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February 7, 2011


Ohio State at Wisconsin
Saturday 1 p.m.

Ohio State needs seven more victories to complete an undefeated regular season. The Buckeyes won in Champaign and avoided an upset at The Barn in Minnesota; theyíve won at Florida, annihilated Purdue at home and swept arch-rival Michigan.

But Ohio State faces its toughest task of the season Saturday afternoon when it heads to the Kohl Center. You donít need me to tell you how often opponents win in Madison. Last season, an Evan Turner-led OSU team lost by 22 points at Wisconsin. Greg Odenís crew lost there, too, and the program as a whole hasnít earned a win at Wisky since Jan. 13, 1999.

BEST INDIVIDUAL MATCH-UP: David Lighty (Ohio State) vs. Jordan Taylor (Wisconsin): Itís sometimes hard to quantify defenders, but David Lightyís certainly one of the nationís best in that category. With the second-most steals in OSU history, Lighty can guard several positions on the floor, and heíll draw a tough assignment with steady point guard Jordan Taylor. With the graduation of Trevon Hughes and Jason Bohannon, Taylor has taken advantage of the extra shots. Heís a threat from behind the arc and automatic from the free throw lineóand like any Bo Ryan player, his production all comes within the offense. Lighty isnít the only defender Taylor will see, however. Freshman Aaron Craft isnít quite as established as his senior teammate, but he has a bright future on the defensive end. Through Monday, heís even averaging more steals per game than Lighty despite logging nearly 13 less minutes per game.

BEST STORYLINE: Breaking the Streak: As I mentioned before, Wisconsin has not lost at home to Ohio State in more than a decade. Even the Final Four-bound Buckeyes of 2006-07 could not win at the Kohl Center. The Grateful Red will of course be geared up for this contest Saturday for one of the buildingís biggest games in years. This isnít the first time team with aspirations of finishing undefeated has traveled to Madison, though. Remember the 2005 Illinois team that shot lights out from three with that beautiful motion offense? Every college basketball pundit in America thought its undefeated streak would end at the Kohl Center, but Illinois escaped with a 10-point win that season.

HOW THE GAME WILL BE WON: Depth: Neither Wisconsin or Ohio State is especially deep, with each rotation containing only seven to eight players. And both teams rely heavily on stars: for the Buckeyes, itís Jared Sullinger, and for Wisconsin, itís Jon Leuer and Jordan Taylor. The winner of Saturdayís game will need contributions from another source. Last week, the Badgersí Ryan Evans scored ten points and made several important plays in the final minutes of a win against Purdue. Thereís one player in particular to keep an eye on for Wisconsinóand heís not hard to miss with his wild, red hair. Mike Bruesewitz hasnít scored in three games, but he makes the most of his minutes. He forces Bo Ryan to play him by making key deflections here or there to save possessions and bring needed energy to the floor. At the risk of sounding like a basketball snob, heís a typical Wisconsin winning player.

BOTTOM LINE: Ohio State doesnít simply rely on Sullinger. It has offensive options all over the floor, especially at the guard position. Make no mistake, this is the best team in America. The undefeated run will end, though, and itíll end at the hands of Wisconsin, a balanced team that wonít lose in front of the Grateful Red.

Prediction: Wisconsin 65, Ohio State 62


Pittsburgh at West Virginia
Monday 6 p.m.

Ashton Gibbs wonít play tonight due to an injury, so thereís one strike against Pittsburgh on the road in the Backyard Brawl. And Casey Mitchell has returned from a suspension for West Virginia. With Gibbs, Pittsburgh is Americaís most efficient offensive team and has the best defensive backcourt around. Without him, Iím not sure they escape Morgantown with a victory.

Prediction: West Virginia 67, Pittsburgh 60

Missouri at Kansas
Monday 8 p.m.

