College Basketball Weekend Preview
Several can’t-miss mega games on the docket.
by Aaron Torres / @Aaron_Torres
Here are some things to keep an eye on heading into this weekend’s college basketball schedule…
Best Game: No. 7 Villanova at No. 3 Syracuse, Saturday, 12 p.m.
As Chris Farley would say “Holy Schnikes!”
After last weekend’s college basketball slate turned out to be blander than my sister’s chicken marsala, this weekend the hoops Gods are smiling upon us. Among the biggest games, we’ve got five match-ups of teams ranked in the Top 25, plus a handful of other key showdowns, all of which will keep you on the couch, and make you forget all about those plans to watch Eat, Pray, Love with your girlfriend Saturday night.
So what’s the best game on the docket? Maybe it’s my Big East bias kicking in, but honestly, I’ve got to go Villanova at Syracuse. It features everything you’d want in a big showdown: two great teams, two elite coaches, differing styles. And even a couple of funny and hard to pronounce names mixed in just for fun (Say it with me… Mouphtaou!).
But truthfully, the key to this one is the same key we talk about every year when these two teams get together: How will Villanova’s guards handle that killer Syracuse 2-3 zone. The Wildcats have more size than usual with Mouphtaou Yarou and Antonio Pena down low, but at the end of the day, none of it will matter if they don’t improve from behind the arc. Villanova shot just 3-14 from three in their loss to UConn Monday afternoon.
Speaking of which…
Who Needs To Be On Upset Alert? UConn
I’m a UConn fan, so it pains me to say this. But I just don’t like this spot for the Huskies.
Now to this team’s credit, UConn has actually avoided letdowns in situations just like this, with both their losses (at Pitt and at Notre Dame) completely explainable. Plus, anytime you’ve got Kemba Walker on the court, you’re never out of any game (after Walker’s game-winner Monday, I made the executive decision that I will be naming my firstborn after him. Regardless of sex).
With that said, I’m scared here. After Monday’s upset win, the Huskies have had a full five days to walk around campus, get patted on the back, and told how great they are.
Plus, don’t forget, Tennessee welcomes back Mr. Orange Blazer himself, Bruce Pearl to the sidelines. Despite his eight-game SEC suspension, Pearl’s allowed to coach in this out of conference game.
And say what you want, but nobody gets their team ready to play better, in bigger games, than Pearl does. Remember, Tennessee has already beaten Pitt and Villanova this year, and upset both Kentucky and Kansas a year ago.
Not a good sign for the Huskies.
The Other Mega Game To Keep Your Eye On: No. 11 Texas at No. 2 Kansas, Saturday, 4 p.m.
Full disclosure, I had my doubts about the Jayhawks as recently as a week ago. Then they went into Baylor Monday night and played so well, I’m pretty sure they would’ve beaten the Harlem Globetrotters by 20 points. Needless to say, since the win, I’ve just gone ahead and purchased myself a first-class ticket on the Kansas bandwagon.
With that said, this is their toughest game of the year, hands down. Texas is skilled, plays good defense, and unlike years past, the players actually seem to like each other. Crazy, I know. They’ve got size and strength down low, and great guards on the perimeter. Jordan Hamilton, in specific, is playing out of his mind, as he went off for 27 points the other night against Texas A&M.
Where this game will be won, though, is in the paint. Texas’ Tristan Thompson will be the most skilled player on the court, but he’ll need some help from Gary Johnson going against Kansas’ tall trees. The Jayhawks run the best frontcourt in the Big XII with Marcus and Markieff Morris, and the highly underrated Thomas Robinson.
Whoever wins the battle in the paint will win this game.
The Great Game No One’s Talking About: No. 5 Duke at Wake Forest, Saturday, 4 p.m.
Just kidding! If the Blue Devils don’t win this game by 30, the NCAA should call George Mitchell to launch an investigation.
The Real Great Game No One’s Talking About: No. 1 Ohio State at No. 22 Illinois, Saturday, 12 p.m.
I know what you’re thinking: “Ohio State is ranked No. 1 in the country. How could this be the game nobody is talking about.” Well, let’s think about it logically. Syracuse and ‘Nova are playing at the same time. Later in the afternoon is Kansas-Texas. And even within the Big Ten, this game will get overshadowed by Michigan State-Purdue. So there ya go.
And, truthfully, if I were a Buckeyes fan, I’d be a little nervous here. Ohio State is the better club, but this is the classic, “Wrong game, against the wrong team at the wrong time.” We already know how good Illinois is at home after beating Michigan State there earlier this week, and remember, it’s not exactly like the Buckeyes are playing lights out basketball. Don’t let their 22-point win over Iowa the other day fool you. Prior to that, Ohio State had won their previous four games by a combined 17 points.
Does anyone else besides me smell an upset? Or is that just my sister’s awful chicken marsala again? Either way, be afraid Buckeyes fans. Very afraid.
Taking a quick look around the rest of the country…
No. 24 Kansas State at No. 10 Texas A&M, Saturday, 2 p.m.: Truth be told, Frank Martin’s blood pressure is at uncomfortably high levels when he brushes his teeth in the morning. And if Kansas State loses here? Watch out.
No. 4 Pittsburgh at DePaul, Saturday 4 p.m.: For my money, Pitt is the best team in the country right now. If you like blowouts, and don’t feel like watching the UConn women Saturday, this is the game for you.
No. 12 Kentucky at South Carolina, Saturday, 6 p.m.: Remember, even John Wall’s Wildcats team lost in Columbia last year. No word yet if John Calipari called Wall any inappropriate names that day.
No. 9 BYU at Colorado State, Saturday, 9 p.m.: The Jimmer Fredette road show makes a pit stop in lovely Fort Collins, CO this weekend.
No joke to make here. But if Jimmer is playing, I’m watching…