College Basketball Weekend Preview
Ohio State’s last [real] test. UNC, Kentucky, and Texas on the rise.
by Aaron Torres / @Aaron_Torres
Here are some things to keep an eye on heading into this weekend’s college basketball schedule…
Saturday night. Two Top 10 teams. One of the best venues in college basketball. Just another weekend in the Big East, right?
Still, there are a lot of variables that make this one even more interesting than usual. For Pitt, they’re playing their second game without leading scorer Ashton Gibbs, which should be a bigdeal, except, come on, this is Pitt! They’re as well oiled as Jamie Dixon’s hair, and if Monday’s win over West Virginia proved anything, it’s that when one guy goes down on this club, another just steps right up.
The Wildcats will be playing with a ‘chip-on-my-shoulder’ attitude come Saturday. They come into this one with something to prove after losing to Rutgers Wednesday. The Wildcats blew a 12 point lead in the final five minutes, losing on a four point play from Jonathan Mitchell with just a second left on the clock. Think they’ll be fired up Saturday?
One other factor to consider: This game won’t be played at the Wachovia Center in downtown Philadelphia, but in the intimate, on-campus and LOUD ‘Pavilion,’ where the Wildcats are something like 828-2 over the last 10 years (all numbers approximate).
In their on-campus arena, this one is just going to “feel like,” a college basketball atmosphere. As Terrell Owens once said, “Getcha Popcorn Ready!”
Speaking of home-court advantages, there might not be a better one in all of college basketball than the Kohl Center in Madison, WI. Coincidentally, that just so happens to be where the No. 1 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes will play Saturday against the Wisconsin Badgers.
What makes this game extra interesting though, is the added effect that if Ohio State wins, we will start talking about them finishing the regular season undefeated. With a win on Saturday, the Buckeyes would be 25-0 with six games to play, four of which are at home. The toughest of those games would be Michigan State and Illinois, two teams that are a match and a drop of lighter fluid away from self imploding. Beyond that, the Buckeyes would still have to travel to Purdue, but given that the Boilermakers had to hold on at home against an Indiana the other night, you’d have to like Ohio State, right? From there, they’d close out with a trip to Penn State, and a home date with these Badgers on Senior Day.
So in the end, it could all be up to Wisconsin, to save us from the potentially obnoxious “Will Ohio State go undefeated,” plotline of the next five weeks.
Apparently the theme of the weekend is tough road trips. And that’s exactly what Kentucky will have Saturday when they travel to Vanderbilt.
For those of you who don’t know the quirky dimensions of Memorial Gymnasium in Nashville, what you need to know is that it’s the only arena in college basketball where the team’s benches are behind the baskets, not on the sidelines. Obviously, that’s a huge advantage any time Vanderbilt is at home, and especially tough for any road team. It doesn’t help that this particular Kentucky club is just 1-4 on the road in the SEC this year. I’m no genius, but I’m thinking that spells trouble for Calipari’s kids.
Still, if Tuesday’s win over Tennessee taught us anything, it’s to never count out this club. When they want to, UK can play some of the most suffocating defense in college basketball, and offensively they’re tough to beat when they can get contributions outside of their fabulous freshmen. As was the case Tuesday, when Josh Harrellson chipped in 16 points, and Kentucky cruised to victory.
Even on the road, I think the Wildcats figure out a way to steal a win.
I’m over Syracuse. There I said it. Man do I feel better. Truthfully I find nothing about them enticing or compelling. Well other than Jim Boeheim’s wife anyway.
I just don’t see what all the fuss is about. The Orange have a total of two quality wins (against Notre Dame before the Irish really figured things out, and at UConn when the Huskies handedthem the game on a silver platter), and their best out of conference win is against Michigan State. That’s supposed to get me excited?
(And before you call me a hater, just understand that last year the Orange were arguably my favorite team to watch in college basketball. They played beautifully. Andy Rautins was a revelation. But that was last year. And this year I find them more boring than an episode of Sarah Palin’s Alaska. Which as you can guess, isn’t a compliment).
If anything, I’ll probably only be flipping on this game because Louisville has become one of the most interesting draws in the sport. They play faster than the speed of sound, shoot more three’s than your average YMCA team and you could make the case that Peyton Siva is just as deserving of the Big East Player of the Year award as Kemba Walker is.
If you’re looking for a reason to tune into this game, do it for Siva and the Cardinals. I promise you won’t be disappointed. I wish I could say the same about the Orange.
The Team I Wouldn’t Want To Be This Weekend: Clemson Tigers
Why Clemson? Well, they have the unenviable task of getting an angry UNC squad just three days after the Tar Heels blew a massive lead at Duke. Anyone else feel like the Tar Heels will be itching to get back on the court?
Speaking of which, be very wary of North Carolina going forward. John Henson and Tyler Zeller have been a load to deal with all season, and that was before they had consistent point guard play. With Kendall Marshall sporting a remarkable 22-6 assist to turnover ratio over the last two games, I’d say the Heels now have that.
North Carolina is a team that’s just starting to peak. Watch out for them as we get closer to March.
Here are a few other games to keep your eyes on…
Iowa State at No. 2 Kansas, Saturday, 4:00 p.m.: All you need to know is that the Cyclones are ranked No. 172 nationally in scoring defense, and Kansas is ranked No. 6 in scoring offense. Oh, and they’re coming off a 103-point effort against Missouri on Monday night.
In time, I expect Fred Hoiberg to do big things at Iowa State. That time is not now. Kansas cruises.
Baylor at No. 3 Texas, Saturday, 4:00 p.m.: Texas has won their last nine games overall, and won them by an average of 18 points per game. Meaning, that unless Scott Drew figures out a way to suit up Brittney Griner for this game, I just can’t see the Bears winning.
Ok, maybe that doesn’t have much of a ring to it. Still, Duke cruises.