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December 8, 2008

SCS.comIt’s been a great first month of basketball. Unfortunately, the upcoming week may be a snoozer.

This week does feature a couple of top 20 match-ups with Georgetown/Memphis and Texas/Villanova, but the rest of college basketball seems to have taken the week off. I don’t have many suggestions for you to spend your time, since bowl season isn’t here yet and hoops has slowed down. Anyway, here’s a recap of the week that was before we look ahead to this week’s match-ups.


Duke, UNC roll as ACC defeats Big Ten yet again: The Big Ten had a respectable showing in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge but eventually fell 6-5; the conference has still never won this challenge. Duke and North Carolina represented the ACC well by beating Purdue and Michigan State respectively by double digits. The Blue Devils won by 16 in a hostile Mackey Arena, and the Tar Heels ruined a potentially great match-up by demolishing the Spartans at Ford Field 98-63. Ohio State and Wisconsin helped the Big Ten’s cause with impressive road victories. The Badgers used a last-second jumper by Trevon Hughes to win by two at Virginia Tech, and the Buckeyes recovered from a 14 point halftime deficit to beat a ranked Miami team. Northwestern may have made the biggest statement of any team from either conference by defeating Florida State by 14 points. Bill Carmody’s freshman class is promising, but it’s the returning players that are getting the job done. Craig Moore and Kevin Coble are both off to great starts and the Wildcats’ young guys give them a great deal of depth. As crazy as it sounds, Northwestern might be competitive this year—and don’t forget its football team has cracked the top 25 as well.

Big 12 edges Pac-10 in Challenge: A.J. Abrams led Texas to a victory over UCLA on Thursday with 31 points, and the Longhorns are looking fine without D.J. Augustin. Their frontline is powerful and deep, and Abrams has excelled as the primary scoring threat. USC is now just 5-3 after losing to Oklahoma, but I thought the Trojans’ effort was encouraging on Thursday night. Despite the one point loss, USC’s defense contained Blake Griffin—to an extent— and the Trojans hung with the Sooners until the final buzzer. Tim Floyd clearly knows how to coach, and USC has already shown improvement since its disappointing 1-2 record in Puerto Rico. Texas A&M mounted a comeback at home against Arizona, as Nick Walkup’s three-pointer in the final minute gave the Aggies an important win. Missouri rolled over California by 27 points, Washington had a similar showing against Oklahoma State and Baylor grinded out a 58-52 win at Washington State

Michigan notches another top 5 victory: A couple of weeks after knocking off 4th ranked UCLA, Michigan won another game against the nation’s 4th ranked team on Saturday. The Wolverines beat Duke in Ann Arbor and now have two outstanding resume wins. John Beilein has finally gotten through to this team, and while it’s a long season, Michigan looks like an NCAA tournament team out of the Big Ten.

Ohio State’s big week: Last season’s disappointment is behind Ohio State. The Buckeyes beat two ranked teams this week, including Miami on the road and Notre Dame in Indianapolis (which was essentially a road game). B.J. Mullens hasn’t been much of a contributor, but Evan Turner has exploded in his sophomore season. He has emerged as Ohio State’s best player, and once Mullens adjusts to the college game the Buckeyes may contend for a Big Ten title.

Florida’s tumble continues with loss to Florida State: Ohio State may have moved on from last year’s NIT berth, but Florida certainly hasn’t. The two teams, who met in the 2007 NCAA title game, are going in opposite directions. The Buckeyes are young but seem to be maturing. Florida, on the other hand, does not look improved from last year and just lost to Florida State by two points on Sunday. Nick Calathes can’t win games alone, and even though the Gators’ supporting cast doesn’t have much experience, they will have to grow up quickly if Florida wants to avoid another NIT.

Butler’s buzzer beater: Butler’s Zach Hahn made the play of the week with a buzzer-beating three-pointer to beat Cleveland State on the road, which puts the Bulldogs in position to win another Horizon League title. It’s only December, but these two teams are arguably the favorites to capture the conference crown. This early win puts Butler in the driver’s seat.


Georgetown at Memphis
Saturday 1:00 PM CT CBS

College basketball on CBS is back, which is almost as exciting as the actual game between Georgetown and Memphis on Saturday. Both teams are adjusting after losing several star players from last year, but each team has just one loss and still finds itself in the top 25. The freshmen have led the way for the Hoyas and the Tigers early on. Greg Monroe has lived up to the hype, just as Tyreke Evans has done, and they are both integral parts of their teams this year. They have to keep up their stellar play throughout the season for their squads to have success. Saturday’s game will give us an idea of how far along each team is this season. At home, I think Georgetown has what it takes to take care of Memphis. On national television, with two very evenly matched teams, this game could potentially give us a fantastic finish, which is probably why it’s one of our Games of the Week.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 69, Wisconsin 63

Texas at Villanova
Tuesday 8:00 PM CT ESPN

We know what we’re going to get from Texas. The Longhorns played at Maui and lost by a point to Notre Dame, but they beat UCLA last week and seem to be fine without D.J. Augustin. Villanova, on the other hand, is a complete unknown. Tuesday’s game will tell us a lot about how much the Wildcats have improved since earning a 12 seed in last year’s NCAA tournament. So far, their schedule has been a joke, with the only tough game coming at Rhode Island. Villanova went to the Sweet 16 and obviously has a strong team, but just how strong will it be this year in the Big East? Texas’ rotation of big men will challenge the perimeter-oriented Wildcats, and this game will be a great barometer for Jay Wright. I see no reason why Villanova won’t make the NCAA tournament again this year, but I think Texas will handle them in Philly on Tuesday.

