Saturday, December 29, 2007

What to Watch

The holiday season is upon us and judging by the lack of quality games and coverage by me, you know this is a lull in the action before the conference season begins. The man to the right is Tate George of buzzer beating fame. Loved his game. A few notable things have happened. #1 North Carolina lost versatile backup PG Bobby Frasor for the season with a torn ACL suffered in their win over Nevada Thursday. Tobacco Road rival N.C. State lost its starting point guard Farnold Degand to a torn ACL of his own in their win Sunday over Cincinnati. Louisville received good news as 5th year Senior Center David Padgett, who was feared to be lost for the season could be back next month according to Rick Pitino. San Francisco all of a sudden has Eddie Sutton coaching their team after the strange "leave of absence" being taken by coach Jesse Evans. Worst of all, Sutton admits he is taking the job to get his two wins he needs to get to 800 for his career. Did anyone know that Rhode Island is 11-1 and now ranked 25th? Neither did I. Lastly, the already vagabond career of Freshman Alex Legion will take him from Kentucky to Illinois, where Bruce "Wooden" Weber will welcome him to his talentless team with open arms. We are going to look at many of these teams by their strength or weakness of their pre-conference schedules.

#9 Texas (11-1) vs. Wisconsin (9-2), noon EST, ESPN - This is the Longhorns second straight game against the Big Ten. Something tells me the result of this one will turn out differently. Texas was physically beaten down by Michigan State last weekend and will look to rebound. Keep your eye on the D.J. Augustine/Trevon Hughes matchup at the point. Hughes has the quicks to stay in front of Augustine. The difference his he isn't playing next to A.J. Abrams. Texas 82 Wisconsin 68

#8 Georgetown (8-1) vs. American (7-5), 1 PM - Why does this game even get a mention? American beat Maryland last week. But then again, Little Sisters of the Poor would have a shot against Gary Williams team these days. G'Town coming off a loss? Sorry AU, not a chance. Georgetown 75 American 59

#15 Vanderbilt (11-0) vs. Tennessee-Martin (5-7), 1 PM - Tennessee-Martin? Come on Kevin Stallings, you can do better than that. Their schedule has been dogshit thus far. No wonder they are 11-0.

#11 Texas A&M (11-1) vs. Florida A&M (3-7), 2 PM - Next.

#13 Marquette (9-1) vs. Savannah State (7-10), 2 PM - I could have sworn these two just played, but my eyes deceived me. It was Sacramento State the Golden Eagles played. Nothing prepares you for the Big East gauntlet like a four game stretch of Sacramento State, IPFW, Coppin State, and Savannah State.

#7 Michigan State (11-1) vs. Wisconsin Green-Bay (7-4), 4 PM - Even Tom Izzo's easy games seem like good scheduling. The Horizon league's fighting Phoenix are no easy out, though the Spartans should handle them. MSU is playing inspired ball of late and seem nothing close to resembling the team that lost to Grand Valley State in the preseason. Raymar Morgan is turning into a budding star on the college level. Watch out for Green Bay's Mike Schnatner. The Junior Forward can score on anyone. Michigan State 75 Wisconsin-Green Bay 58

#12 Tennessee (11-1) vs. Gonzaga (9-3) in Seattle, 4PM, ESPN2 - In what should be the game of the day, a high scoring tilt is expected. MTAC loves the Vols style of play and the energetic and sweaty coach Bruce Pearl. Mark Few is the second best scheduler in the country next to Tom Izzo and getting Tennessee to come to the Pacific Northwest is a solid move. Watching Gonzaga PG Jeremy Pargo face Tennessee's Ramar Smith will be something else. These two athletes can get up and down the floor with the best of them. This game is also suited for the Zags Micah Downs. The 6'8 gunner loves a fast paced, three point chuck-fest, which is what this could turn into. Having Josh Heyfeldt back in the post makes Gonzaga significantly better, but it won't be enough to stop the Vols. Post men Brian Williams and Wayne Chism will have something to say about that. Tennessee 95 Gonzaga 89

#19 Miami (12-0) vs. Winthrop (6-5), 4 PM - Tournament darlings the Winthrop Eagles are not the same veteran team they were in the past few years. Coach Gregg Marshall is gone. So too is the under the radar status they previously enjoyed. Meanwhile, the Canes keep winning, but the jury is still way out on them. Perusing their schedule and you won't find one win over a NCAA tournament caliber team. Miami 71 Winthrop 65

