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February 6, 2009

SCS.comFor a second straight weekend, college basketball is pretty lame. Itís an anomaly. It has to be. But for whatever reason, these past two Saturdayís have been relatively bland. There are still some interesting storylines, critical bubble games and conference title implications, but weíre without that cant-miss game. But the Weekend Preview never quits. And any college basketball is good college basketball in my book. So even though thereís no Game of the Weekend, the show must go on.

Games you might see in the NCAA tournament

Syracuse at Villanova
Saturday 11:00 AM ESPN

Saturdayís slate of games kicks off with this Big East match-up between two teams stuck in the middle of the conference. Syracuse finally got back on track this Wednesday by beating West Virginia, but the Orange are in a mid-season crisis. Due to a combination of an anemic offense and a porous defense, Syracuse has lost four of six games. Villanova, on the other hand, has won five in a row, the latest 94-91 victory at Providence in which the Wildcats nearly blew a huge second half lead. The tough, defensive-minded guards of Villanova will be able to slow Syracuseís perimeter game, and the Orange arenít an overly physical team, which has sometimes bothered Jay Wrightís team.

Prediction: Villanova 76, Syracuse 73

Minnesota at Ohio State
Saturday 7:00 PM Big Ten Network

Sometimes, you see a score and simply shake your head. This is exactly what I did when I saw how Minnesota fared at Michigan State on Wednesday. The Spartans must have been sick of losing at home, because they put a beat down on the Gophers and won 76-47. Ohio State, meanwhile, is riding a three game winning streak and just won at home against Purdue in overtime. So how will Minnesota respond on the road? Iím not sure itíll be so pretty. Tubby Smith doesnít have a lot of explosive offensive players, and Ohio State will limit the Gophers to one shot on offense.

Prediction: Ohio State 70, Minnesota 59

Memphis at Gonzaga
Saturday 8:00 PM ESPN

After suffering some non-conference losses, these two teams from mid-major conferences kind of fell off the map. Sure, they are both ranked in the top 25, but thatís because of how weak the C-USA and WCC are (at least compared to Gonzaga and Memphis). I want to find out if Gonzaga has gotten any better after ending non-conference play with four losses in five games. And I also want to see if the Tigers have improved after dropping games to Georgetown, Syracuse and Xavier.

Prediction: Memphis 82, Gonzaga 79

Purdue at Illinois
Saturday 12:00 PM CBS

Hereís the deal with the Illini. They canít score. Thatís all there is to it. Illinois canít put the ball in the basket, no matter how hard it tries, and thatís the reason this team has scored more than 70 points just twice in nine conference games. Luckily, Bruce Weber has this team playing outstanding defense, but eventually Illinois is going to need some offense. Its shooters arenít hitting from the outside and Mike Davis has not played well at all lately in the post. Purdue is going to want payback for losing to Illinois in overtime last month. JaJuan Johnson, though inconsistent, has picked up his play during the conference season. Heís giving Purdue the inside presence it desperately needs.

Prediction: Purdue 66, Illinois 55

Features teams that need to bolster their resumes

Miami at Duke
Saturday 12:30 PM Raycom

Miamiís destruction of Wake Forest was all part of ďWacky WednesdayĒ which saw countless ranked teams go down. With Duke and North Carolina ahead, the Hurricanesí top 10 win might have saved their season.

Prediction: Duke 74, Miami 66

Oklahoma State at Kansas
Saturday 2:30 ABC

Thanks to its SOS rankingóand in turn, strong RPIóOklahoma State is still in contention for the NCAA tournament. Now, it needs some notable wins. A victory at Allen Fieldhouse would help, but I donít see how a small OSU team will slow down Cole Aldrich.

Prediction: Kansas 83, Oklahoma State 77

Providence at West Virginia
Saturday 3:00 PM

Keno Davis inherited a team full of scorers, but Providence still doesnít defend to well. That wonít fly on the road. Win or lose, the Friars will be firmly on the bubble.

Prediction: West Virginia 76, Providence 72

Kansas State at Texas A&M
Saturday 3:00 PM Big 12 Network

After falling to 0-4, Kansas State has saved its season by winning four straight games. At 3-5 in the Big 12, Texas A&M canít afford to drop this game at home, but the Wildcats are also pretty desperate here as well. I could have put this under ďDesperation Games,Ē but figured it was a bubble game too. Both teams are at least in the tourney conversation.

Prediction: Texas A&M 67, Kansas State 60

Michigan at Connecticut
Saturday 5:00 PM ESPN

Michigan has already beaten two top five teams out of conference, so why canít John Beilein do it again? The Wolverines need it, thatís for sure, though they did get an important win over Penn State last night.

Prediction: Connecticut 77, Michigan 62

Florida State at Clemson
Saturday 6:00 PM

After blasting Duke, Clemson will be flying high. It better be ready for Florida State, a team that looks like an at-large team right now. The Seminoles are still looking for that defining win though.

Prediction: Clemson 83, Florida State 69

Wisconsin at Penn State
Sunday 2:00 PM Big Ten Network

Bo Ryan is too established of a coach and this Wisconsin team is too good to be written off. Penn State has two great wins against Purdue and Michigan State, so the Nittany Lions will be in contention for a tournament bid.

Prediction: Penn State 67, Wisconsin 66

Boston College at Wake Forest
Sunday 3:00 PM

I thought Wake Forest was the best team in the nation about a week ago. That changed quickly. I still think the Demon Deacons will be a force in March. The layout of their team, with so many big men and a star in Jeff Teague, is the reason Iím not giving up on them.

Prediction: Wake Forest 80, Boston College 60

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

Texas A&M Corpus Christi at Nicholls State
Saturday 3:00 PM

How fun has the Southland been this year? This could be a preview of the conference tournament championship game.

Prediction: Nicholls State 70, Texas A&M CC 60

Charleston at Davidson
Saturday 5:00 PM ESPN2

The last time these two met, Davidson squeaked by on the road. It should be close again.

Prediction: Davidson 82, Charleston 76

Butler at Wright State
Saturday 6:00 PM

Wright State is one of those teams that always causes Butler trouble. I know that history doesnít always predict the future, and Butler probably wonít lose another Horizon game, but you never know.

Prediction: Butler 66, Wright State 55

UNLV at New Mexico
Saturday 7:00 PM

If you want to see an awesome college basketball arena, go see The Pit on New Mexicoís campus. Itís an incredibly difficult venue to play in because itís basically underground. UNLV needs this one to stay in the race for the MWC title.

Prediction: UNLV 73, New Mexico 66

Wisconsin-Milwaukee at Wisconsin-Green Bay
Saturday 7:00

Itís been several months now and I still donít know what to call these teams. Is the Wisconsin still supposed to be in front? Who knows. All I know is this game is between the two best teams in the Horizon not named Butler.

Prediction: Wisconsin Green-Bay 69, Wisconsin Milwaukee 64

Creighton at Northern Iowa
Sunday 1:05 PM

After a tough start, Creighton has battled back to second place in the Missouri Valley. Unfortunately, thatís a full three games behind Northern Iowa.

Prediction: Northern Iowa 77, Creighton 63

Someone who really needs a win

Baylor at Texas Tech
Saturday 7:00 ESPNU

Baylor has been playing desperation games for a few weeks now. This time, the Bears season might actually be over if they lose at Texas Tech.

Prediction: Baylor 85, Texas Tech 83

Last weekís prediction record: 14-11
Overall prediction record: 164-94

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