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CONFERENCE PLAY BEGINS AS JANUARY APPROACHES
December 28, 2009

SCS.comConference play is here, and that needs no introduction. So behold another addition of the Opening Thoughts:

OPENING THOUGHTS

Thought 1: Leave the rankings alone

The talk was subdued at first, but itís getting louder and louder. Though Kansas was the consensus number one team in America before the season, a growing number of fans and media members are calling for Texas to unseat the Jayhawks as the top-ranked team. FoxSports.comís Jeff Goodman, for example, wrote in a recent column that Texas deserves the top spot in the polls. I understand that the Longhorns just knocked off North Carolina and Michigan State. And I understand that Kansas hasnít played a top-25 team yet and doesnít have same type of non-conference resume as Texas. I canít wait until the two teams meet in Austin this February, and Texas has the upper-hand in that game on its home court. But how does the team-to-beat suddenly fall from its top spot, without actually being beat? It doesnít make sense to me. KUís non-conference foes, such as UCLA, Memphis, Michigan and California, havenít played well enough to provide the Jayhawks with resume-enhancing competition. Only Memphis even gave Kansas an ounce of trouble, however, and thereís nothing to suggest that the Jayhawks arenít the best team in America. It surprises me how quickly peopleís minds can be changed in the world of sports.

WEEKLY PREVIEW

GAME OF THE WEEK

West Virginia at Purdue
Friday 1:30 p.m.

There will be a lot of big, bruising bodies on the floor for this heavyweight Big East/Big Ten match-up. Iím looking forward to seeing Bob Huggins lineup, which doesnít start a player shorter than 6 foot 7, face the Boilermakersí stifling man-to-man defense.

Prediction: Purdue 62, West Virginia 61

OTHERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON

BYU at Arizona
Monday 8 p.m.

Arizona has won two straight games on buzzer-beaters by Nic Wise. Something tells me the ĎCats luck might run out one of these days.

Prediction: BYU 77, Arizona 72

Cornell at La Salle
Tuesday 3 p.m.

Hereís an Ivy Favorite matched with an Atlantic Ten sleeper. In my book, that makes for a notable game.

Prediction: La Salle 73, Cornell 66

Marquette at West Virginia
Tuesday 6 p.m.

Tuesdayís game begins a stretch of four straight games against top-25 opponents for Marquette.

Prediction: West Virginia 68, Marquette 61

Wichita State at Illinois State
Tuesday 7:05 p.m.

The Shockers have raced to an 11-1 start knocked off a ranked Texas Tech squad at home last weekend. If they can win at Illinois State on Tuesday, the voters should toss them in the top 25.

Prediction: Wichita State 73, Illinois State 72

Texas Tech at New Mexico
Tuesday 8 p.m.

Who would have thought a December game between Texas Tech and New Mexico would be such a must-see match-up? Not me, thatís for sureóIím the one who loudly claimed Tech would finish last in the Big 12 this year.

Prediction: New Mexico 80, Texas Tech 77

Connecticut at Cincinnati
Wednesday 6 p.m.

Cincyís Big East schedule doesnít truly get challenging until February, so a home win over Connecticut could lead to a red-hot start for the Bearcats.

Prediction: Cincinnati 76, Connecticut 69

Ohio State at Wisconsin
Thursday 1 p.m.

Not too many teams can walk out of the Kohl Center with a road victory. Ohio State just might be good enough to pull it off, however.

Prediction: Ohio State 60, Wisconsin 55

Tennessee at Memphis
Thursday 2 p.m.

This game was more fun in 2008, when the two in-state rivals were ranked first and second in the nation respectively. But Iíd still tune in on New Yearís Eve if I were you.

Prediction: Tennessee 80, Memphis 72

Wisconsin Green Bay at Butler
Thursday 6 p.m.

Butler needs to stamp its dominance on the Horizon League early, making Thursdayís game an important one for the Bulldogs.

Prediction: Butler 67, Wisconsin Green Bay 62

Dayton at New Mexico
Friday 8:00 p.m.

Remember when Dayton was ranked? That seems like a long time ago. The Flyers could be back in the national headlines with a road win at The Pit.

Prediction: Dayton 77, New Mexico 76

Louisville at Kentucky
Saturday 3:30 p.m.

Rick Pitino vs. John Calipari. Thatís all you need to know.

Prediction: Kentucky 88, Louisville 66

Kansas at Temple
Saturday 4:30 p.m.

Believe it or not, this is Kansasí toughest game to date.

Prediction: Kansas 78, Temple 68

Michigan State at Northwestern
Saturday 5:30 p.m.

Itís unbelievable how Northwestern has fared without Kevin Coble this season.

Prediction: Michigan State 67, Northwestern 62

Ohio State at Michigan
Sunday 2:30 p.m.

Yep, itís a rivalry game, but Michigan better wake up from its early-season slumber to keep this one competitive.

Prediction: Ohio State 66, Michigan 62

Clemson at Duke
Sunday 6:45 p.m.

Clemson demolished Duke last season, but that game was not played at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Prediction: Duke 78, Clemson 66

MIT at Harvard
Monday 3 p.m.

This game is so absolutely priceless I just had to include it. Unless, of course, youíre a student at either MIT or Harvard, in which case tuition costs about three yearsí salary and nothing is absolutely priceless about anything.

Prediction: Harvard 80, MIT 52

Last weekís prediction record: 8-1
Overall: 43-26

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