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ANOTHER WEEKEND, ANOTHER 'BIG' EAST GAME
January 23, 2009

SCS.comWith no NFL this week, college basketball took advantage of the open Sunday. Louisville and Syracuse will do battle that day, and other games include Virginia Tech/Miami, Pitt/West Virginia and Michigan State/Ohio State. Of course, if youíre like me, youíll be glued to the TV on both days. Follow my lead and do the same.

GAME OF THE WEEKEND

Louisville at Syracuse
Sunday 11:00 AM Big East Network

Syracuse just didnít look like itself last Monday in 78-60 loss at Pittsburgh. Normally an exceptional offensive team, the Orange were dominated in every statistic on offense. They shot a poor percentage from the floor, couldnít make a free throw and were outrebounded by a significant margin. Had it not been for the hot shooting of Andy Rautins, who finished with 17 points, it could have been even worse for Syracuse. Louisville isnít the same type of defensive team as Pittsburgh, but the Orange could be in for another challenge on Sunday. The Cardinals pressure their opponentsí guards and do everything they can to disrupt offensive sets with their aggressive style. Syracuse is going to need more scoring from the low post and a much better performance from star point guard Jonny Flynn, who shot 3-14 from the field on Monday.

Louisville couldnít be more on fire. If youíre counting, the Cards have now won six straight games and sit atop the Big East with a 5-0 record. Like a typical Rick Pitino team, Louisville is turning its opponents over and creating easy transition buckets for itself. Terrance Williams has chipped in 20 points in the past three games and seems to have found his outside shooting touch. Thatís important for a team that sometimes struggles from behind the arc, especially since Jerry Smith and Edgar Sosa are struggling on offense right now.

As far as match-ups are concerned, Syracuse does have the personnel to compete with Williams and Earl Clark, who often present problems for teams without speed at the forward position. Paul Harris is undersized but has more than enough quickness to keep up on defense. The Orange simply have to find and convert open looks on offense. At home, I like Syracuseís chances.

Prediction: Syracuse 75, Louisville 73

MUST SEE MATCH-UPS

Connecticut at Notre Dame
Saturday 6:00 PM ESPN

With five losses, Notre Dame is starting to take some hits from the national media. The Irish have only lost one bad gameóto St. Johnís on the roadóbut they also donít have a prominent road win. Thatís OK, because this game will be at the Joyce Center, where Notre Dame has the longest home court winning streak in the nation. Luke Harangody against Jeff Adrien and Hasheem Thabeet will be an epic battle, and those two Huskies will have to keep ĎGody off the offensive glass. Notre Dameís defense, its Achilles Heel, will need to collaboratively stop A.J. Price, who went off against Villanova for 29 points on Wednesday. With the way the Huskies have been scoring lately, itíll be tough for the Irish to extend the home winning streak. The College Gameday crew will be in South Bend this week and the Joyce Center should be even more of an advantage for Notre Dame. Iím afraid to pick against the Irish in this one.

Prediction: Notre Dame 88, Connecticut 85

Baylor at Oklahoma
Saturday 3:00 PM ESPNU

Though Oklahoma has just one loss this season, the word ďoverratedĒ has often been associated with the Sooners. Thatís probably because this team has a tendency to struggle in games against weaker opponents. Hereís what I say to that: blasphemy! Iím wondering if any of those people saw Oklahoma smash Texas a couple of weeks ago on Big Monday. This team is scary good, and they not only have the best player in the whole country, but also a cast of supporting characters that compliment Blake Griffin well. Baylor will certainly be able to keep up in this contest, however. With so many shooters and athletic guards, the Bears can hold their own with OU in the open court. If they get this gameís tempo in their favor, they have a shot to get this road win. But notice I said that theyíll ďhave a shot.Ē I never said that they will win, so donít put me down for that. Put me down for an OU victory.

Prediction: Oklahoma 75, Baylor 70

Wisconsin at Illinois
Saturday 3:00 PM ESPNU

The Big Ten has seven teams who are either ranked or have been in the polls this season, and these two teams are included in that group. Wisconsin isnít currently ranked, while the Illini are; but there isnít much of a difference between these two. Thatís the beauty of the Big Ten this season. Saturdayís match-up should be a grind-it-out slugfest between two teams that want to use all 35 seconds of the shot clock and work the possession for the best possible shot. And did I mention how good these two play defense? Wisconsin is desperate for a win right now, having lost three straight. In such a tough conference, the Badgers could easily get lost in the shuffle.

