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February 27, 2009

SCS.comTo get you in the NCAA tournament mood, CBS has probably gone a tad bit insane this weekend with two triple-headers on Saturday and Sunday. Thatís rightóI said triple-headers. I donít think they have enough equipment, crew members or announcers to cover six games in two days, but CBS is committed to its basketball, thatís for sure. But that station doesnít have a complete monopoly on basketball this weekend, and there are some especially intriguing mid-major match-ups.


Marquette at Louisville
Sunday 11:00 AM CBS

Marquette hung around with Connecticut at home on Wednesday, but the Golden Eagles eventually lost and probably canít win the Big East anymore. Louisville is still right in the hunt, however. The Cardinals have taken care of their last four opponents after the Notre Dame debacle and sit just a half-game behind Connecticut. Terrance Williams has recovered from his wrist injury and needs to be productive for Louisville to stay in the conference race.

The big news for Marquette is Dominic Jamesí season-ending injury, an unfortunate event for the senior. Buzz Williams still has Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews, as well as Maurice Aker, a defensive specialist, and Jimmy Butler, a versatile 6 foot 6 guard. Louisville will have a significant size advantage, like most teams do against Marquette, but the Cardinals also have big hybrid forwards in Williams and Earl Clark. Marquette will struggle to guard those two, as well as Samardo Samuels and Terrance Jennings, who provide the beef in the middle. But the Golden Eagles have managed to win despite its lack of size all season, so donít be surprised when Marquette gives UL a game.

Prediction: Louisville 77, Marquette 72

Missouri at Kansas
Sunday 1:00 PM CBS

Itís the Border War, so emotions will already be high at Allen Fieldhouse, but Kansas is also going to want revenge after a crushing 62-60 defeat in Columbia Feb. 9. There were a couple of anomalies from that last meeting on both sides. Mizzouís defense has bothered a lot of teams this year, but Kansas turned the ball over 27 times, which is unacceptable no matter whom the opponent is. Missouri also shot the ball extremely poorly in the first half and scored just 16 points in those first 20 minutes. The Tigers have suffered through cold stretches at times this year, but that 16 point half was an extreme case.

We saw in that game that the two teams are about as evenly matched as possible. Cole Aldrich can dominate the smaller Tigers and KU will win the rebounding margin, but Missouriís Leo Lyons and DeMarre Carroll also use their quickness to cause match-up problems. Kansas has the longest home winning streak in the nation, and though anything can happen with the Jayhawks and Tigers get together, KU deserves to be favored in this game. A loss would drop Mizzou out of the Big 12 race and basically hand the title to Kansas. A Tigersí win could make things very interesting.

Prediction: Kansas 75, Missouri 70

Games you might see in the NCAA tournament

Clemson at Florida State
Saturday 1:00 PM

With a logjam behind North Carolina in the ACC, Clemson could find itself falling toward the lower half of the conference with a few more losses despite a top 15 ranking most of the season. Donít believe me? The 7th place team, Virginia Tech, has a 7-6 conference recordóa game behind Clemson. Florida State hasnít received the national glory like the Tigers, but the Seminoles have the exact same ACC record at 8-5. Nobody is catching UNC, but seeding for the ACC tournament is up for grabs.

Prediction: Florida State 76, Clemson 72

UCLA at California
Saturday 8:00 PM ESPN

UCLA is struggling, and its name recognition is the only thing keeping the Bruins in the top 25. Without an inside scoring presence and too much reliance on the three-pointer, Ben Howlandís team doesnít look primed for a fourth straight Final Four. UCLA has underachieved, but California has been one of college basketballís biggest surprises. First year coach Mike Montgomery has the Bears headed to the NCAA tournament thanks to a superb job by guard Jerome Randle. Cal will even welcome the College Gameday crew to town on Saturday, something that has never happened in Berkeley.

Prediction: California 73, UCLA 66

Tennessee at Florida
Sunday 1:00 PM CBS

If either of these teams really stumbles down the stretch, thereís a chance they could miss out on the NCAA tournament. For now, both Tennessee and Florida seem safe, though they donít seem capable of making a deep run in March. The last time these two played, the Volunteers took Billy Donovanís squad to the woodshed, but that game was in Knoxville. Defense has been a problem for both Donovan and Bruce Pearl, so this game could end up in the 90s.

