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November 15, 2010

SCS.comIf a college basketball season begins and nobodyís around to see it, did it still happen?

This is a deeply philosophical question that I donít expect an answer to. Itís also a question that every single college basketball writer and blogger has asked this weekend, so much that itís gotten to the point where Iím sick of reading about it. We get it: the beginning of the college basketball season isnít very exciting for most people. Iím the kind of guy that gets angry when I canít find a stream for Weber State/Utah State and Detroit/New Mexico on, but I realize most sports fans have actual lives and donít watch crappy internet feeds of basketball games during their spare time.

So I donít mind that most people barely glanced at the scores from this weekend. Thatís my job ó to tell you which games you need to pay attention to. My job will be much easier this week, because college hoops will momentarily take center stage. On Tuesday, skip all your classes or take off work: itís ESPNís 24-hour college basketball marathon. And by the end of the week, a few pre-season tournaments will kick off, including the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.


Itís only fitting to begin with this special event on ESPN. Hereís a preview of every single game on the ESPN family of networks this Tuesday. Keep in mind, however, that Tuesday actually features several other enticing match-ups outside of the scheduled marathon. Weíll cover those later.

Miami at Memphis
Monday 11 p.m. ESPN

Poor Frank Haith. Nobody cares about watching his Miami teamís attempt to rebound from a disappointing 2009-10 campaign. Weíre all watching this gameówhich technically begins Monday night if youíre outside of the Eastern time zoneóto see Josh Pastnerís young studs at Memphis. McDonaldís All-American freshman Jelan Kendrick was dismissed this weekend, but he wasnít the only big-time recruit for Pastner. Guards Joe Jackson and Will Barton are a part of this highly-touted class, along with forward Tarik Black and several others. Thereís so many I canít even name them all. Donít forget Wesley Witherspoon and Angel Garcia return to provide some veteran balance.

Prediction: Memphis 78, Miami 62

St. Johnís at St. Maryís
Tuesday 1 a.m.

Weíll get our first look at Steve Lavin at St. Johnís after the former ESPN broadcaster decided to return to coaching last spring. Heís got a senior-laden team led by D.J. Kennedy that will compete for an NCAA Tournament bid, but the Red Storm will be the underdog out West. St. Maryís rarely gets on national television except for home games against Gonzaga, so it will be geared up for the spotlightóeven if the game airs at 2 a.m. EST. Without Omar Samhan, the Gaels are shifting to a more guard-oriented approach with Mickey McConnell and Matthew Dellavedova.

Prediction: St. Maryís 69, St. Johnís 60

Central Michigan at Hawaii
Tuesday 3 a.m. ESPN

Itíll be the middle of the night everywhere else, but not in Hawaii, where freshman phenom Trey Zeigler will be on display. I think Iíll try to catch some sleep during this game, but if youíve got sleep problems, stay tuned to ESPN for Zeigler. He spurned several high-major schools to play for his father, Ernie, at CMU.

Prediction: Central Michigan 70, Hawaii 62

Stony Brook at Monmouth
Tuesday 5 a.m. ESPN

Stony Brook is an America East contender, but Iím not sure theyíll be awake to play at 6 a.m. EST at Monmouth. Then again, I doubt Monmouth will be awake either. So weíll just have to hope they serve bottomless coffee in the locker room.

Prediction: Stony Brook 62, Monmouth 60

Robert Morris at Kent State
Tuesday 7 a.m.

Robert Morris is adjusting to life without coach Mike Rice, who left for Rutgers. Kent State lost six players from last yearís divisional championship team and won two of three games at a tournament in Cleveland this weekend. The Golden Flashes beat Iona with two free throws in the final second on Friday, destroyed Bryant on Saturday and fell to host Cleveland State yesterday after leading early.

Prediction: Kent State 78, Robert Morris 69

Northeastern at Southern Illinois
Tuesday 9 a.m. ESPN

Chris Loweryís program has fallen apart after he lost Kevin Dillard, Trevor Booker and others to transfers, but the coach is confident his new-look team will get back to the basics of Southern Illinois basketball: ferocious defense. That wasnít apparent in a shellacking against Illinois this weekend, but thereís still time to turn it around.

Prediction: Northeastern 60, Southern Illinois 52

Oral Roberts at Tulsa
Tuesday 11 a.m.

