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GAMEDAY VISITS CLEMSON FOR ACC BATTLE
January 22, 2010

SCS.comLast night wasn’t the most exciting night. There was almost no college basketball on TV, unless you count the Pac-10 (I wouldn’t). Football season is over, baseball is months away, I don’t like soccer or hockey, I don’t have any homework and there’s no way I would ever watch the Jersey Shore finale.

So I decided to put even more effort into this column, which I hope you’ll appreciate. Is a kind email too much to ask?

OPENING THOUGHTS

Thought 1: Don’t Fret, Texas

I predicted that Kansas State would “annihilate” Texas on Monday in Manhattan. The Wildcats didn’t annihilate anyone, but they still upset the top-ranked Longhorns after blowing a ten-point halftime lead. It was a lackluster offensive game on both sides. Kansas State missed 12 free thows and made one three-pointer, and Denis Clemente finished with just five points. However, the story of the night was how poorly Texas played, especially in the first half. The Longhorns looked nothing like a number-one team, missing countless layups and free throws as it shot 36.8 percent from the field.

If you watched Texas for the first time Monday night, you probably came away baffled at how this team ever reached the top of the polls. I advise you—demand you, even—not to take too much away from the ugly loss. As I mentioned in the Weekly Preview article, Bramlage Coliseum is one of the most intimidating environments in basketball. They don’t call it the Octagon of Doom for nothing. In addition to the home-court advantage, Kansas State is simply an outstanding basketball team. I criticized Frank Martin louder than anyone when he was first hired, but he’s instilled the necessary toughness and intensity in his team to gain a top-10 ranking. Plus, Texas had a target on its back with the top ranking. Everything was stacked against the Longhorns, and they still battled back in the second half to make the ending a little more interesting. Texas isn’t going anywhere in the Big 12 or National Championship hunt.

Thought 2: Northern Iowa won’t run the table

In the Missouri Valley’s most anticipated match-up of the year, Wichita State defended Koch Arena and knocked off first-place Northern Iowa 60-51. The Shockers led 29-17 at halftime but allowed the 20th ranked Panthers to put together a 10-0 run to start the second half. Still, WSU rolled to a fairly easy victory at home, which means it trails Northern Iowa by just one game in the Valley now. UNI, which returns all but one player from last year’s NCAA Tournament team, starts five seniors and still controls its own destiny. If Wichita State even wants an outside chance to win the regular season title, it needs to win on the road—and that’s never easy to do in the MVC. I’ve liked Gregg Marshall’s team all year because of its guard play and J.T. Durley’s production inside. Northern Iowa probably has more talent overall and certainly has the edge up front with monstrous center Jordan Egleseder. It’ll be interesting to see how things play out during the last two months of the season. The two teams meet again in Cedar Falls Feb. 3.

Thought 3: Temple Means Business

Let’s play word association. When I say the words “Atlantic Ten,” what first comes to mind? Jameer Nelson, Marcus Camby and Rick Majerus’ girlish physique are all acceptable answers. Unfortunately, those aren’t correct. Atlantice Ten equals “Xavier” these days, because frankly the Musketeers have created an A-10 dynasty. They’ve won three straight conference titles and 15 since 1981 under various coaches such as Thad Matta, Skip Prosser, Pete Gillen and Sean Miller.

On Wednesday night, however, another historic A-10 program established itself as the top force in the league. Temple controlled Xavier for 40 minutes. The Owls only faced a little adversity in the second half, briefly trailing 48-47. And guess what happened—senior Ryan Brooks immediately scored to put his team ahead, Juan Fernandez nailed a three-pointer and that was it. Game over. Xavier cut its deficit to three points on a few threes by sharpshooter Brad Redford late in the game, but the Owls were never truly threatened. In a battle of two unbeaten A-10 teams, Temple came away with an important victory that solidifies its status as the team to beat in the conference. Maybe Xavier’s reign is over—for now.

WEEKEND PREVIEW

GAME OF THE WEEK

Duke at Clemson
Saturday 8 p.m.

Clemson has its flaws, but the Tigers are a powerful home team. With that pressure defense and College Gameday in the house, there’s no way Clemson loses. The only question is, will Duke manage to come within 27 points this year after losing 74-47 last winter?

Prediction: Clemson 90, Duke 66

GAMES TO KEEP AN EYE ON

Michigan State at Minnesota
Saturday 11 a.m.

