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January 26, 2009

SCS.comWeíre going to try a different format today. It may look the same at firstóI havenít changed the Game of the Weekóbut Iíve tried to add a little more spice to it. The main difference this week will be the number of games previewed. Iíve added more categories, more games and more predictions, which will allow me to prove my basketball knowledge (and lack thereof) even more every week.


Duke at Wake Forest
Wednesday 6 PM ESPN

If youíre a basketball fan in the state of North Carolina, youíre living the dream. Except, of course, if youíre a North Carolina State fan, but thatís another matter. Duke and Wake Forest, separated by 76 miles, both sit inside the top five of the polls and need a victory to gain an advantage in the ACC race. Duke is 5-0 in conference and is now the nationís top ranked team, as you most likely already know. Meanwhile Wake Forest (3-1 in the ACC) just lost its number one ranking after a loss to Virginia Tech, who incidentally is actually above the Demon Deacons as the second-place team in the ACC.

Wake Forest has a decided advantage that might make the difference in the game. Iím talking about the interior, where the Demon Deacons have made their living this season. Dino Guadio starts three players taller than 6 foot 9, and brings 6 foot 11 centers David Weaver and Tony Woods off the bench. Foul trouble will never be an issue, and these guys arenít chumps, either. Chas McFarland has been Wakeís biggest surprise at center, teaming with star freshman Al-Faroq Aminu and skilled sophomore James Johnson to form one of the most intimidating frontcourts around. Duke, by the way, has just two decent post players in Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas. Zoubekís game has improved, but he and Thomas are no match for what theyíre about to see. Oh, and did I forget to mention that Wake has Jeff Teague, a point guard that might be a darkhorse for Player of the Year honors?

Thatís enough about Wake. Dukeís the team ranked number one in the country, and the Blue Devils have faced size before. When they played Florida State earlier this month, a team with a similar makeup to Wake Forest, Duke dominated the entire game and completely shut down the Seminolesí offense. Duke might be way undersized, but this team has the type of defense that can slow down the high-scoring Demon Deacons. Teague might struggle with the Blue Devilsí relentless pressure, as his one weakness has been his turnover problem. Duke has also been playing much better offensively. A lot of that can be contributed to Gerald Hendersonís increased production on the offensive end.

Wake Forest is the home team and has an incredible advantage in the post. Itís hard to pick against this team, so Iím not going to fight myself. The top ranked team in the land is going down for the third week in a row.

Prediction: Wake Forest 77, Duke 72

Games you might see in the NCAA tournament

Marquette at Notre Dame
Monday 6 PM ESPN

The 45 game winning streak at the Joyce Center is over for Notre Dame after a loss to Connecticut Saturday night. Now, the only streak that matters is the three-game slide the Irish are currently in. A loss would be crippling here for them, and a win wonít come easy against a Marquette team that is undefeated in Big East play. Still, the Golden Eagles wonít be able to keep Luke Harangody off the offensive glass and losing at home isnít going to become a trend for Notre Dame.

Prediction: Notre Dame 74, Marquette 66

Texas at Baylor
Tuesday 8 PM Big 12 Network

We knew that Baylor would sometimes struggle defensively, and that bigger teams might be able to exploit the Bears in the paint. But I donít think anyone saw Saturdayís awful performance against Oklahoma comingóBaylor trailed 58-31 at halftime. Texasí offense isnít as prolific as Oklahomaís, but the Longhornsí guards play the type of defense that can slow down the Bearsí perimeter attack. Still, if Baylor can free up its shooters and push the tempo, this is a home game Scott Drew should get.

Prediction: Baylor 76, Texas 73

Purdue at Wisconsin
Tuesday 8 PM ESPN

Nobody used to win at the Kohl Center, but Texas and Minnesota have already done it this year. Purdue is a team of similar caliber, so donít count the Boilermakers out in this one. Wisconsin has now lost four straight games and as the Big Tenís 8th place team, the NCAA tournament isnít looking like a lock anymore. But Bo Ryan will figure something out, and the Kohl Center hasnít run out of magic just yet.

