Hopefully, you college basketball junkies can find something else to do this week. Anything at all will do, because there isnít very much excitement on tap for college hoops this week. Although a bevy of preseason tournaments, conference challenges, and monster non-conference matchups have taken place the past few weeks, there is so little excitement this week that there isnít even a ďGame of the Week.Ē There simply isnít a single game worthy of that title this week. Things heat up a little bit on Saturday, with a full day of college basketball, but there still arenít any matchups that you will want to plan your day around. There are some decent games being played this week, though, even if there isnít a single marquee game.
St. Maryís at Southern Illinois
Itís almost become a given that Gonzaga will win the West Coast Conference every year now, and the Bulldogs deserve to have that respect because of the success they have had recently. But this season, St. Maryís figures to pose a legitimate threat to the Zags, and the Gaels have already beaten Oregon and Seton Hall, as they are knocking on the door of the top 25. Southern Illinois, on the other hand, is the Gonzaga of the Missouri Valley Conference, meaning the Salukis have become the hands-down favorite every season to win the league. However, a 3-3 start to the season with double digits losses to USC, Indiana, and Charlotte have MVC challengers more confident in their ability to give Southern Illinois some competition in the conference. Even with the Salukis struggling so far, St. Maryís has a tough task as it attempts to win at SIU Arena, one of the most underrated venues in the entire nation.
Miami at Mississippi State
For a team that was picked to finish in the cellar of the ACC, Miami has stunned its critics and has raced to an 8-0 start. The Hurricanes havenít gone undefeated against weak competition either, and they even won the Puerto Rico Tip-Off title, which included wins over VCU and Providence. Boasting one of the better shooters in the conference in Jack McClinton and a monstrous big man in Anthony King, Miami is not the lightweight analysts made it out to be before the season. Mississippi State isnít without their own talent, though, especially with superstar Jamont Gordon. The Bulldogs desperately need to win this game, as they have not beaten a quality opponent yet this season.
Oklahoma State at Pittsburgh
If this game were being played in Stillwater, Oklahoma Stateís chances to win this game would be much higher. But the fact is, the Cowboys are an awful road team, and Pittsburgh is great at home, so it would take a lot for the Panthers to blow this one. Sean Sutton has his team playing better at least, and they did dismantle Washington earlier this year (a team that nearly beat Pittsburgh this weekend), but look for Pittsburgh to roll in this one and keep its undefeated season alive.
Arkansas at Oklahoma
This is one of the more intriguing match-ups of the week. On one side is an Arkansas team with a great deal of athleticism, looking to push the pace under new coach John Pelphrey. The Razorbacks will be facing an Oklahoma team that will look to slow the gameís pace severely and use its bruising inside game to out-muscle Arkansas. Both teams could use a quality non-conference win, but Oklahoma probably needs this one more.
Louisville at Purdue
Both teams are coming off losses this past Saturday and will be looking to rebound in a nationally televised contest this weekend. Louisvilleís injury problems have proved concerning so far, as the Cardinals are reeling after a loss at home to Dayton. Purdueís youth has shown this year, as the Boilermakers had a chance to win games at Clemson and Missouri but could not come away with a victory. If Purdue could win this one at home, it would go a long way toward this teamís maturation process. Although Louisville began the season as a Final Four contender and Purdue seemed to be in a transitional period, Matt Painterís club has a great chance to defend its home court and stave off Rick Pitinoís bid at his 500th career win.
Western Kentucky at Tennessee
Donít be surprised if you see Tennessee either struggle with Western Kentucky or outright lose the game. The Hilltoppers run-and-gun style nearly beat Gonzaga in the Great Alaska Shootout, losing by three points, and the Vols could be similarly tested Saturday night. If Tennessee shows up and plays fairly well, Bruce Pearl will most likely be happy with the result. But if the Volunteers fail to show up and play sloppy basketball, Western Kentucky may be able to steal a win in Knoxville.
OTHER GAMES OF INTEREST
Cincinnati at Xavier
One of the best rivalries that doesnít get much publicity is between Cincinnati and Xavier. Even though the Bearcats have been less than impressive this season with losses to Belmont, Bowling Green, and Illinois State, Xavier has been rolling lately with dominant victories over Indiana and Creighton.
Florida State at Butler
Florida State is a hard to team figure out. On one hand, the Seminoles are 9-2 with blowout wins over Florida and Minnesota, but they have also lost to Cleveland State and South Florida. Against Butler, Leonard Hamilton will find out just how good his team is. Even though Wright State did upset Butler this weekend, the Bulldogs are still 8-1 on the season and they are never easy to beat at home.