Prediction: Florida 88, Tennessee 85

Michigan State at Illinois
Sunday 3:00 PM CBS

Illinois only scored 52 points against Minnesota last night, but the Illini won, so whatís there to complain about? Bruce Weberís players havenít been shooting too well lately but heís coaching them to play defense, thatís for sure. Expect a typical Big Ten defensive battleówith neither team breaking 60 and down-to-the-wire finish.

Prediction: Michigan State 58, Illinois 55

Features teams that need to bolster their resumes

Notre Dame at Connecticut
Saturday 1:00 PM CBS

I guess Notre Dame is back in the NCAA tournament picture. The Irish have to win either tomorrow or at home against Villanova on Monday.

Prediction: Connecticut 78, Notre Dame 70

Arizona at Washington
Saturday TBA FSN

As fast as Arizona played its way into the NCAA tourney picture, the Wildcats have now taken a hit with two straight road losses.

Prediction: Washington 80, Arizona 77

Duke at Virginia Tech
Saturday 2:30 PM ABC

Virginia Tech stayed alive by upsetting Clemson on the road. Now, the Hokies get Duke and UNC at home.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 76, Duke 73

Ohio State at Purdue
Saturday 3:00 PM ESPN

After a three game losing streak, Ohio State got back on track by beating Penn State. The Buckeyes have Iowa and Northwestern after Purdue, so an upset win could solidify a bid.

Prediction: Purdue 70, Ohio State 66

LSU at Kentucky
Saturday 3:00 PM CBS

Kentucky might be in trouble. South Carolina blasted the Wildcats last week and now Billy Gillispie needs to rally his team in the final three games.

Prediction: LSU 73, Kentucky 65

Michigan at Wisconsin
Sunday 12:00 PM

The Big Ten has eight at-large candidates, but at least a few teams figure to be left out of the NCAA tournament. These are two teams trying their best to stay in the field.

Prediction: Wisconsin 66, Michigan 59

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

Siena at Niagara
Friday 6:00 PM

Niagara canít win the MAAC anymoreóSiena has the title wrapped upóbut it can put a dent in the Saintsí hopes for an at-large (in case they donít win the conference tourney).

Prediction: Siena 72, Niagara 66

Illinois State at Creighton
Saturday 1:05 ESPN2

It took awhile, but Creighton finally worked its way to the top of the Missouri Valley standings. Tied with Northern Iowa, who the Bluejays split the season series with, CU would grab a share of the title with a win and an outright title with a win and a UNI loss.

Prediction: Creighton 70, Illinois State 68

Temple at Dayton
Saturday 3:00 PM

Dayton put itself in fantastic position to gain a second bid out of the Atlantic Ten, but a recent two game losing streak has nearly killed its chances.

Prediction: Dayton 82, Temple 75

Utah at BYU
Saturday 4:00 PM CBS College Sports

Itís the Holy War! The flagship university, Utah, takes on the LDS Church-run BYU, and this isnít just a game. It transcends religion. So let the Holy War begin, and may the winner boost its NCAA tournament at-large chances!

Prediction: BYU 77, Utah 70

Jacksonville at Belmont
Saturday 4:15 PM

The Atlantic Sun has beat itself up this year, but Belmont and Jacksonville remain standing. A Belmont win would tie it for first place in the conference, while a Jacksonville win would wrap up the conference title for the Dolphins.

Prediction: Belmont 66, Jacksonville 62

North Dakota State at Oral Roberts
Saturday 7:05 PM

For some reason, Iím kind of impressed with myself for picking North Dakota State to win the Summit League in my pre-season preview. Never mind the fact that most publications and analysts had the Bison picked second behind Oral Roberts. Iím my own man. And this is a huge game to decide the regular season conference results. NDSU has already clinched a share of the title, but a loss would give Oral Roberts a co-champion label.

Prediction: Oral Roberts 72, North Dakota State 66

Someone who really needs a win

Texas at Oklahoma State
Saturday 5:00 PM ABC

Oklahoma Stateís strong RPI and strength of schedule has it in position to make a run to the NCAA tournament. The Cowboys have won four straight games, sit at 7-6 in the Big 12 and now play vs. Texas, vs. Kansas State and at Oklahoma to finish the season. A loss here would basically end OSUís tourney hopes. The Longhorns, despite a top 25 ranking, arenít completely safe, but they are not as desperate as Oklahoma State.

Prediction: Oklahoma State 83, Texas 82

Last weekís prediction record: 6-12 (Worst week yet)
Overall prediction record: 223-142

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