs. defensive dominance. Prediction: Massachusetts 70, Southern Illinois 68

5. Bradley @ Florida (Sunday, ESPNU)– This one could be closer than casual viewers expect. Andrew Warren, Theron Wilson and a well-balanced high-scoring Braves attack could give Florida and their young roster a scare in Gainesville for a healthy part of this game. But I expect Nick Calathes, Erving Walker and Co. to pull away near the end in this warmup for the CBE Classic in Kansas City. Prediction: Bradley 79, Florida 90

6. Northeastern @ Michigan (Wednesday, ESPNU)
– Watch out for this one, folks. Other than sensational guard Manny Harris, the Wolverines don’t have the talent to avoid a possible upset, even in Ann Arbor. Northeastern and Matt Janning have their eyes set on a Colonial title this season and a long-awaited trip to the NCAA Tournament, while the Michigan program is still attempting to right the ship under new coach John Beilein. This winner of this game will face UCLA in New York. Prediction: Northeastern 60, Michigan 61

7. George Mason @ Vermont (Saturday)– This is an early season battle of two programs that have certainly produced magic in the NCAA Tournament and are in prime position to return this season. The backcourt combination of senior Dre Smith, who sank 10 threes in a game last year, and double digit scorer John Vaughan might be enough to knock off America East contender Vermont. They’re led by Michigan State transfer Maurice Joseph, double-double man Marqus Blakely and outstanding guard Mike Trimboli. Prediction: George Mason 76, Vermont 79

8. Houston @ Duke (Tuesday, ESPNU)
– I don’t expect this one to be particularly close with a trip to New York on the line in Durham. I’m still intrigued to see some of Houston’s new players, notably freshman Desmond Wade and a slew of talented JC transfers along with guard Kelvin Lewis, and how they hold up in Cameron against Kyle Singler, Gerald Henderson, Greg Paulus and the rest. If Houston does stay close, Memphis might have a difficult conference foe on their hands. Prediction: Houston 68, Duke 88

9. Illinois State @ Wright State (Saturday)– Not many searching for good games this week will avoid overlooking this battle, but these are two schools that could win their conferences- the Missouri Valley and Horizon League, respectively. 15.8 PPG scorer Osiris Eldridge is a contender for MVC Player of the Year while Todd Brown and Vaughn Duggins look to defend their home court in this battle of mid majors. Prediction: Illinois State 59, Wright State 60

10. American @ Oklahoma (Friday, ESPN Full Court)– Oklahoma should win this easily, but you’ll surely see American as an upset contender next March. They’ve got one of the best unknown players in the nation in Garrison Carr. Derrick Mercer is another outstanding guard for the Patriot League favorites. This is also our first look at Willie Warren for the Sooners. Prediction: American 71, Oklahoma 90

Also keep an eye on:
– Miami (OH) @ UCLA (Thursday, ESPNU)
– Bucknell @ Maryland (Friday)
– Butler @ Drake (Saturday)
– Pennsylvania @ North Carolina (Saturday, FSN South)
– Northeastern @ Providence (Saturday)
– Rhode Island @ Duke (Sunday, ESPNU)
– Winthrop @ South Carolina (Sunday)
– Milwaukee @ Iowa State (Sunday)

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