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WEEKEND'S BEST A LETDOWN, BUT STILL WORTH WATCHING
February 15, 2008

SCS.comSo whatís on tap this weekend, you ask? For starters, how about an important Big Ten game that should have been even more important, a Friday night Big East game (yes, quality college basketball on Friday night), a Pac-10 rematch, a huge Mountain West game, and a Big 12 team whose coach just might lose to his in-state rival for the first time ever. Thatís enough spoilers for now. Read on and find out exactly what to watch - including the weekend's top game, Michigan State at Indiana - as we approach March.

GAME OF THE WEEKEND

Michigan State at Indiana
Saturday 8:00 PM CST ESPN

This was supposed to be the game of the century. Michigan State at Indiana. The tradition of Assembly Hall. Saturday night primetime on ESPN. Big Ten championship up for grabs. It was supposed to be a college hoops fanís dream.

Instead, you get a match-up between a severely struggling Spartansí team and an Indiana team, not only coming off a loss, but also the news of a whole new scandal involving Kelvin Sampson.

But you know what? Itís still the game of the week, and this game still has huge Big Ten implications. Maybe this is the weekís best game because there were no other games to choose for this spot. Well, thatís partially correct, but these arenít two scrub teams playing each other. In fact, even though it looks like Purdue is in the drivers seat for the regular season title, neither Indiana or Michigan State should be counted out at this point.

Michigan State has hardly been good the past week or so, losing to Penn State and then losing to Purdue. But Indiana really has not played well the entire season. In fact, this teamís best wins are against Illinois State and Georgia Tech, and every single top 25 team the Hoosiers have played (only four) has beaten them. Thatís why I see Michigan State getting back on track in this one.

The Spartans looked fantastic at the beginning of the season, but losses to Iowa and Penn State were really perplexing. Donít forget about them just yet, though. Drew Neitzel is still more than capable as the teamís leader, and Michigan State has a deep backcourt and formidable post players. Tom Izzo is still one of the best coaches around. There are a lot of pieces on this Spartansí team that could lead them several wins in the NCAA tournament. And I think this is the night people begin to realize that.

Prediction: Michigan State 78, Indiana 70

MUST-SEE MATCHUPS

Pittsburgh at Marquette
Friday 8:00 PM CST ESPN

College hoops on a Friday night? Bizarre, but at least this Big East match-up doesnít have to compete for the spotlight against the rest of the NCAA. Neither team will be competing for a conference title, but this is a significant game nonetheless. Levance Fields is expected to be back for this game, and that will make a huge difference for the Panthers. It is amazing enough Pitt survived this long without him and Mike Cook- with their floor leader back, youíll see a much improved team on the floor.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 69, Marquette 67

UCLA at USC
Sunday 9:00 PM CST Fox Sports Net

The last time these two got together, Tim Floydís Trojans got the better of Ben Howlandís Bruins. And that was at Pauley Pavilion. This one is in Galen Arena- still Los Angeles, of course- but USC has a great shot in this one, especially after seeing what Washington did to UCLA on Sunday. Losing Daniel Hackett to injury is a killer, and USC, as any team would, will have a hard time beating the Bruins for a second time.

Prediction: UCLA 75, USC 66

UNLV at BYU
Saturday 8:00 PM CST CSTV

If only Mountain West teams could play on national television. Oh well, even though you wonít get to watch this game, it still may be the dayís most important game. The two teams are virtually deadlocked atop the conference, with BYU just a half game ahead at 8-1 (UNLV is 8-2). The Cougars havenít lost since Jan. 15 and the Runniní Rebels have won 12 of 14. BYU fell off the map after a big win against Louisville in November, as most seemed to forget about their early success. UNLV is not nearly as proven as the Cougars with very few quality wins.

Prediction: BYU 69, UNLV 61

Georgetown at Syracuse
Saturday 11:00 AM CST ESPN

Every Saturday starts the same for me. Watch ESPN College Gameday at 10 central, and then watch a bruising Big East match-up after that at 11 central. Iím happy with this weekendís mid-morning Big East game. Syracuse was able to take the Hoyas to overtime in the first meeting, and now at the Carrier Dome the Orange have a shot to pull the upset. Itís a game Syracuse needs desperately, as it doesnít want to fall below .500 in the Big East. The Orange have stumbled lately and this game may just be the next dagger to their NCAA tournament dreams.

