Saturday, January 12th Highlighted Match-ups

Saturday, January 12th Highlighted Match-ups
Jan 12, 2008, 06:12 am

-KANSAS AT NEBRASKA (Big Twelve). Nebraska hasn’t had much in the way of basketball in recent memory, and they may not have much this year, but they do have quite a bit of momentum and appear to be playing very well. Their schedule has consisted mainly of cupcakes, but they did manage a big win against Oregon, who is by all accounts a fairly good team. They’ve also been blowing teams out, so it isn’t as if they’ve been struggling to get past weaker competition. This is clearly their biggest test. It’s also a chance for them to explode onto the national scene. Despite being 11-2, the Husker’s current RPI is in the 120s, and they have an SOS of 327. That should get a boost after tonight, but their RPI will shoot up big time if they can upset unbeaten Kansas. Seeing that they’re at home, it will probably generate more enthusiasm around Nebraska basketball than they’ve had in a very long time. This one should be fun.

-NORTH CAROLINA STATE AT NORTH CAROLINA (ACC). These two teams locked horns three times last year, and all the games were entertaining. NC State won at home, and nearly won in the ACC Championship game. This is a huge rivalry. NC State is still unbeaten on the year, but narrowly escaped their conference against Clemson and got a fight from UNC Asheville in their last game. NC State has won seven in a row, but only one of them (Seton Hall) was on the road and none were against teams of this caliber. They appear to be getting better, but this would really boost their credentials, and give them some state bragging rights as well, at least for the time being.

-WASHINGTON STATE AT UCLA (Pac Ten) (***#1 SEED IMPLICATIONS***). These two will face each other again, but for now they both appear to be the two best teams in the conference, and both are solid contenders for a #1 seed. It’s not impossible to think that one or both of them could end up with one. Wazzu is unbeaten and has won some impressive road games, but none of the caliber that this one would be. In saying that, not many teams in the country will win a road game as impressive as this all season if Wazzu pulls it off. UCLA has just one loss, but won their first two conference road games, and defeated Washington rather handily the other night. It won’t be easy for them to win on the road at Wazzu, and this is already Wazzu’s third conference road game. If they can start off with 3-0, beat UCLA, and do all that on the road, one would have to think they are in the drivers seat to finish first in the standings with 9 of their remaining 15 league games at home.


-UNLV AT AIR FORCE (Mountain West). UNLV is just outside the bubble of my current projections, and should be able to play their way in safely by the end of the year with a strong showing in conference. They’re 11-3 on the year, but struggled the other night on the road against Colorado State. They need to take care of business in this one.

-IOWA STATE AT BAYLOR (Big Twelve). Iowa State has won seven of their last eight after getting off to a terrible start, but they don’t have a win against a team as good as Baylor in that stretch, much less one on the road. They’ve done a good job turning things around, but they still have a long way to go. Baylor could use the win as well. They don’t have any bad losses, but they don’t want their status to slip by performing poorly in the Big Twelve. They’re at home and it’s a game they should win if they’re an NCAA Tourney team.

-WAKE FOREST AT BOSTON COLLEGE (ACC). BC really needs to turn things around after losing to Robert Morris. Defeating a conference opponent would certainly help. Wake has played fair, but not great. They’re on a lengthy winning streak, but most of it was sustained at home so this is a much bigger challenge. Both teams could really use this win.

-AKRON AT BUFFALO (Mid American). Akron can get to 12-3 on the year and remain unbeaten in conference play, but they have no substantial wins so they aren’t likely to get any at-large consideration if they don’t win at least a divisional title.

-WISCONSIN MILWAUKEE AT BUTLER (Horizon League). Butler is off to a great start in league play, and has a very strong resume overall. Unless they really collapse they should safely make the NCAA Tournament. Conference standings determine home court for the conference tournament, so all the games are big.

-COLORADO STATE AT BYU (Mountain West). BYU got off to a great start, but they haven’t been all that overwhelming since and have actually lost two of their last three. They need to string together several wins in conference play if they want to get into the NCAA Tourney picture. They sure can’t afford to lose this one at home.

