Saturday, February 7, 2009

Weekend Watch

Lots of great games on the schedule today and tomorrow. Here are 8 things to watch out for:
  1. Can Notre Dame regain its mojo? I was going to go with luck but Mike Brey losing his four-leaf clover has nothing to do with how bad his team has been. Now they visit UCLA. The Bruins haven't been a great team this year as expected, not living up to expectations. But they play very good Ben Howland defense and have enough weapons in Collison, Holliday, and Shipp that they are the prohibitive favorites. I don't expect ND to win but making it a close game would go far for its reputation. And so would not allowing UCLA to go off for more than 75 points, considering its offense is just above average. UCLA should win, 73-69.
  2. Can Ohio State pull off a second straight win over a ranked team? I've seen Minnesota several times this year and of any top 25 team i trust them the least. Tubby Smith is coaching them up well but the talent is not there. The Buckeyes are coming off a win at home over Purdue and Evan Turner is a top-3 player in the Big Ten. I'm liking a 67-59 win for OSU.
  3. Which is the best mid-major? Memphis and Gonzaga face off in Spokane, Wash. and this is a big game for both teams. Memphis has been playing well lately but are still without a point guard and without a marquee win that can get them a top 5 seed. Gonzaga is in a similar position. They got off to a hot start but then suffered several ugly losses. Both team's best wins have come against Tennessee (twice for the Zags) and a win here will go a long way towards sewing up a NCAA berth even if they don't get an automatic bid. Gonzaga 76-71
  4. Can Clemson avoid a letdown loss? Coming off a big win over Duke, the Tigers take on Florida St. The Seminoles aren't a great team but they can play, having kept it close against UNC and Pitt. Clemson is also approaching the part of the season where they have broken down the last couple of years. They need this win to keep their momentum. Clemson, 75-67.
  5. Can Arizona St. right itself? The Pac-10 isn't that good this year. There's a chance they only get four teams in the tourney. ASU is right on that bubble, one of three teams tied for third in the conference with a 6-4 record. James Harden needs to have a big game today because while Oregon State is only 10-11 it has wins over USC and Cal, the two other teams at 6-4 in the Pac-10. ASU, 67-61.
  6. Which will be the 8th Big East team? With ND struggling, the race for that 8th spot and a first round bye in the tournament is wide open. Providence and West Virginia are the two teams vying for a top-8 spot. The Friars have been a surprise at 6-4 in the conference and need a few marquee victories to maintain their spot, let alone earn an NCAA berth. WVU currently sits ninth after dropping two straight to Louisville and Syracuse. Expect a hard-fought game with a dichotomy on how each team will want to play. Providence likes to put up points, WVU is all about strong defense. WVU, 78-70.
  7. Can Tyler Hansbrough make the race for POY a close one? If Psycho T has any aspirations at repeating from last year, he's going to have to pick up his production and soon. Today is a good place to start as any. Virginia gives up 74 a night and UNC should put up big numbers. But the lead may become too big and Tyler could be sitting early. UNC 94, Va 75.
  8. Can a No. 1 team finally go a week without losing? Ask Connecticut. They passed their biggest test, beating Louisville earlier this week. Today comes a test against Michigan. The Wolverines have some impressive wins this year over Duke, UCLA and Illinois but they've struggled lately. That's bad timing with UConn playing like the best team in the country. Expect for them to repeat as No. 1 on Monday. UConn 81, Michigan 60.

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