#22 Stanford (10-1) vs. Fresno State (7-5), 5 PM - With both Robin and Brook Lopez together on the floor with Lawrence Hill and Anthony Goods, the Cardinal are back playing the ball we expected to see when the season started. Don't expect much from Fresno State; this isn't Jerry Tarkanian's club of talented misfits anymore. Bring back Chris Herren. Stanford 72 Fresno State 55

#23 West Virginia (10-1) vs. Oklahoma (9-3), 6 PM, ESPN2 - Good scheduling here by both clubs. Bob Huggins in his first year has the Mountaineers ranked and playing well. OK, the schedule has been soft, but they did win at Auburn by 29 and lost to Tennessee by just two. Alex Ruoff and Joe Alexander average over 30 points between them. Meanwhile, the Sooners have rebounded nicely since the strange home loss to Stephen F. Austin at home. A win here would be huge for their tournament resume; both for them and for the Big 12's RPI. Freshman Blake Griffin is getting better and better. I just don't see the Sooners winning on the road though. West Virginia 80 Oklahoma 77

#14 Indiana (10-1) vs. Chicago State (4-11), 7 PM - Other than at Southern Illinois and at a neutral site against Xavier (where they were blown out), who have the Hoosiers played exactly? Kentucky doesn't count. This game is another in the long line of stinkers. That said, we'll pay to watch Eric Gordon and Jordan Crawford play against an eighth grade team. Which is what Chicago State essentially is. Indiana 95 Chicago State 65

#16 Villanova (9-1) vs. Lasalle (4-6), 7 PM, ESPNU - I know this is a Big Five matchup, but Nova is another team who's pre-conference schedule is softer than my pillows. To say they have a quality win would be giving a bad LSU too much credit. Here is a team who won't be in the top 25 team by the end of January. You'll see. Villanova 78 Lasalle 71

#5 UCLA (11-1) UC-Davis (5-6), 7:30 PM - After meeting Texas, Michigan State, Davidson, Maryland (they are weak), and Michigan (weaker), they are entitled to a cupcake or two. See this game. UCLA 81 UC-Davis 47

#6 Pittsburgh (11-0) at Dayton (10-1), 8 PM, ESPN2 - This has great game written all over it, but nobody will be paying attention. The Panthers are still riding high off of the win over Duke in New York. As great as that win was for Pittsburgh, it came at a price as starting guard Mike Cook was lost for the year with a torn ACL. He started 48 consecutive games. This is the fourth game of a brutal stretch that includes Washington, Oklahoma State, Duke, and now Dayton. The Flyers look like a strong NCAA win and a much improved A-10 conference. They have won nine straight, including wins over Lousiville and Miami-Ohio on the road. This will be a tough matchup for Pittsburgh, especially with the stellar play of Dayton Guard Brian Roberts. The difference in this game will be Pittsburgh's Freshman PF Dejuan Blair. In the last three games, he has delivered double doubles. He will again today. Pittsburgh 65 Dayton 62

#3 Kansas (12-0) vs. Yale (3-6), 8 PM - My Hawks are coming off a week long break after their thrashing of Miami-Ohio. While they have played quality games (at USC, Arizona, at Georgia Tech), their also have had their fair share of "why did they schedule this team" type games. This is one of them. But with the injuries to Brandon Rush and Sherron Collins, every game like is a chance to get in sync. Especially in the case of Collins. He is the key to KU going all the way to San Antonio. Kansas 90 Yale 61

#21 BYU (10-2) vs. Boise State (8-3), 9 PM - This will be a tough road test for the underrated Cougars, who have already knocked off Louisville and played close games with Michigan State and North Carolina. Trent Plaisted is the best player in the country nobody knows about. BYU 85 Boise State 75

#18 Arizona (9-2) at Memphis (10-0), 10 PM, ESPN2 - How did John Calipari create this unbelievable schedule. He gets Gonzaga, Tennessee, Arizona, USC, and Georgetown to come to the FedEx Forum plays UConn and Oklahoma at neutral sites, and goes to Cincinnati. That's impressive. Arizona meanwhile is no slouch. Virginia, Texas A&M, and San Diego State all came to McKale already and the Cats have travelled to Kansas, UNLV, played Illinois in Chicago, and no go to Memphis. Viewers of this game will be treated to a backcourt matchup of two of the best Freshman in the country, Memphis' Derrick Rose and Arizona's Jerryd Bayless. Both continue to get better each game. The key matchup of the game however is how Arizona's fastly improving PF Jordan Hill matches up with Joey Dorsey in the paint. Whoever gets the better of that will win the game. Is it time for Memphis to lose? I'm going to go out on a major limb and say so. Arizona 85 Memphis 84

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