Saturday, January 26th Highlighted Match-ups

Saturday, January 26th Highlighted Match-ups
Jan 26, 2008, 05:58 am

-GONZAGA AT MEMPHIS. This is a huge out of conference game for two teams that are oftentimes undermatched in their leagues. Gonzaga is 15-4 and doesn’t have the impressive wins that Memphis has, but they are now back at full strength and this is their first chance to take on a monster opponent after hitting their stride. Memphis has won quite a few big games, especially at home, and will be jacked up for this one. These two have played each other for the past several years, and it’s always been a good game. Last year’s was certainly a thriller. Memphis has Tennessee coming up later, so a loss wouldn’t eliminate them from consideration for a #1 seed. As for Gonzaga, a win in this game would really boost their resume and make a big difference on Selection Sunday as to what kind of seed the committee ends up giving them.

-MISSISSIPPI AT MISSISSIPPI STATE (SEC). This is a big rivalry, but for the first time in a long time it means quite a bit to both teams as far as the NCAA Tournament goes. Mississippi State struggled out of the gate, but has won their last eight games, and is really playing outstanding basketball. Still, with an RPI that is currently in the 70s and no wins against the RPI top 50, Mississippi State needs to beat a big team to prove themselves to the committee. A win in this game would do just that, as well as boost their RPI, improve their conference record, and give them a quality win. For Ole Miss they’re coming off a somewhat surprising loss to Auburn, but still look to be one of the better teams in the league. This will be a tough assignment because it’s on the road against a rival who’s playing well and really needs a win. I can’t wait for this one. It should be fun.

-WISCONSIN AT PURDUE (Big Ten). This is a huge game for the Boilermakers because they need a high quality win on their resume to get into the NCAA Tournament picture. They’ve been playing good basketball, but up to this point haven’t done much to indicate that they belong. Wisconsin is 16-2 on the year and is in contention to win the league and earn a good seed. If Purdue can knock them off it will give them a huge RPI boost, which they really need, as well as a high quality conference win. Don’t be surprised if the Boilermakers do pull it off. They came close to knocking off Michigan State on the road a few weeks ago. They’ll have the home court advantage in this one.

HIGHLIGHTED MATCH-UPS (Games are listed in alphabetical order via the home team)

-AUBURN AT ALABAMA (SEC). Auburn has come to life all of a sudden despite being injured and managed to win three straight games. Alabama is having the opposite luck and has lost four out of five. Auburn is still outside the bubble, but if they keep winning conference games they’ll get themselves into the picture. This is a rivalry game, so it should be fun.

-WASHINGTON AT ARIZONA (Pac Ten). Both teams are coming off big wins the other night, and for Arizona it was their third win in four games. They had been in a slump, but I’d say they’re back on track now after a decisive win against Washington State. Washington has won three games in a row, and can continue to move up in the conference standings and make a case for themselves if they’re able to beat another quality conference opponent on the road today.

-WASHINGTON STATE AT ARIZONA STATE (Pac Ten). Both teams went down in upsets Thursday night. It’s costly for Washington State in terms of getting a #1 seed and keeping pace with UCLA in the conference, but they’re still a solid team who should get a very high seed barring an unexpected collapse. Arizona State needs this win a lot more. Although they have some good wins, their profile isn’t all that strong and needs some stability. A high quality win like this would really help them out. It should be a fun game to watch.

-OKLAHOMA AT BAYLOR (Big Twelve). Baylor is coming off a five overtime thriller against Texas A&M. It’s hard to say how a team comes down from a game like that because it’s the first five overtime game in Big Twelve history. Oklahoma picked up a much needed road win in their last game against Texas Tech, but has another tough assignment tonight. They will still remain solidly in the projections, but they have begun to slip a little bit. A road win against a quality Baylor team would look pretty good on their resume.

-VIRGINIA TECH AT BOSTON COLLEGE (ACC). Virginia Tech was beaten handily by Duke at home the other night, and will be in for another tough one today as they visit Boston College. BC was blown out by Virginia in their last game, and I have them outside the bubble right now. They’ve played some pretty good ball, but still have some work to do if they want to feel safe on Selection Sunday.