Prediction: Illinois 73, Wisconsin 66

Virginia Tech at Miami
Sunday 4:30 FSN

This is a bigger game than you might think. With nearly identical records and only a few spots of separation in the standings, Sundayís contest could almost be considered a ďbubbleĒ game, especially for Virginia Tech. Though the Hokiesí resume is somewhat similar to Miamiís, they had a rougher non-conference and donít have the experience of an NCAA tournament run from 2008. Even though Virginia Tech just knocked off Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, that win actually reminds me a bit of Boston Collegeís win over North Carolina. Of course, we all know the Eagles imploded after that game. Iím not saying Virginia Tech will implode, but I donít think theyíll keep up the level of play they showed in the Wake game. The Hokies need this win to keep themselves afloat, but I think Miami will be too strong.

Prediction: Miami 77, Virginia Tech 70

OTHER GAMES OF NOTE

Siena at Niagara
Saturday 11:00 AM

Siena has a nice lead in the MAAC at 8-0, but that could evaporate if 5-2 Niagara wins at home in this one. The Purple Eaglesí veteran guard Tyrone Lewis is the type of player that can take over a game, but I think Siena will be too experienced to lose this one.

Prediction: Siena 80, Niagara 72

Maryland at Duke
Saturday 11:00 AM ESPN

Maryland always either beats North Carolina or Duke, but this win will be hard to come by. The Terps have lost 3 of 5 and are starting to crumble a bit.

Prediction: Duke 83, Maryland 67

Wisconsin-Milwaukee at Butler
Saturday 1:00 PM

In astonishing fashion, Wisconsin-Milwaukee lost by double digits at Valparaiso last night, but the Panthers are still in good shape at 7-2 in the Horizon, just a few games back of Butler. Itíd take a colossal upset, but the Bulldogs have struggled a bit with Horizon competition.

Prediction: Butler 65, Wisc-Milwaukee 62

Memphis at Tennessee
Saturday 2:30 PM CBS

This yearís Memphis/Tennessee game doesnít have quite the hype of last seasonís meeting. Perhaps thatís because this isnít a 1 vs. 2 match-up. Who knows? This should still be a fun, up-and-down basketball game with a lot of dunks and high-flying acrobats.

Prediction: Tennessee 88, Memphis 83

George Mason at VCU
Saturday 3:00 PM

George Mason actually just suffered its first CAA loss of the season to Northeastern, so that makes this game even more interesting. These are the two banner teams in the conference. I just wish this one was on television.

Prediction: VCU 78, George Mason 73

Utah at UNLV
Saturday 3:00 PM Versus

UNLV just notched a huge win at BYU this past week. The Rebels will look to keep up its conference title hopes by defending its home court against a tough Utah team, which haswon six of seven games.

Prediction: UNLV 67, Utah 60

Texas A&M at Texas
Saturday 3:00 PM ESPNU

Itís not like Texas completely outclasses Texas A&M, but the Aggies looked awful at Allen Field House on Monday. Just imagine how A&M will look against an even better Longhorns squad.

Prediction: Texas 83, Texas A&M 63

San Diego State at BYU
Saturday 8:00 PM The Mountain

The Mountain West is shaping up as one of the more intriguing conferences in all of college basketball. BYU has lost twice at home now, and I donít think the Cougars will lose a third.

Prediction: BYU 76, San Diego State 70

Michigan State at Ohio State
Sunday 2:45 PM CBS

Ohio State is figuring out how to play without David Lighty, while Michigan State just suffered a perplexing home loss to Northwestern. I like the way the Buckeyes are playing right now, though the Spartansí loss is simply an anomaly.

Prediction: Ohio State 69, Michigan State 64

Pittsburgh at West Virginia
Sunday 3:00 PM

Backyard brawl, basketball style! These two teams play just like their football counterparts. Expect nothing less than, well, a brawl. Itís Pitt and West Virginia, why would it be any different?

Prediction: Pittsburgh 68, West Virginia 59

Last weekís prediction record: 10-5
Overall prediction record: 110-61

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