Like Ohio Stateís woes in Madison, Missouri hasnít won at Allen Fieldhouse since 1999 either. Considering the Tigers havenít even won a conference road game yet, I wouldnít bet the house that this will be the year MU breaks the streak. Josh Selby wonít play for Kansas, though, and thereís no pressure whatsoever on the Tigers. Theyíre expected to lose. By a lot. So I say itíll be closer than expected.

Prediction: Kansas 76, Missouri 69

North Carolina at Duke
Wednesday 8 p.m.

Hey, did you hear Larry Drew transferred from North Carolina? I heard the news, no less than eight times a day for the past week. For a player who averaged 4.4 points per game, Larry Drew certainly became the most unlikely player in basketball history to become a household name. Even without him, UNC still doesnít have a competent point guard, and itís not a top-25 caliber team anyway. Iím not impressed by a five-game winning streak in the ACCís worst season in history, no matter the margin of victory. This oneís getting ugly on WednesdayÖ real ugly.

Prediction: Duke 105, North Carolina 71

Georgetown at Syracuse
Wednesday 6 p.m.

You have to love old-fashioned, Big East brawls like Georgetown vs. Syracuse in venues like the Carrier Dome. Both teams took freefalls during the middle of the winter but appear to have recovered. Iím liking the Chris Wright/Scoop Jardine match-up in this game, and it may even determine the outcome of the game.

Prediction: Georgetown 62, Syracuse 60


Baylor at Texas
Saturday 3 p.m.

These days, Texas is unbeatable. Perfect, even. The Longhorns play stunning defense. Theyíve finally got great point guards. Jordan Hamilton is a Player of the Year candidate, and this team has more depth than anyone in the Big 12. Just a little advice, though: expect the unexpected. I fully trust Rick Barnes and feel heís the most underrated coach in the country. Iím not saying his team is destined for another collapse. Iím just saying that Baylor may have righted the ship with an overtime win at Texas A&M, and as bad as the Bears have looked this season, theyíve got future NBA All-Stars all over the court. This is exactly the kind of game that could turn Baylorís season around for good.

Prediction: Baylor 71, Texas 70


American at Bucknell
Wednesday 8 p.m.

If I were a normal college basketball writer, Iíd start this paragraph by introducing Vlad Moldovenau to you. Iíd talk about how heís such a dominant forward for American and how heís led the Eagles to second place in the Patriot League. Iíd subtly let you know how savvy I am for recognizing a player on American, and then Iíd pick the Moldovenau-led Eagles to win. Everything Iíve said to this point is true, but Iím going to make a point by picking Bucknell at home. The Star Player Theorem will force most to go with American, the pre-season league favorite, but Iím better than that. I think.

Prediction: Bucknell 66, American 61

Florida Atlantic at Denver
Thursday 8 p.m.

Perhaps youíve heard of Mike Jarvis. Heís coaching at Florida Atlantic now and has his program primed for an NCAA Tournament run. With a comfortable lead in the East Division, the Owls now head to Denver to face the West leaders, a team that won its first six conference games but have been inconsistent since. Denver runs a crisp Princeton offense predicated on layups and threes, and lately the threes havenít been falling all that often. Against Arkansas State, DU scored just 17 points in the first half. Itíll need a better performance than that to knock off a young, talented FAU team.

Prediction: Florida Atlantic 76, Denver 66

Wichita State at Northern Iowa
Saturday 9 p.m.

Northern Iowaís MVC season began on a rough note, but the Panthers came roaring back. Until last week. Ben Jacobsonís squad lost at Drake, dropping it two games out of first place. Thatís the kind of frustration Jacobson has dealt with after losing three starters from a Sweet 16 team. Wichita Stateís in first place right now but has a tough road ahead. First, itíll head to Cedar Falls this weekend. Two weeks later, WSU travels to Springfield for a date with Missouri State. The Shockers have uncharacteristically lost two games at Koch Arena already, so theyíll need to make up for that with a few road wins.

Prediction: Northern Iowa 59, Wichita State 55

Last weekís prediction record: 5-4
Overall record: 61-35

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