Prediction: Wisconsin 66, Purdue 60

Pittsburgh at Villanova
Wednesday 6 PM ESPNU

Right now, Villanovaís banner win is against Temple. Luckily, the Wildcats play in the Big East, where quality wins are available just about every night. Jay Wright has to get the critics off his back somehow, but Pittsburgh will clamp down defensively on Villanovaís guards and make this game just ugly enough for it to win.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 63, Villanova 61

Illinois at Minnesota
Thursday 8 PM Big Ten Network

A Big Ten title isnít out of reach for Illinois, as the Illini sit just a game behind Michigan State. Minnesota hasnít beaten Illinois in 20 games, but Thursday might be the end of that streak. If the inconsistent Demetri McCamey gets going, the Illini could steal this one at the Barn, but the Gophers will protect their home streak and finally grab a win against Illinois.

Prediction: Minnesota 69, Illinois 66

Cal at UCLA
Thursday 9:30 PM FSN

Mike Montgomery has taken a mediocre team that lost its two best players to the NBA and created a Pac-10 contender. A win at Pauley Pavilion would help Calís title hopes, but the Bears are in a bit of a slump. UCLA is too, having lost two of three. Both teams rely on their guards for scoring, and UCLA especially relies too much on the outside shot. As impressive as California has been this season, Darren Collison is going to be the best player on the court, and he wonít let his team lose another home game.

Prediction: UCLA 67, California 63

St. Maryís at Gonzaga
Thursday 10 PM ESPN2

This is one of the two meetings between St. Maryís and Gonzaga that will decide the West Coast Conference title. Patrick Mills hasnít shot the ball well from three-point land, but heís still scoring at an 18 points per game clip. The Gaels have size as well to compliment their All-Conference guard, led by tenacious forward Diamon Simpson. We havenít heard much from Gonzaga lately. After rising to as high as number five in the polls, the Bulldogs took a nosedive. The non-conference didnít go as well as they had planned, but their resume probably will still get them into the NCAA tournament if they falter in the WCC tournament. St. Maryís, on the other hand, hasnít played anyone and used an easy schedule to build up an 18-1 record. I saw what the Gaels could do last year, and with essentially the same team, Iím not worried about them. Gonzaga is starting to click again, however. St. Maryís might have to wait until next time to get its statement victory.

Prediction: Gonzaga 74, St. Maryís 67

Features teams that need to bolster their resumes

Boston College at Maryland
Tuesday 6:30 PM ESPN2

After making a ridiculous comment about how Cameron Indoor was ďhis house,Ē Greivis Vazquez has to be happy to actually be at his real house after the beating he took in Durham.

Prediction: Boston College 70, Maryland 66

Syracuse at Providence
Wednesday 6 PM

Providence hasnít experienced the real Big East yet, which explains the 5-2 conference record. The Friars are about to embark on a journey though against three straight ranked teams, so weíll see where Keno Davis is after that.

Prediction: Syracuse 77, Providence 70

LSU at Tennessee
Wednesday 7 PM Raycom

LSU badly needs this one. Itís not happening on the road, not when the Tigers lost by 30 at Utah last month.

Prediction: Tennessee 80, LSU 66

UAB at Tulsa
Wednesday 7:05 PM

I donít think either of these teams will make the tournament, but a dominating run in the CUSA might put them in contention.

Prediction: Tulsa 73, UAB 69

North Carolina at Florida State
Wednesday 8 PM Raycom

Iíd have Florida State in the field of 65 right now if it were up to me. Itís not up to me, so the Seminoles need to keep winning.

Prediction: North Carolina 84, Florida State 77

Clemson at Virginia Tech
Thursday 6 PM ESPN

What has gotten into Virginia Tech? At second place in the ACC with two straight road wins at Wake Forest and Miami, this team is back from the dead. But the Hokies arenít all the way there yet.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 74, Clemson 70

Please, no hate mail about the term ďmid-majors,Ē just be happy Iím writing about your team

Northeastern at VCU
Tuesday 6 PM

After beating George Mason to take first place in the CAA, VCU now faces the team itís tied with atop the standings. Itís winner takes first Tuesday night, so why in the world canít I find this one on TV somewhere?