Prediction: Texas 82, Villanova 77


Davidson at West Virginia
Tuesday 6:00 PM CT ESPN

Stephen Curry just keeps rolling. He was the talk of college basketball last week with his 44 point performance against North Carolina State, and we all get to watch him on national television again on Tuesday. Bob Huggins will surely devise some type of plan to stop him, but it won’t be enough. Davidson winning Big East games on the road shouldn’t be a surprise anymore.

Prediction: Davidson 68, West Virginia 66

Charlotte at Mississippi State
Wednesday 6:00 PM CT

Supposedly an Atlantic Ten contender, Charlotte got off to a 1-6 start but finally won a game at Southern Illinois last week to improve to 2-6. Despite their record, the 49ers may be a tough test for Mississippi State, who had an unimpressive showing at the Legends Classic, losing to both Washington State and Texas Tech. The Bulldogs were close in both of those games, though, and Charlotte’s confidence has to be reeling after such an awful start.

Prediction: Mississippi State 75, Charlotte 65

California at Utah
Wednesday 7:00 PM CT

It’s hard to get a read on Utah. Sure, the Utes beat Mississippi and Oregon by double digits, but they have also lost to Southwest Baptist and Idaho State. Other than a terrible showing against Missouri on Sunday, California has played decently this year and even won by 18 points at UNLV. The Bears’ frontcourt is unproven and Luke Nevill will be a challenge for them, but Cal should get another road win in this game.

Prediction: California 70, Utah 66

Dayton at Creighton
Wednesday 7:05 PM CT

Is Dayton’s undefeated start—which included a win at Marquette- a fluke? We’ll find out on Wednesday, when the Flyers travel to Omaha to play the Missouri Valley favorites. I don’t think Dayton’s hot streak will end quite yet, as Chris Wright has proven how valuable he is to this team after missing much of last year with an injury. The good news for Creighton is its best player, sophomore P’Allen Stinnett, is back after an injury. He did not play in a loss to Nebraska, but his return helped the Bluejays win on the road against St. Joseph’s.

Prediction: Dayton 77, Creighton 70

San Diego State at Arizona
Wednesday 8:00 PM CT

Arizona suffered a heartbreaking loss to Texas A&M on Friday by letting a double-digit second half lead slip away from it. The turmoil in Tuscon can’t be ignored, but the Wildcats haven’t played that poorly in their two losses and still could rebound after a shaky start. San Diego State is quietly 7-1, with its only loss by seven points against Arizona State. The Aztec’s competition has been less than stellar, however, and Arizona should get this home win.

Prediction: Arizona 80, San Diego State 70

Gonzaga at Washington State
Wednesday 9:00 PM CT

The environment at Pullman can rattle visiting opponents, but Gonzaga will be too good for that. Washington State’s tough defense and slow tempo may bother the explosive Bulldogs, but the Zags are ranked in the top 10 for a reason.

Prediction: Gonzaga 76, Washington State 62

Xavier at Cincinnati
Saturday 7:00 PM CT ESPN2

One of the better non-conference rivalries takes place in Cincy with cross-town rivals Xavier and Cincinnati battling for city supremacy. Xavier is undefeated so far and the Bearcats only loss was to Florida State—they have also beaten UNLV and UAB. The Musketeers have a tough game on their hands since Cincinnati figures to be fired up for this one, but Xavier will prove to be too strong.

Prediction: Xavier 77, Cincinnati 66

Butler at Ohio State
Saturday 11:00 AM Big Ten Network

After losing basically its entire team, Butler is still somehow 7-0 and looks like a Horizon League contender once again. The Bulldogs have beaten Drake and Cleveland State, but Ohio State is on a different level. Butler has proven it has a strong basketball program and the Bulldogs may put up a fight here, but the Buckeyes will eventually pull away.

Prediction: Ohio State 72, Butler 55

Gonzaga at Arizona
Sunday 6:00 PM CT ESPN

Russ Pennell could use a big win to fire up his fan base, and this is a golden opportunity against Gonzaga at home on ESPN. The Bulldogs, like I said earlier for their game against Washington State, are just too good of a team. This could be one of the closer games of the week, but Gonzaga is my pick to win on the road.

Prediction: Gonzaga 76, Arizona 69

Last week’s prediction record: 18-8
Overall prediction record: 28-14

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