Hereís a very underrated rivalry in the city of Tulsa. Both teams lost their openers, but Tulsaís was worse. It lost at home to Appalachian State, while ORU fell on the road to MVC contender Missouri State after leading by nine at the half.

Prediction: Oral Roberts 73, Tulsa 72

La Salle at Baylor
Tuesday 1 p.m.

Lacedarius Dunn wonít be playing, but that doesnít matter. The rest of the Baylor Bears will handle La Salle just fine at home. Iím eager to see Perry Jones, the freshman forward whoís got everyone in the Big 12 talking. But I also want to see the Bearsí point guard situation. Is A.J. Walton the answer, or will this team have issues at the point like Texas did last season?

Prediction: Baylor 83, La Salle 70

Virginia Tech at Kansas State
Tuesday 3 p.m.

Finally we get to the good stuff: a game that pits a team vying for ACC supremacy against the Big 12 favorite. Virginia Tech has been on the wrong side of the bubble lately, but itíll have a chance to prove it belongs with Malcolm Delaney back to lead the way. Kansas State was picked to win the Big 12 by the coaches for the first time ever, mostly because of Jacob Pullenís return. The All-American candidate will be forced to handle the ball more with Dennis Clemente gone, but the addition of Freddy Asprilla up front and the possible development of sophomore Wally Judge will make these Wildcats even better in 2010-11. Before you say VT canít win in the ďOctagon of Doom,Ē though, think back to last season. Iowa State won in Manhattan. So did Oklahoma State and Kansas. Itís a very intense environment and the students are outstandingóbut for some reason, KSU isnít invincible at Bramlage.

Prediction: Kansas State 78, Virginia Tech 72

Marist at Villanova
Tuesday 4:30 p.m. ESPNU

If youíre watching this game instead of Virginia Tech/KSU or Ohio State/Florida (which begins at 5), youíre an idiot. That is all.

Prediction: Villanova 86, Marist 62

Ohio State at Florida
Tuesday 5 p.m. ESPN

Itís the 2007 NCAA Championship all over again, except the two squads look completely different sans Greg Oden, Joakim Noah and the rest of the crews. Billy Donovan and Thad Matta are still there, though, and theyíve got their teams in position to make a run at a Final Four. Freshman center Jared Sullinger will face a stiff test against Florida, which is trying to prove that itís worth the hype, despite the fact it lost in the first-round of the NCAAs last year after making two straight trips to the NIT.

Prediction: Ohio State 71, Florida 69

Butler at Louisville
Tuesday 7 p.m. ESPN

The KFC Yum! Center opens its glorious name in fashion Tuesday night, as Louisville will host national title runner-up Butler. Whenís the last time a Big East school with two championships to its name was an underdog at home against a Horizon League team? Louisvilleís an unknown this year, but itís got some nice pieces, including developing big man Terrance Jennings. Heíll match-up against Butlerís Matt Howard, whoís embarking on his senior season.

Prediction: Butler 68, Louisville 62

South Carolina at Michigan State
Tuesday 9 p.m. ESPN

Michigan State wonít have any issues with Darrin Hornís young team, still adjusting from the graduation of heart-and-soul guard Devan Downey. The Breslin Center will, as usual, be rocking for this national TV appearance.

Prediction: Michigan State 79, South Carolina 60

San Diego State at Gonzaga
Tuesday 10 p.m. ESPN2

This is the game of the day on ESPNís marathon. Hands down, no question about it. Itís a top-25 battle that features as many as four NBA prospects, most notably Kahwi Leonard for the Aztecs and Elias Harris for the Zags. There arenít many environments as hostile as Gonzagaís, and this contest is the perfect cap to a perfect day of basketball.

Prediction: Gonzaga 71, San Diego State 70


2K Sports Classic: Maryland vs. Pittsburgh, Illinois vs. Texas

Maryland needed a game-winning shot by freshman PeíShon Howard to cap a comeback against Charleston at home. Charlestonís not a total pushover, but the competition stiffens dramatically with Pittsburgh, of course. I wouldnít worry about Gary Williamsí team, and I wouldnít be surprised to see them upset Pitt. Considering the Panthersí thin frontline due to injury, Jordan Williams may do some serious damage in the paint. In the second game on Thursday, two top-25 teams meet in a semi-final match-up. Illinois has a mix of young and old with senior Demetri McCamey showing the way for several freshmen and sophomore contributors, while Texas is initiating guard Cory Joseph and forward Tristan Thompson alongside a slew of veteran returners. Neither team had much trouble in the opening rounds of this tournament.