Michigan State dropped a few games against top competition in non-conference play and dropped off the radar just a bit. The Spartans are back after breezing to a 6-0 start in the Big Ten. Minnesota has lost two straight road games—the first of which occurred in East Lansing—so it’s going to be desperate at home on Saturday.

Prediction: Minnesota 68, Michigan State 64

Ohio State at West Virginia
Saturday 1 p.m.

Syracuse already knocked off West Virginia on its home floor, but I’m not sure Ohio State can do the same. Even with Evan Turner.

Prediction: West Virginia 72, Ohio State 63

Virginia at Wake Forest
Saturday 3 p.m.

If you read Monday’s column, you surely know that Virginia is 3-0 in the ACC. That’s because I used this website as my own personal ego-booster by praising my pre-season sleeper team’s strong conference start. UVA hasn’t played a road game this tough in the ACC yet, so I’m thinking that undefeated start will come to end this weekend.

Prediction: Wake Forest 66, Virginia 60

Michigan at Purdue
Saturday 3 p.m.

Michigan was about to turn its season around at Wisconsin before scoring five points in the final five minutes, resulting in a deflating loss at the Kohl Center. Purdue, on the other hand, did turn its season around with a much-needed win at Illinois to break a three-game losing streak.

Prediction: Purdue 76, Michigan 60

Texas at Connecticut
Saturday 3 p.m.

As I said in the Opening Thoughts, don’t worry about Texas. The Longhorns will roll from here to the Final Four.

Prediction: Texas 75, Connecticut 70

Oklahoma State at Kansas State
Saturday 3 p.m.

Travis Ford’s squad has lost three straight road games, so a win in Manhattan doesn’t seem too likely.

Prediction: Kansas State 73, Oklahoma State 66

Rhode Island at Xavier
Saturday 5 p.m.

With a win over Oklahoma State and only one questionable loss to VCU, Rhode Island is in position to compete for an at-large bid. Winning at Xavier—a team whose at-large chances aren’t in great shape—could help.

Prediction: Xavier 73, Rhode Island 68

UAB at Marshall
Saturday 6 p.m.

Marshall turned in a surprising performance on Wednesday by taking West Virginia to the wire at home. The Thundering Herd lost to North Carolina by 37 points earlier in the year, so a close loss to a top-15 WVU team is progress. Marshall hosts another strong opponent in UAB on Saturday—but this time it’s a conference game. Like Marshall, the Blazers are 4-0 in Conference USA. Tulsa is also currently 4-0.

Prediction: Marshall 67, UAB 66

Old Dominion at William and Mary
Saturday 1 p.m.

William and Mary needs to win Saturday’s game to stay competitive in the CAA. Old Dominion’s 7-1 record is no surprise, but the Tribe have come out of nowhere to beat Wake Forest and Maryland this season. They lost their second league game to VCU in a blowout Wednesday night. A home loss to the CAA favorite might be the knockout blow.

Prediction: Old Dominion 68, William and Mary 62

Coastal Carolina at Charleston Southern
Saturday 6:30 p.m.

Big South leader Coastal Carolina has a trap game this weekend against a Charleston Southern team that’s undefeated at home.

Prediction: Coastal Carolina 69, Charleston Southern 66

Illinois at Northwestern
Saturday 7 p.m.

These are the kinds of games Northwestern needs to win to make its first NCAA Tournament.

Prediction: Northwestern 65, Illinois 55

Arkansas Pine-Bluff at Prairie View A&M
Saturday 7:30 p.m.

This has to be a joke, right? It’s not. Arkansas Pine-Bluff may be 4-12, but it had to play 11 games against some of the better teams in America. That’s the life of a SWAC team. The Golden Lions recovered to start 4-1 in conference play, and now they face another 4-1 team in Prairie View A&M. Jackson State is the league favorite, but both of these teams could win the regular season title with some luck.

Prediction: Arkansas Pine-Buff 68, Prairie View A&M 60

BYU at San Diego State
Saturday 9 p.m.

BYU is in the midst of a two-game road stretch, facing New Mexico at The Pit next week. A split would be nice for the 14th-ranked Cougars.

Prediction: BYU 77, San Diego State 73

Georgia Tech at Florida State
Sunday 11 a.m.

I’m looking forward to Derrick Favors/Gani Lawal against Chris Singleton/Solomon Alabi. That’s one heck of a frontcourt match-up.

Prediction: Florida State 69, Georgia Tech 66

Last week’s prediction record: 9-3
Overall prediction record: 77-45

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