-TEMPLE AT CHARLOTTE (Atlantic Ten). Charlotte’s unbelievable inconsistency continues. They managed a fantastic win against a very good Clemson team in their last game, but considering that they’re just 9-5 and have four losses outside the RPI top 100, and two with teams with RPIs of 280 or worse, one can only assume they still have quite a bit of work to do if they want to make the NCAAs. Posting a very impressive conference record is a must.

-VILLANOVA AT CINCINNATI (Big East). Cincinnati has been playing much better since conference play began. It’s incredible how much they’ve improved since November. However, because they played so poorly prior to January, wins at Louisville and against Syracuse are far from enough at the moment. They are playing well and will continue to make up quite a bit of ground if they continue to win. Today is another chance to pick up a quality conference victory. Villanova should be in for a fight. They haven’t played that many games away from home, and actually lost to De Paul not that long ago, so an upset would not be all that surprising.

-FLORIDA STATE AT CLEMSON (ACC). Clemson has played well, but didn’t exactly recover from their heartbreaking loss to North Carolina, because they followed it up with another loss at home to Charlotte. They desperately need a win to get back on track. Florida State appears to be near the bubble, and could really use a road win right now as well. This is a team that has traditionally struggled on the road, particularly in conference play, and if they finally want to make the NCAAs they need to win some games like this one.

-MISSOURI STATE AT DRAKE (Missouri Valley). Drake’s only loss this year was the second game of their season to Saint Mary’s. They’re unbeaten in league play, and their credentials for a spot in the NCAAs continue to improve. Missouri State has been disappointing this season, but did blow out Wichita State in their last game.

-AUBURN AT FLORIDA (SEC). Auburn has lost their last two games, but played much better than I expected in their last game against Arkansas. It was still a loss, injuries are still a factor, and now they have to play on the road against a Florida team that is coming off their biggest win of the year at Alabama. Florida is 14-2, but they played a very weak schedule and failed their only two tests prior to beating Bama earlier this week. They are a young, talented team that does appear to be getting better and they should manage another big win in this one tonight.

-CONNECTICUT AT GEORGETOWN (Big East). Both of these teams appear to be good, especially Georgetown, but neither have done all that much to prove it. Georgetown is good enough to earn a very good seed, but of all the other teams being projected as a #4 or better, they have probably done the least…at least up to this point. Scheduling that weak actually puts more pressure on games like this because if one of these teams struggles in league play there is nothing to fall back on. Both teams are good, but both need to build up their credentials, which is why games like this are important for them. Georgetown is at home and has a monster front-court, so it will be a very tough test for UConn.

-ARIZONA AT HOUSTON. Arizona has lost two straight conference games, including an overtime loss to rival Arizona State, so they need to win this game to get back on track. Houston has a great record, but a poor RPI due to playing a poor schedule. Houston also doesn’t have anything that is even remotely close to resembling a quality win. This is one of their last chances to make a statement to the committee. They do play well at home, and there is a lot at stake, so it will not be an easy game for Arizona to win.

-MICHIGAN STATE AT IOWA (Big Ten). Michigan State got a big scare from Purdue in their last game and a battle from Minnesota in the game before that. This is their first road game in over a month, but Iowa has lost five of their last six and appears to be getting worse. I don’t expect the Spartans to have that much trouble.

-BOWLING GREEN AT KENT STATE (Mid American). Kent State is having a great year, and if they can go 13-3 in conference play that will likely be enough to get them to the NCAA Tournament, or at the very least put them right in the discussion. They can’t afford many slip-ups and need to take care of business in games like this. Bowing Green is coming off a somewhat surprising win over Ohio, so they should play with a lot of confidence.

-VANDERBILT AT KENTUCKY (SEC). Vanderbilt is unbeaten, highly ranked, and has passed some rather tough tests recently. Kentucky has been absolutely awful and even though they’re at home one would think they’re a long shot to win this game. It’s the conference opener for Kentucky, and at just 6-7 their may not be too many more wins ahead for them.

-GONZAGA AT LMU (West Coast). LMU pulled a huge upset in this match-up last year, but Gonzaga appears to be so undermatched that I can’t see them losing this game even if they’re on the road. It’s never easy for the Zags to win on the road in league play because everyone guns for them every night, but I’d be very surprised, and it would be very damaging, if they lost this.