-ILLINOIS CHICAGO AT BUTLER (Horizon League). Butler won rather handily the other night against Loyola, IL, and shouldn’t have too much trouble winning today either. As long as they don’t put together a string of losses to poor RPI teams, I’d say Butler is safely in.

-NEW MEXICO AT BYU (Mountain West). Both teams are playing pretty good ball right now, and since they’ve been winning in conference their RPIs have finally started to improve. They still have some work to do in order to get themselves on the bubble, much less inside of it, so this is a big game between two teams that are hot right now. The margin for error is small, but if one or both can post impressive conference records they should be in the discussion for a bid.

-STANFORD AT CALIFORNIA (Pac Ten). This is a huge rivalry within the Pac Ten, and as usual, the stakes are pretty high. Cal has lost four of their last five games and appears to be going into the tank. They need a quality conference win in order to get things turned around, or they’re NCAA Tournament hopes could end up slipping away. They’re at home against their big rival who has been playing really well lately, and it’s a game they need to win. Cal is currently 2-4 in the Pac Ten, which lands them in 9th place. That simply isn’t good enough to make the postseason. Stanford is just one game out of first place, but it’s pretty log jammed at the top, which means every game is important if they want to stay in the race.

-AKRON AT CENTRAL MICHIGAN (Mid American). Akron fell last night at Kent State, which was a rare shot at a quality win for them. I believe they basically need to win out if they want any serious consideration for the NCAA Tournament. Anything short of that and they’ll probably need the automatic bid.

-FORDHAM AT CHARLOTTE (Atlantic Ten). Most of Charlotte’s credentials are not all that impressive, but they have been playing outstanding basketball lately and are tied for first in the Atlantic Ten. If they can remain at or near the top, they’ll most likely make the dance. Of course in order to do that they’ll have to beat some of the better teams in the league, which would improve the rest of their credentials, but as of now I’d say they’re playing well enough to do it. They need to take care of business in games like this, though.

-NORTHERN IOWA AT DRAKE (Missouri Valley). Drake is really on a roll. They just won at Creighton earlier this week, which is a very tough place to play. Creighton is right on the bubble themselves, so it wasn’t as if they beat any sort of cupcake on the road. Drake is unbeaten in the conference and has just one loss on the year. Chances are they won’t lose their second game against a Northern Iowa team that’s really been unimpressive. They’ve played well in their last two games, but probably not well enough to win at Drake.

-NORTH CAROLINA STATE AT FLORIDA STATE (ACC). Both of these teams are close to the bubble, and both really need this win. NC State has lost three out of their last four, and just dropped one to a struggling Georgia Tech team on their home court. They really need to turn it around because if they fail to win this game, they’ll be just 1-4 in the conference. Florida State just snapped a three game losing streak with a close win against Virginia, but they still have some work to do if they want to get inside of the bubble. They’re at home against a team that’s been struggling and they need to take care of business.

-MARSHALL AT HOUSTON (Conference USA). At 14-3 Houston has an outside shot at the NCAA Tournament, but they’ll most likely need to beat Memphis next week to make a strong enough case. They also can’t afford to lose winnable games like this at home.

-CONNECTICUT AT INDIANA. This game should be entertaining. Indiana has just one loss on the year, but they’ve certainly shown that they have a few cracks in their armor from time to time. Connecticut is coming off a come from behind win on the road against Cincinnati. This is another very tough test, but if the Huskies can pull off the upset it will help out their resume a ton. Right now they’re closer to the bubble than they’d like to be. As for Indiana, they only have one win against an RPI top 50 team. Wins at Minnesota do look impressive, but they could still stand to add some big wins to their profile.

-NEBRASKA AT KANSAS (Big Twelve). When these two met in Nebraska earlier this year the Huskers had a ton of momentum and the place was packed with fans hoping to see Nebraska pull off a breakthrough win. Instead, Kansas blew them out and Nebraska hasn’t won since. Kansas has pretty much been blowing out opponents since then as well. Nebraska should play better this time around, but it would take a tremendous effort to knock off one of the best teams in the country on the road.

