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February 20, 2009

SCS.comItís Bracket Buster Weekend. Are you as excited as I am? The odd part about BracketBusters is the games arenít all the important as far as NCAA tournament selection goes. Despite what ESPN might tell you, one win against a similar mid-major team probably wonít make the difference for an at-large berth, and many of these teams donít have nearly the type of resumes to be considered without winning a conference tournament. But thereís something about the passion of this weekend, with normally obscure schools getting so much national attention. Itís great for college basketball and itís great television. BracketBusters arenít the only games on tap this weekend, however.


Wake Forest at Duke
Sunday 6:45 PM Fox Sports Net

The past month has not been kind to either Duke and Wake Forest. Both teams soared to the top spot in the polls at one point, but eventually fellóand fell hard. Now, they are both tied for second in the ACC along with Clemson and Florida State, several games behind North Carolina. Dukeís problems are simple. The Blue Devils are ice cold from the perimeter and have slacked defensively. Considering this teamís strengths all season have been shooting and defense, thatís a real concern. Wake Forestís youth seems to have finally caught up with it. The Demon Deacons have kicked it up a gear on defense in wins over Florida State and Clemson, but had lost four of six before this recent two game winning streak.

In one of the seasonís best match-ups, Wake Forest knocked off number one Duke in Winston-Salem 70-68 on a buzzer-beating layup by James Johnson. The Blue Devilsí did not shoot well but actually outrebounded Wake Forest, despite being extremely undersized. David McClureís 12 rebounds helped keep Duke in the game, and the Blue Devils will need a similar performance to keep up with Wakeís size on Sunday. The key to the game is fairly obviousóDuke cannot shoot 18 percent from three again. The three-point shot is a focal point of the Blue Devilsí offense and if itís not falling, they wonít win. Itís that simple.

Prediction: Duke 83, Wake Forest 77

Games you might see in the NCAA tournament

Villanova at Syracuse
Sunday 11:00 AM CBS

Syracuse avoided a disaster last Saturday and may have saved its NCAA tournament hopes in the process. After nearly blowing a huge second half lead against Georgetown, the ĎCuse eventually won in overtime and can now breathe a little easier. Villanova now comes to town fresh off a win against Rutgers last night. The Wildcats have quietly won seven of their past eight. Their guards make up one of the best defensive backcourts around and they will overpower Syracuse en route to a road win.

Prediction: Villanova 66, Syracuse 63

Illinois at Ohio State
Sunday 12:00 PM

Illinois has to learn how to score again. But you donít need to tell Bruce Weber that. The Fighting Illini scored 33 points in a loss to Penn Stateóand no, thatís not a halftime score. Demetri McCamey has been inconsistent this year and needs to get his shooting touch back. Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale are also versatile big men that the Illini need to incorporate in their offense again. Ohio State has lost just once at home this year and Illinois isnít a great road team, so Iím picking the Buckeyes.

Prediction: Ohio State 55, Illinois 52

Arizona at Arizona State
Sunday 9:00 PM FSN

A few weeks ago, this rivalry game didnít look like much of a rivalry. Or at least it seemed pretty one-sided toward Arizona State. Now, the Wildcats have roared back and trail ASU by just a half game in the Pac-10 standings. Nic Wise is taking control of this team as the point guard and Jordan Hill is a monster in the post. Along with Chase Budinger, theyíll get revenge on their rival for a loss earlier in the season.

Prediction: Arizona 77, Arizona State 69

Features teams that need to bolster their resumes

Boston College at Miami
Saturday 11:00 AM

One more loss would mean NIT for Miami. Thatíd be a shame for a team that many considered a top 25 team entering November.

Prediction: Boston College 78, Miami 70

Marquette at Georgetown
Saturday 1:00 PM ESPN

Georgetown finally won a game, albeit against South Florida. A winís a win, and the Hoyas need another one against Marquette.

Prediction: Marquette 76, Georgetown 66

Louisville at Cincinnati
Saturday 1:00 PM

Cincy couldnít hang with Pitt on the road, but back at home Louisville may be in for a dogfight.

Prediction: Louisville 80, Cincinnati 69

Washington at USC
Saturday 6:00 PM

None of us thought USC would be on the bubble, but thatís a reality for the Trojans. I still think they get in, as long as Tim Floyd doesnít get ejected anymore.