Puerto Rico Tip-Off (notable teams: North Carolina, Minnesota, Western Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Nebraska, West Virginia)

The only interesting opening round game is Western Kentucky vs. Minnesota on Thursday night. WKU demolished St. Josephís in Philadelphia with an impressive 28-point win, and thanks to a strong freshman class it has more than enough talent to knock off Minnesota. Gun to my head, Iíd pick UNC to win this tournament. But we havenít seen enough of Harrison Barnes yet to truly evaluate North Carolina. Weíll see how he fares this weekend against some real competition.

Paradise Jam (notable teams: Xavier, Seton Hall, Iowa, Alabama, Saint Peters, Clemson, Long Beach State, Old Dominion)

How about this for an underrated tournament? Xavier is playing without injured Jamel McClean and lost Brad Redford for the entire season, but itís still got a roster that can compete with Temple in the A-10. Seton Hall and Clemson are both breaking in new coaches and have NCAA tourney potential, and Old Dominion could certainly return to the NCAAs after making the second round last year. Alabama and Iowa arenít strong, but Saint Peters and Long Beach State are at least contenders in their respective conferences.

Puerto Rico Tip-Off (notable teams: North Carolina, Minnesota, Western Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Nebraska, West Virginia)

The only interesting opening round game is Western Kentucky vs. Minnesota on Thursday night. WKU demolished St. Josephís in Philadelphia with an impressive 28-point win, and thanks to a strong freshman class it has more than enough talent to knock off Minnesota. Gun to my head, Iíd pick UNC to win this tournament. But we havenít seen enough of Harrison Barnes yet to truly evaluate North Carolina. Weíll see how he fares this weekend against some real competition.

Charleston Classic (notable teams: Georgetown, Wofford, N.C. State, George Mason, Charlotte)

This isnít the most intriguing tournament, but it may produce an intriguing game if Georgetown and N.C. State meet. The Hoyas have the experience at the guard position to win this tournament, but Sidney Lowe has a three-man freshman class thatís making waves around the nation. Weíll see how good those freshmen are alongside senior leader Tracy Smith.


Colorado at Georgia
Tuesday 6 p.m.

Itís everyoneís favorite sleeper picks on the same court! Both Colorado and Georgia are expected to make serious strides this year thanks to the return of star players with NBA aspirations. Iím not sure whoíll win this game, but all I know is that Colorado stormed the field after beating Georgia in football. Will the Bulldogs return the favor in basketball?

Prediction: Colorado 73, Georgia 69

Arizona State at New Mexico
Tuesday 8 p.m.

ASU thinks itís a contender in the Pac-10 this year, so why not prove it by beating New Mexico at the Pit? This isnít the same team for Steve Alford as 09-10, but the arrival of Emmanuel Negedu should help the Lobos get back to the NCAAs.

Prediction: New Mexico 80, Arizona State 77

Utah State at BYU
Wednesday 8 p.m.

Utah State rarely loses at home, so it was a surprise to see a feisty Weber State team up by seven points at the half this weekend. USU stormed back, of course, and grabbed the victory, but now itíll hit the road for the basketball version of the Holy War.

Prediction: BYU 72, Utah State 71

North Texas at Kansas
Friday 7 p.m.

This game likely wonít be close at Allen Fieldhouse. But take a look at North Texasí squad. Itís a team that returns four starters after making the NCAA Tournament as a 15-seed, including three seniors that could potentially win Sun Belt Player of the Year. Cornell had a very similar makeup last year and nearly knocked off KU in Lawrence. North Texas has a very, very, very slim chanceÖ but this game at least is one to keep an eye on.

Prediction: Kansas 80, North Texas 70

Creighton at Iowa State
Sunday 2 p.m.

Itís interesting that Creighton coach Greg McDermott is heading to Ames to face the team he coached for the last four years. And itís even more interesting that McDermottís new team in the Missouri Valley is significantly better than the team he left in the Big 12.

Prediction: Creighton 76, Iowa State 70

Last weekís prediction record: 12-1

What can I sayóIím on fire to start the year. I whiffed on my Old Dominion pick over Georgetown, but nailed the Princeton win over Rutgers, of course.

Overall prediction record: 12-1

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