-NOTRE DAME AT MARQUETTE (Big East). After what was a mostly watered-down OOC schedule, Notre Dame won two big games in a row when they defeated West Virginia and Connecticut. However, both of those wins came at home. Believe it or not, this is their first true road game this year, and it comes against a very strong conference rival. Marquette has a big win at Wisconsin, but they too could use some quality wins on their resume if they want a good seed in the NCAA Tournament. This is a chance for us to see how Notre Dame can play against a good team on the road. It’s also a chance to watch two conference rivals duke it out, so it should be fun.

-MEMPHIS AT MARSHALL (Conference USA). Many of Memphis’s conference games are big mismatches, and this is certainly one of those. The Tigers should win this one big. Marshall has won four out of five, but none were against teams that were anywhere close to being as tough as Memphis.

-GEORGIA TECH AT MIAMI, FL (ACC). Georgia Tech has been pretty disappointing this year and at 7-7 does not resemble a postseason team. Miami, on the other hand, has been a surprise and has just one loss on the season. They need to have a good showing in conference play, though, and this is important because it’s likely one of the more winnable games they’ll play, so they need to take advantage.

-LSU AT MISSISSIPPI (SEC). Ole Miss won their first 13 games, but the game that impressed me the most was the one they lost, and that was their most recent game at Tennessee. They fell behind in a very hostile environment, but kept their poise, stayed in the game, and had a chance to win it at the end. They didn’t pick up what would have been a huge quality conference road win, but they did show that they’re good enough to play with the very best, and being as that they’re in the SEC, they’ll get more chances. They need to rebound from that and pick up a win against LSU, who has lost four straight. Ole Miss is good enough to compete for the conference title if they can play as well as they did against Tennessee, and avoid stub their toes in games like this.

-GEORGIA AT MISSISSIPPI STATE (SEC). After a somewhat sluggish state, Mississippi State has begun to play well and blew out LSU earlier this week. Georgia is getting better as well, but both teams have to prove themselves more than what they already have if they want to make the NCAA Tournament. Both will get their chances, but this is still a big game for both these teams.

-TEXAS AT MISSOURI (Big Twelve). Texas is off to a great start, and Missouri has been in a slump after playing well early on, but the one thing that makes this game so interesting is that Mizzou loves to push the pace, and Texas doesn’t have much depth. If they get tired, it will give Mizzou an advantage late. This is the conference opener for both teams. Texas looks to be headed to a good seed, and Mizzou needs to win some big games just to get into the picture.

-SAN DIEGO STATE AT NEW MEXICO (Mountain West). New Mexico has managed to win three straight games on the road, and even though it was a struggle, it’s still huge to pick up three of them. They’re at home today against what appears to be a pretty good San Diego State team. These look to be two of the better teams in the conference, but both teams also have a rather small margin for error despite having some pretty good records. It’s just that they haven’t really beaten too many (or any) top teams. This is a game that will really help the RPI of the winner, and give them one of their better wins to date.

-SOUTH ALABAMA AT NEW ORLEANS (Sun Belt). New Orleans really appeared to be going places after they upset NC State earlier this year, but they’ve dropped two of their last three, and all losses were in conference, so that will be nearly impossible to recover from given the number of bad losses they now have. South Alabama also has a notable win this year (Mississippi State), and with very close losses to Vanderbilt and Mississippi, they don’t have any damaging losses. They’ve managed to win their last eight, and if they can run the table or come close to it an at-large bid is not out of the question. It’s too bad that they aren’t in the Bracket Buster.

-MIAMI, OH AT OHIO (Mid American). This is a rivalry game between two teams that showed quite a bit of promise early, but have tapered off since then. Miami has fallen to 6-7 after racking up some impressive wins, but could still get back into the picture if they can string several together in league play. Ohio is currently out of the picture and doesn’t have much of a margin for error if they want to get back in.

-KANSAS STATE AT OKLAHOMA (Big Twelve). Kansas State appears to have the talent, but they haven’t produced enough to where they look like an NCAA Tournament team yet. Winning this game on the road would go a long way in terms of building up their credentials, though. Oklahoma has been playing very well, and appears to be getting better. This is the first true road game for Kansas State, and they haven’t faired all that well in the neutral floor games they’ve played. They have quite a bit of work to do.

