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BASKETBALL TAKES THE STAGE THIS WEEKEND
January 4, 2010

SCS.comCollege footballís season ends on Thursday. And while thatís sad, it also marks a new beginning for college hoops. So go ahead, enjoy the National Championship on Thursday. Enjoy the Orange Bowl tomorrow. Oh, and enjoy the other National Championship tonight. Because this weekend, itíll be all about the hardwood.

OPENING THOUGHTS

Thought 1: USC becomes Pac-10 favorite

Yesterdayís news of USCís ineligibility for the post-season makes the Trojans the favorite to win the Pac-10 regular season title.

Think about it. The Trojans have been the leagueís surprise team lately, demolishing Tennessee and knocking off UNLV in the Diamond Head Classic. Point guard Mike Gerrity, who I admit Iíd never heard of until about two weeks ago, looks like the savior of Kevin OíNeillís squad. Now, all of the pressure is off, and nobody is going to be more motivated than seniors Gerrity, Marcus Johnson and Dwight Lewis to win a conference title. Iím sure youíve noticed that the Pac-10 is historically weak this season. For Godís sake, Oregon just swept the Washington schools on the road and sits in first place at 2-0. These same Ducks lost to Missouri 106-69 and got blown out at home by Montana. But theyíre 2-0. Meanwhile, pre-season favorites Washington and Cal have looked underwhelming so far. Thatís why USC could pull off the most improbable regular season title in Pac-10 history.

Thought 2: Chandler Freakiní Parsons

I woke up this morning in a good mood for one reason. Iím not a North Carolina State fan. Did you see the shot yet? If not, immediately browse YouTube for Chandler Parsonís 75-foot game-winner, which gave Florida a 61-62 overtime win over N.C. State yesterday. Itís not quite as dramatic as Cleveland Stateís prayer against Syracuse last season, but itís pretty close. The fact that the Gators needed this miracle to beat the ACCís worst team probably doesnít bode well for them as SEC play approaches. Florida travels to Nashville for a showdown with Vanderbilt next weekend. If the Gators shoot 12.5 percent from threeóas they did yesterdayóthere will be no overtime and there will be no game-winning 75-footers. The game will be over by halftime.

Thought 3: Easy win for Pittsburgh at Carrier Dome

The most surprising score of the weekend came out of New York as Pittsburgh dominated fifth-ranked Syracuse 82-72. The Panthers are supposed to be rebuilding without Sam Young, DeJuan Blair and Levance Fields, but Saturdayís win is another example of why Jamie Dixonís program is one of the most consistent in college basketball. The names change, ranging from Julius Page to Carl Krauser to Aaron Gray. But the results donít. Dixon has made six straight NCAA Tournaments and has continued the success of his predecessor Ben Howland, who, by the way, might miss the NCAAs with UCLA this year. Itís not easy to continue such consistency, which is why Dixon is as good as it gets in college basketball today.

WEEKLY PREVIEW

GAME OF THE WEEK

Connecticut at Georgetown
Saturday 11 a.m

UConnís youth may hold it back this weekend in a hostile environment.

Prediction: Georgetown 60, Connecticut 59

OTHERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON

Cincinnati at Pittsburgh
Monday 6 p.m. ESPN

If Cincy can silence the Oakland Zoo and pull off a road win at Pittsburgh, it might not lose again until a Feb. 7 match-up with Syracuse. Mind you, Iím not predicting the Bearcats will be 10-0 in the Big East when the Orange visit next month. They do play at Seton Hall, Louisville and Notre Dame. Iím just attempting to point out that Cincinnatiís early Big East schedule isnít all that challenging. But this is all a moot point if the Panthers take care of business tonight. I believe they will.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 67, Cincinnati 66

Minnesota at Purdue
Tuesday 6 p.m.

With all of the talk about Texas deserving the number one ranking over Kansas, why not throw undefeated Purdue in the conversation? The Boilermakers slapped West Virginia on New Yearís Day and own other wins over Tennessee, Wake Forest and Alabama.

Prediction: Purdue 66, Minnesota 55

Wichita State at Missouri State
Wednesday 7:05 p.m.

Wichita State has the look of a Missouri Valley title contender, but its last road game was a debacle at Illinois State.

Prediction: Wichita State 73, Missouri State 71

UNLV at BYU
Wednesday 10 p.m.

Iím not sure how I feel about UNLV. The 12-2 record is great, but the two losses to Kansas State and USC were very ugly. Iíll get a better gauge of the Runniní Rebels on Wednesday night when they face BYU at the Marriot Center, a place opponents rarely win.

Prediction: BYU 80, UNLV 66

Florida at Vanderbilt
Saturday 11 a.m.

I already mentioned this game when I threatened above that Florida would never win at Memorial Gym if it shoots 12.5 percent from three-point land again.

Prediction: Vanderbilt 78, Florida 69

Mississippi State at Mississippi
Saturday 12:30 p.m.

After dropping from the top-25 with a season-opening loss to Rider, Mississippi State has rolled against an easy non-conference schedule. Rick Stansbury will find out if his team has improved this weekend against an in-state rival.

Prediction: Mississippi 78, Mississippi State 71

Kansas State at Missouri
Saturday 1 p.m.

Missouri simply demolishes teams at home, evidenced by an 89-61 win over Georgia on Saturday. Kansas State is no Georgia, however, and the Wildcats have the guards to overcome the Tigersí defensive chaos.

Prediction: Missouri 78, Kansas State 75

Texas Tech at Oklahoma State
Saturday 7:05

Tech struggled in home wins over McNeese State and UTEP last week, and now things get even tougher at Gallagher-Iba on Saturday.

Prediction: Oklahoma State 86, Texas Tech 72

Kansas at Tennessee
Sunday 12:30 p.m.

Some of Tennesseeís starting lineup is still intact after last weekís arrests, but star forward Tyler Smith was implicated in the situation. That doesnít bode well for Bruce Pearl.

Prediction: Kansas 90, Tennessee 75

Temple at Rhode Island
Sunday 12 p.m.

After failing to stay competitive with Kansas at home, Temple now draws upstart Rhode Island, which just knocked off Oklahoma State.

Prediction: Rhode Island 73, Temple 71

Last weekís prediction record: 11-5
Overall: 54-31

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