Prediction: USC 74, Washington 70

Florida State at Virginia Tech
Saturday 7:00 PM

Virginia Tech has already lost two straight games and has Clemson, Duke and North Carolina coming up after Saturdayís game. So a loss could mean six straight losses.

Prediction: Florida State 70, Virginia Tech 68

Oklahoma at Texas
Saturday 8:00 PM ESPN

Oklahoma blasted Texas in Norman in January and the Longhorns have really struggled lately. Youíd think OU would have any easy win, but in the Red River Rivalry, anything can happen.

Prediction: Oklahoma 77, Texas 62

Wisconsin at Michigan State
Sunday 2:00 PM

Raymar Morgan has to be healthy for Michigan State to win on Saturday. His subpar performanceódue to his recovering from sicknessódidnít help the Spartans in a loss to Purdue.

Prediction: Michigan State 70, Wisconsin 66

Northwestern at Michigan
Sunday 2:00 PM

Northwestern probably wonít make the NCAA tournament, but just to be in contention this late in the year says something about Bill Carmody. Remember, the Wildcats have never made the Dance.

Prediction: Michigan 62, Northwestern 55

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

Illinois State at Niagara
Friday 6:00 PM ESPNU

Both teams have reached the 20 win plateau but are still playing catch-up in their respective conferences. Neither Illinois State or Niagara has much of a chance for an at-large bid, but you may want to scout this game to prepare for your NCAA tournament pool because both could conceivably win their conference tournaments.

Prediction: Niagara 77, Illinois State 72

VCU at Nevada
Friday 8:00 PM ESPNU

Utah State has stolen the glory from Nevada in the WAC, but VCU is still right at the top of the Colonial Athletic Association. Eric Maynor is still playing for the Rams as a senior and will finally get some exposure on national television.

Prediction: VCU 80, Nevada 77

Butler at Davidson
Saturday 11:00 AM ESPN

This is the Bracket Buster game everyone has been waiting for. Stephen Curryís injury and Butlerís recent slide has taken some fun out of the game though.

Prediction: Davidson 66, Butler 59

Buffalo at Vermont
Saturday 12:00 PM ESPN2

Buffalo made a name for itself in football this year and is now making some noise in basketball, but the Bulls have lost two straight games now. Vermont is once again atop the America East Conference.

Prediction: Vermont 69, Buffalo 66

Northern Iowa at Siena
Saturday 2:00 PM

After a tough non-conference slate, Siena is now dominating the MAAC. Northern Iowa was dominating the Valley but the rest of the league is beginning to catch up.

Prediction: Siena 82, Northern Iowa 69

Radford at VMI
Saturday 3:00 PM

Maybe Radford isnít a name you think of when talking about mid-major powerhouses, but this team is right in the mix for the Big South. VMI wants that top spot as well, and itís looking like Kentuckyís loss isnít so bad after all.

Prediction: VMI 97, Radford 88

Utah State at St. Maryís
Saturday 4:00 PM ESPN2

Even though Utah State has cracked the top 25 this season, I havenít seen the Aggies play one time this year. I am eager to see how they do against St. Maryís, although Patty Mills is out with an injury.

Prediction: Utah State 79, St. Maryís 66

George Mason at Creighton
Saturday 8:30 PM ESPNU

Some injuries hit Creighton early in the year and it dropped a few questionable non-conference games, but the Blue Jays now look like they could definitely win the Missouri Valley Conference tournament in a few weeks.

Prediction: Creighton 68, George Mason 62

Saturday 11:00 PM

UNLV has some impressive non-conference wins but canít keep slipping up in Mountain West play if it wants an at-large bid. BYU, however, hasnít ďslipped upĒ since January and has won five straight.

Prediction: BYU 78, UNLV 70

Someone who really needs a win

Tennessee at Kentucky
Saturday 12:00 PM CBS

I really donít mean to pile on the SECóI am writing for SOUTHERN College Sports, after all, and many of the readers out there live in SEC country. But Kentucky and Tennessee are two struggling teams that seemed to have assured themselves of NCAA tournament berths at one time, but might be nearing the bubble now. This week, Kentucky lost to Vanderbilt and Tennessee lost to Ole Miss, and both losses were by double digits. The time is now for the Wildcats as well as the Volunteers, and the loser of Saturdayís game will be in danger of falling to the wrong side of the bubble.

Prediction: Tennessee 86, Kentucky 83

Last weekís prediction record: 6-5
Overall prediction record: 207-119

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