-IOWA STATE AT KANSAS STATE (Big Twelve). Kansas State is finally playing like a ranked team, and it shouldn’t be long before they’re back in the top 25. They’ve won eight out if their last nine, and are coming off two straight decisive conference road wins. They have another winnable game at home against an Iowa State team that’s been struggling, so don’t be surprised if they keep the momentum going.

-SAINT JOHN’S AT LOUISVILLE (Big East). Louisville is 9-2 in their last 11 games and shouldn’t have too much trouble at home against a Saint John’s team that’s winless on the road and has lost four in a row. The Cardinals blew out South Florida in their last game, and appear to becoming a more consistent team. They should be able to finish strong and make a solid case that they deserve a good seed.

-ARKANSAS AT LSU (SEC). Arkansas has lost two in a row, and their place in the projections has nose-dived because of it. This is a very winnable road game, and it’s suddenly looking like a game that will be very damaging if they don’t manage to win it. They need to take care of business in this one.

-DE PAUL AT MARQUETTE (Big East). Marquette has been beaten rather convincingly in their last two games, but both were on the road. They should be able to take care of business against De Paul on their home floor in this one. De Paul has played some pretty impressive basketball since conference play began, and are actually 7-2 in their last nine games. They’re still way outside the discussion of being in the NCAA Tournament and will have to keep winning against quality teams just to get into the picture.

-BALL STATE AT OHIO (Mid American). Ohio’s RPI is currently in the 30s, which is surprisingly good. Nothing else on their resume really stands out, but they are just a game behind Kent State in the East Divisional Standings. If they can maintain a good RPI and either win or tie for the divisional title they will have a very good shot of being selected. What they can’t afford to do is lose a game like this to a very weak Ball State team, though.

-MINNESOTA AT OHIO STATE (Big Ten). About two weeks ago both teams were pretty hot, but now both have sort if hit a slump. Minnesota played well in each of their last two games, but fell to Michigan State and Indiana at home. It’s not going to be easy to go on the road and beat a pretty good Ohio State team either. The Buckeyes played great in a game at Tennessee last week, but came up short. It was their third straight loss, but they rebounded earlier this week with a win against Illinois. The Buckeyes are solidly in the projections now, but they need a win here to sustain that status and to build up some momentum after their three game slide.

-TEXAS A&M AT OKLAHOMA STATE. TAMU needs to win this game very badly. They’ve lost three in a row and don’t have any road wins this year. In fact, they were blown out in their only two true road games, and followed that up with a five overtime loss to Baylor earlier this week. Oklahoma State is having a down year, but they can still be tough to beat at home, especially for a team that’s beaten no one on the road. TAMU’s stock is dropping, and it will drop further if they can’t get it done today.

-USC AT OREGON (Pac Ten). USC had no trouble with Oregon State last night, but should be in for a much tougher battle today. Oregon has lost three straight games, but gave UCLA a fight the other night. The question is how will they come out and respond after losing an emotional game against a highly ranked team. It’s a game the Ducks really need to win because they are slipping down the conference standings and it isn’t helping their NCAA Tourney credentials either. They need to beat a solid team at home. USC had been in a slump, but came out of it when they won at UCLA last week.

-UCLA AT OREGON STATE (Pac Ten). Oregon State is winless in the conference and has pretty much been beaten handily in every game. Today should be a continuation of that trend. UCLA picked up a nice road win against Oregon on Thursday and should get another one today.

-RUTGERS AT PITTSBURGH (Big East). Pitt is continuing to play good basketball despite the injuries they’ve sustained, and should be able to improve to 16-3 today. Rutgers snapped a six game losing streak with a surprising decisive win against Villanova in their last game, but that game was at home. Winning at Pitt will be much more difficult.

-DAYTON AT RICHMOND (Atlantic Ten). After starting off 14-1, Dayton has suffered some injuries and it’s really effected their play. They’ve been blown out in their last two games, and a loss here to a sub-par Richmond team would really hurt the Flyers’ credentials. They’ll be healthy before the end of the year and the committee will consider that, but they won’t dismiss the decline entirely. They need to be able to pull off a few wins while not at 100%

-UNLV AT SAN DIEGO STATE (Mountain West). San Diego State fell to BYU in a game that they really needed to win earlier this week. They return home to face a UNLV team that they pretty much have to beat if they want to get to a point to where they’re safely inside the bubble. UNLV is 13-4 and has a chance to make a case for themselves if they can dominate the league and pick up a few notable road wins, which makes this a game between two teams who are trying to get inside the bubble and need to string together several wins to do it.