Prediction: VCU 78, Northeastern 74

BYU at Utah
Tuesday 9 PM The Mountain

The Mountain West Conference is one of the few mid-major leagues with a chance for multiple tournament bids. These are two teams looking to sneak into the NCAAs, if they donít win the MWC tournament.

Prediction: BYU 76, Utah 70

Davidson at Chattanooga
Wednesday 6 PM

After starting 2-8, Chattanooga is right near the top of the Southern Conferenceís North Division. Davidson plays in the South of the Southern Conference (confusing, isnít it?), and the Wildcats are of course tearing up that division.

Prediction: Davidson 83, Chattanooga 70

Navy at American
Wednesday 6 PM

Do you love America? I do, which is why Iím previewing our Naval Academy versus a college with a patriotic name. Navy is going to be crazy mad after losing to Army last week, so watch out American.

Prediction: Navy 70, American 63

Illinois State at Northern Iowa
Wednesday 7:05 PM

Though the Missouri Valley isnít especially strong this year, these are still the two top teams in the conference. Northern Iowa actually has a comfortable lead in the standings, but a loss on Wednesday would quickly change that.

Prediction: Northern Iowa 76, Illinois State 69

TCU at San Diego State
Wednesday 9 PM CBS College Sports

Remember what I said about the Mountain West just a bit ago? TCU and San Diego State are two more teams that might be in consideration for at-large bids come March.

Prediction: San Diego State 75, TCU 72

Nevada at Utah State
Thursday 8:05 PM

Utah State is the quietest 19-1 team Iíve ever seen. Nevada was supposed to be the WAC favorites, but results speak for itself.

Prediction: Utah State 80, Nevada 70

Oakland at North Dakota State
Thursday 7 PM

The former independent North Dakota State is on a roll and now dead even with Oral Roberts at the top of the Summit League. Oakland is a formidable opponent, but the Bison wonít let some Michigan school ruin their fun.

Prediction: North Dakota State 83, Oakland 70

Hatred that dates back centuries

Oklahoma at Oklahoma State
Monday 8 PM ESPN

Gallagher-Iba Arena has actually had some attendance problems this year, along with the rest of the sports world, but the place will be rocking for Oklahoma and another edition of the Bedlam Series. If youíre not doing anything on Monday night, check this game out, even if itís only for a couple of minutes. Gallagher-Ibaís had its troubles lately, but when it is full, there may be no place more intimidating in college basketball.

Prediction: Oklahoma 76, Oklahoma State 72

Michigan at Ohio State
Wednesday 5:30 PM

No, itís not the same as football, but itís still a rivalry nonetheless. Ohio State already beat Michigan in Ann Arbor, so winning at home shouldnít be a problem.

Prediction: Ohio State 66, Michigan 60

Georgia at Florida
Wednesday 7 PM Raycom

Georgia and Florida! The Worldís Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party! Or, I guess in this case, the Worldís Largest Indoor Cocktail Party. Georgia is the one that needs the cocktail party, and if youíre a Bulldogs fan, you better be drunk if youíre watching this one. Florida beat Vandy by 25 points yesterday in Nashville, and Georgia hasnít won since New Yearís Eve.

Prediction: Florida 86, Georgia 63

Someone who really needs a win

Washington at Arizona
Thursday 7:30 PM FSN

Hopefully Chase Budingerís face is OK after a Houston player stomped on it this Saturday. At the time of the assault on Budinger, Arizona trailed by 12, and with 50 seconds left, the Wildcats were down by 9. In one of the more improbable comebacks in recent history, Arizona took the game to overtime and won, but more importantly may have saved its season. Sure, a home win against Houston doesnít sound special, but considering the three-game losing streak and the fashion in which the ĎCats won, this may be a season-changer. Now, to stay in the NCAA tournament conversation, Arizona has to beat Washington in Tuscon. That will not be easy, not with the way the Huskies are playing. I expect the Wildcats to play more inspired on Thursday, but the reality is, this may just not be a great team.

Prediction: Washington 80, Arizona 70

Last weekís prediction record: 10-5
Overall prediction record: 120-66

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