A long week finally comes to a close with a great weekend of college basketball on the horizon. There are top-25 games up and down the slate and everyone is trying to shore up their case for a tournament bid. Everyone but the Pac-10, that is.
Last week was a smashing success for the KSR braintrust, as no one fell below .500 and my strategy of letting a lightly-trained swamp sparrow assist me with the picks finally paid off with a staff-leading 8-2 record. Intern retakes the top spot this week, but with only a one-game lead on Beisner and BTI, who collapsed under the pressure of being #1 and managed but a sad 5-5 record last week. The race for nothing is certainly heating up.
Katie Martin has rejoined the fun this week, after a two-week hiatus relating to overseas ops I don’t have the necessary security clearance to discuss, so enough with the jibber-jabber. Onto the picks…
#8 Villanova at #4 Syracuse, 9 p.m., ESPN
We’ll start with the game everyone will be watching Saturday night, as the two marquee teams in this year’s Big East square off for the only time this season. Everyone knows about Villanova’s guards and how Scottie Reynolds can break down your backcourt, Corey Fisher can stretch your defense and Corey Stokes can spell his name in urine on the outside wall of your arena. The Syracuse zone is designed to stop teams like Nova, and even if it’s only successful in slowing them down, the lack of any presence on the inside for the Wildcats should tip things in Cuse’s favor. That is, if the 34,000 on hand at the Carrier Dome don’t do that on their own.
#12 New Mexico at #11 BYU, 4 p.m.
I’d be lying if I told you I knew a whole helluva lot about either one of these teams, but considering the winner of this will probably be in the top ten next week, I suppose we should get to know them in the next two lines or so. New Mexico is led by Darington Hobson, who averages 15.1 points, 9 rebounds and 4.6 assists, and Dairese Gary, who averages 12 points and 4 assists and torched BYU for 27 in the Lobos’ home win earlier this year. BYU is driven by guard Jimmer Fredette, who leads the team in points and assists and has been the key cog in BYU’s current 21-game home win streak, which dates back over a year. Steve Alford’s crew is really good, but nobody wins at BYU. The streak is 22 by the end of Saturday.
#21 Texas at #23 Texas A&M, 2 p.m., ESPN
Can somebody tell me what happened to Texas? They’ve gone from being the top-ranked team in the country to the verge of dropping out of the polls altogether. They’re down to their 19th point guard, Dexter Pittman is their only big inside presence and he plays less than 20 min/game and, unless Oklahoma State manages to make the field, the Longhorns will not have beaten a tournament-caliber team since besting the Aggies the first time around on January 16th, their last win while undefeated. In short, I have little to no faith in Texas. A&M wins easy.
Mississippi State at South Carolina, 6 p.m., ESPN
The immovable object meets the unstoppable force in Columbia as Jarvis Varnado travels to face the Devan Downey show. The Dogs definitely need the game more, as their fight for an at-large bid is in desperation mode. The Gamecocks have lost five straight, meanwhile, and will need to finish strong if they’re to secure a winning record and an NIT bid, if teams actually try to do that. Mississippi State hasn’t been great on the road, but I don’t think South Carolina has the kind of scoring to overcome the Bulldogs’ defense. Downey may score 40, but MSU will get the win regardless.
Florida at Georgia, 4 p.m.
The Gators looked awfully impressive in beating Tennessee, but can’t afford a slip-up against Georgia and their ‘we only win games at home’ strategy. I have expressed my distrust of Florida as anything more than mediocre in this space before, and one home win against an overrated Tennessee team doesn’t have me drinking the Kool-Aid yet. Some people have anointed Florida a tournament team, and in this down year for college basketball, maybe they are. We’ll see, however, if those tunes change after Georgia makes the Gators their latest victim.
Maryland at Virginia Tech, 4 p.m.
Maryland is a lock for the dance and is the only team with a shot of catching Duke in the ACC, while Virginia Tech currently finds themselves on the right side of the bubble but only by a slim margin. There’s no doubt the Terps are a legitimate team even if they somehow still aren’t ranked, but Tech is unbeaten on their home turf this year and will be hungry for the rÃ©sumÃ© win. I think the desperate team takes this one, with the Hokies improving their chances for a tourney berth.
Murray State at Eastern Kentucky, 7 p.m.
Murray State just had the nation’s longest winning streak snapped by Morehead State, and it’s disappointing the Racers didn’t put on a better show with the KSR crew in attendance. Still, Murray is the flagship university of the Jackson Purchase area for a reason, and I expect them to bounce back accordingly. Racers win big to continue their great year, which will hopefully culminate with a trip to the the NCAA tournament, their first since 2006.
#14 Michigan State at #3 Purdue, 4 p.m.
A game that will go a long way to deciding the Big Ten title lost much of its luster when Robbie Hummel went down to an ACL injury earlier this week. Purdue is good enough to be competitive without Hummel, especially on offense where JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore can pick up the slack. However, Hummel’s rebounding is what will be missed the most, and that’s what will hurt them the worst against a Michigan State team that is consistently great on the glass. State takes a game I don’t think they wouldn’t have gotten with Hummel in the lineup.
Louisville at Connecticut, 2 p.m., CBS
It’s simple: Louisville needs two out of their three remaining games to be probable for the dance and UConn probably needs to win out to feel totally comfortable, although obviously making noise in the conference tournament would make things much easier for either team. However, with the Cards having extremely tough games remaining and UConn only playing teams that won’t impress the selection committee the rest of the way, neither team can afford to drop this one. Louisville squeaked by a Harangody-less Notre Dame and looked absolutely awful in the second half against Georgetown, while UConn has knocked off two top-10 teams in a week. The Huskies take this one going away as the margin of error grows ever thinner for the filthy Cards.
#13 Georgetown at #7 West Virginia, 7 p.m., ESPN
The aformentioned second half against Louisville was just about as dominant as it can get for Georgetown, but West Virginia’s legion of long defenders is a difficult matchup for anyone. Anyone except Greg Monroe. The Mountaineers don’t have anyone to match Monroe on the inside, so he should do pretty much whatever he wants in the paint. I expect the game to be tight, and I trust Georgetown more in a close game than Huggie’s bunch due to their guard play. The Hoyas get the win but it certainly won’t be easy.
Writer picks and results after the jump. Have a great weekend.
|Matt||Cuse||BYU||Texas||Miss. St.||Florida||Va. Tech||Murray||Purdue||UConn||WVU|
|Beisner||Cuse||NM||Texas||Miss. St.||Florida||Maryland||Murray||Mich. St.||UConn||GTown|
|BTI||Cuse||BYU||A&M||Miss. St.||Florida||Maryland||Murray||Mich. St.||UConn||GTown|
|Intern||Cuse||BYU||A&M||USC||Florida||Va. Tech||Murray||Mich. St.||UConn||WVU|
|Drew||Cuse||BYU||A&M||Miss. St.||Florida||Maryland||Murray||Mich. St.||UConn||WVU|
|Dustin||Cuse||BYU||A&M||Miss. St.||Florida||Va. Tech||Murray||Mich. St.||UConn||WVU|
|Lentz||Cuse||BYU||A&M||Miss. St.||Florida||Va. Tech||Murray||Purdue||UConn||WVU|
|Barker||Cuse||BYU||A&M||Miss. St.||UGA||Maryland||Murray||Mich. St.||UConn||WVU|
|Hunter||Cuse||BYU||A&M||Miss. St.||UGA||Va. Tech||Murray||Mich. St.||UConn||GTown|