Prediction: Georgetown 78, Syracuse 66

Arkansas at Mississippi State
Saturday 3:00 PM CST ESPN

These are the only two teams with a chance to win the SEC West, and the winner of this game will have the upper-hand in the race for the rest of the season. Arkansas is beginning to establish itself as an NCAA tournament team, as is Mississippi State, so this is no longer a ďbubble game.Ē I really like what I see from Mississippi State right now. And if it can win on Saturday, Iíll be even more convinced. This was a team expected to do great things before the season began, and thereís still a chance that could happen.

Prediction: Mississippi State 81, Arkansas 77

Texas at Baylor
Saturday 5:00 PM CST ESPN

Rick Barnes has still never lost to Baylor. And he probably never will. But if he were to lose to Baylor, this would definitely be the game. In Waco, against a good Bears team, with a team that has dropped some games on the road this year, and we might just have a recipe for disaster for the Longhorns. Plus, donít forget about the ďhangoverĒ effect from the Kansas win on Wednesday. I was going to pick Texas in a squeaker but as I wrote this, I became sure that Baylor will win. There is too much going against Texas in this one. Sorry, Rick Barnes. You can start a new streak next season.

Prediction: Baylor 82, Texas 79

Stanford at Arizona
Saturday 2:30 PM CST ABC (regional coverage)

Every single week this teamís status changes. First, itís ďwhatís up with Arizona! I thought the Cats were going to be good this year!Ē Then, itís ďlook whoís streaking! Arizona!Ē Itís just a vicious circle that never, ever ends. Itís begun again, as the Wildcats took care of California at home on Thursday. Thereís no doubt this is a team with a great deal of potential, but Kevin OíNeill hasnít found a way to get consistent production out of this team. Iíd use the Pac-10 argument here, but the non-conference proved Arizonaís inconsistencies as well. Stanford will make sure the Wildcats donít go on a winning streak, but itís not because Arizona is horrible or anything. Itís because the Cardinal are playing that well this season.

Prediction: Stanford 75, Arizona 68

OTHER GAMES OF INTEREST

Washington State at Oregon
Saturday 8:00 PM CST Fox Sports Net

Itís not that crazy that the Cougars lead the Ducks by a game in the Pac-10 standings this late in the season. Whatís crazy is Washington State is just 6-5 in the conference, while Oregon is just 5-6. The Ducks need to string some wins together or they may be left out of the NCAA tournament, something nobody could have imagined in November.

Prediction: Washington State 55, Oregon 50

Florida at Vanderbilt
Saturday 2:00 PM CST

Ah, the battle of two of the most overrated teams in the country, both with win totals completely inflated by a pathetic schedule. Iím sorry for being such a jerk, but anyway, about the actual game on the court. Florida destroyed Vanderbilt in Gainesville, and although playing the Commodores on the road is never an easy task, I see the baby Gators getting a road win.

Prediction: Florida 83, Vanderbilt 77

Virginia Tech at North Carolina
Saturday 12:00 PM CST CBS

Virginia Tech has been playing pretty well in ACC play but it just canít compete with the Heels. Of course, itís not like North Carolina has looked impressive at all lately.

Prediction: North Carolina 85, Viginia Tech 70

Memphis at UAB
Saturday 7:00 PM CST

Another upset alert? No. Itís one of the Memphisí toughest C-USA games this year, but thatís not saying much. At all.

Prediction: Memphis 87, UAB 77

California at Arizona State
Saturday 5:00 PM CST

Sure is a blast playing in the Pac-10, isnít it? These two will battle it out in an almost must-win situation for both teams if they want to keep their NCAA tournament hopes alive.

Prediction: Arizona State 75, California 73

Seton Hall at West Virginia
Sunday 1:00 PM CST

Bubble time! After playing its way into the NCAA tournament conversation, Seton Hall promptly played itself out of the field by losing four games. Maybe the Pirates can play spoiler to the Mountaineers, though, who are still holding onto post-season hopes.

Prediction: West Virginia 72, Seton Hall 66

Danielís overall prediction record: 113-40
Last week: 11-2

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