-SAINT MARY’S AT SAN FRANCISCO (West Coast). San Francisco actually gave Gonzaga somewhat of a fight earlier this week. Saint Mary’s should blow them out, but perhaps the Dons can make the game interesting again. SMC can improve to 17-2 on the year and remain unbeaten in league play with a win.

-CREIGHTON AT SOUTHERN ILLINOIS (Missouri Valley). This is a big rivalry in the conference, and even though Southern Illinois is just 9-10 they’re still very tough to beat at home and the fans should be up for this one. Creighton appears to be right on the bubble, so every game is big for them if they want to end up inside of it. They’re coming off a home loss to Drake, and really don’t want to make it two in a row in the league.

-RHODE ISLAND AT SAINT BONAVENTURE (Atlantic Ten). Rhode Island evened their conference record at 2-2 earlier this week and has a very winnable road game today, so they should be able to improve to 3-2 and begin to rise back up in the league standings.

-SAINT JOSEPH’S AT TEMPLE (Atlantic Ten). Temple has come to life all of a sudden. With three straight wins, including a blowout of Xavier, they suddenly have the looks of a dangerous team. They should have a ton of confidence coming into this one against their inner-city rivals. Saint Joseph’s is 7-1 in their last eight games, but they’re still closer to the bubble than they’d like to be and a loss like this could really end up hurting. It should be a hard fought Big Five game.

-GEORGIA AT TENNESSEE (SEC). Tennessee was absolutely on fire, but then had a very surprising loss to Kentucky earlier this week. They’re back home and they should be able to rebound against Georgia. Georgia did look very good in their last game against Arkansas, but they were at home for that one and really haven’t played well on the road this year.

-TEXAS TECH AT TEXAS (Big Twelve). Texas Tech is playing better, but they still appear to be very inconsistent. Either way they’re a long way away from being considered for the tournament. Texas is coming off a close road win against Oklahoma State, but they’ve won four of their last five and are still having a great year. Their lack of depth is an issue, and one never knows how well (or poorly) Texas Tech is going to play. It’s also a rivalry game, which makes it even more unpredictable.

-GEORGE MASON AT UNC WILMINGTON. George Mason is looking for their fifth straight win and is trying to keep pace with VCU, who has a one game lead over them in the conference standings. If they can finish first and avoid any poor RPI losses between now and the end, Mason has a shot at making it. UNCW has won three in a row as well, so it won’t be an easy road game for GMU.

-CLEVELAND STATE AT WISCONSIN MILWAUKEE (Horizon League). Cleveland State suffered their first conference loss the other night against Wisconsin Green Bay. It’s bad because it’s yet another poor RPI loss on their resume, but they’re now just one game ahead of Butler, and with three more conference road games to play in a row that lead is going to be hard to hold. They really need to take care of business in this game today.

-DREXEL AT VCU (Colonial). VCU is 14-4 and looks to be right inside the bubble. A loss could knock them off of it, though, so they need to win this one at home and maintain their first place standing in the league.

-NOTRE DAME AT VILLANOVA (Big East). Notre Dame has been awful on the road, and Nova is not an easy place to play. Nova is coming off a somewhat surprising loss to Rutgers where they were never really even in the game. Prior to that, they’d been playing really well, though, so they should be looking to rebound in a big way. Notre Dame needs a quality road win to boost their resume and improve their seed. Road wins are something that they’ve had a lot of trouble attaining, though.

-GEORGETOWN AT WEST VIRGINIA (Big East). After losing three out of four, West Virginia has won four in a row, but barely squeaked by Marshall earlier this week. That is a rivalry game, and it is a team they usually struggle with, but it’s still somewhat surprising to see them struggle like that. They’re back home for another huge conference game and a chance to put another quality win on their resume and boost their status. Georgetown has just two losses on the season, and is coming off an emotional overtime win against rival Syracuse. They haven’t been nearly as solid on the road so it’s a game they may struggle with, though. It’s definitely an interesting match-up.

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