-TEXAS TECH AT OKLAHOMA STATE (Big Twelve). Texas Tech has won three straight, but still has a ton of work to do. Oklahoma State is even further out of the picture.

-CALIFORNIA AT OREGON STATE (Pac Ten). Oregon State has not been impressive at all, not even when they’ve played at home, so I don’t see them giving Cal much of a game. Cal has lost two straight, but can even their conference record at a modest 2-2 with a win in this one.

-MINNESOTA AT PENN STATE (Big Ten). Minnesota was recently beaten rather handily by UNLV, but followed that up with an impressive showing at Michigan State and then with a decisive win against Northwestern after that. Penn State has actually won seven in a row, including their first two conference games which were both on the road. At 10-4, they’re off to a much better start than they’ve had in quite some time. This is a chance for both teams to keep it going if they can manage a win. Both teams are playing well and with confidence, so it should be an interesting game to watch.

-SETON HALL AT PITTSBURGH (Big East). Seton Hall lost their last game at Marquette, but it was one of the better games they’ve played all year. Pitt is still adjusting to life without Mike Cook and Levance Fields, but they did manage a win against a South Florida team that had been playing really well in their last game, and nearly beat Villanova on the road a week ago. It’s important that Pitt shows the committee that they can win shorthanded, especially if they aren’t healed up by NCAA Tourney time. They could be in for a battle at home today.

-SOUTH FLORIDA AT PROVIDENCE (Big East). Both teams have played some good basketball this year, but both have also been slipping recently. They both need to turn things around, but only one will be able to start that off with a win today.

-OHIO STATE AT PURDUE (Big Ten). Purdue was outstanding in their game against Michigan State earlier this week, and was a win that they could have really used. They’ve played tough in some road games, but haven’t been able to pick up a signature win yet. Ohio State has been playing their best basketball of the season lately, and appears to keep getting better. Both teams are improving, and both need to build up their credentials on paper, which is what makes this a big game.

-RICHMOND AT SAINT JOSEPH’S (Altantic Ten). Saint Joseph’s has won four in a row, and all were on the road, including a big conference win against Massachusetts. Each of their four losses was a close game to a respectable, if not good, opponent and they appear to be one of the better teams in a league that’s been rather successful out of conference. SJU should be able to return home and take care of business in this one.

-DAYTON AT SAINT LOUIS (Atlantic Ten). SLU had just 20 points in their last game, and only 7 in the first half. It will take a much better showing than that to even stay with a red hot Dayton team, much less pull the upset.

-TENNESSEE AT SOUTH CAROLINA (SEC). Tennessee got a scare earlier this week against Mississippi, but managed to pull off the win. They go on the road for this game, which is never easy, but the Vols have shown they can play on the road and have beaten teams that are better than South Carolina.

-SANTA CLARA AT SAINT MARY’S (West Coast). Santa Clara got off to a decent start, but hasn’t looked good at all lately. Saint Mary’s really looks solid and should make the NCAA Tournament if they don’t completely fall apart in conference play.

-COLORADO AT TEXAS A&M (Big Twelve). Texas A&M has just one loss on the year, and appears to be undermatched in this game. Colorado has won three of their last four, but those weren’t against teams that were anywhere close to as good as TAMU is.

-WASHINGTON AT USC (Pac Ten). Neither team has won a conference game yet, and with three losses in a row USC has really slipped. Both teams really need this one because they are getting further and further away from the bubble. Both have shown potential, and USC does have some good wins, but by no means can they just fold up the tent.

-CREIGHTON AT WICHITA STATE (Missouri Valley). After losing their first two conference games, Creighton has won their last two to even their record at 2-2. They need to keep that going with a win today, which would improve them to 11-3 on the year and keep their tourney hopes within reach.

-FORDHAM AT XAVIER (Atlantic Ten). Xavier basically sleepwalked against Saint Bonaventure earlier this week and still won rather easily. Fordham has been a disappointment this year. With all the players they had coming back much more was expected out of them. They could be in for a long game today

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