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Memphis-Tennessee, Ohio State-Illinois, more weekend hoops picks

The Weekend Forecast
 
Friday, Jan. 4
 
8 p.m., ESPN2 Memphis (9-3) at Tennessee (8-3)
Winning this game won't ensure Memphis of an at-large bid if it needs one, but losing it would pretty much guarantee that it won't get one. I like the Tigers' motivation, but I also like their personnel. The key will be whether they can speed up a Tennessee team that needs to slow this game to a crawl.
 
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Saturday, Jan. 5
 
2 p.m., Big Ten Network No. 8 Ohio State (11-2, 1-0 Big Ten) at No. 11 Illinois (13-2, 0-1)
I would have gone with the Illini even if they didn't get tripped up at Purdue Wednesday night. The fact that they're coming off a loss makes me even more confident of their chances. Ohio State has played exactly one true road game so far this season. That's not the best preparation for playing in a mega-tough conference.
 
8 p.m., ROOT Sports No. 10 Gonzaga (13-1, 0-0 WCC) at Santa Clara (12-3, 1-0)
Can we call off this game and just let Kevin Pangos and Kevin Foster decide it with a game of H-O-R-S-E? On paper, this is the game Gonzaga is most likely to lose inside the conference, but I think the Zags will be ready to play. The difference will be their frontcourt, which is getting stronger and deeper as 7-foot-1 freshman Przemek Karnowski becomes ever more comfortable.
 
2 p.m. No. 15 Georgetown (10-1, 0-0 Big East) at Marquette (10-3, 1-0)
Georgetown is the better team, but the Hoyas have had four easy straight games against weak teams at home. Marquette, on the other hand, just knocked off UConn at home, and the Golden Eagles should be jacked thanks to the return of coach Buzz Williams, who sat out the UConn win because of a one-game suspension.
 
3 p.m. Indiana State (9-4, 2-0 Missouri Valley) at No. 16 Creighton (13-1, 2-0)
You could do worse than watch nothing but Missouri Valley Conference games this season. Creighton toughed out a nice win at Illinois on Wednesday night, thanks to a career-high 18 points from Ethan Wragge. The Bluejays have shown they are way more than just Doug McDermott and the Dougettes. Indiana State has also won three straight over good teams (Miami, Illinois State and at Northern Iowa), but the Sycamores don't have enough to pull this out in Omaha.
 
1:30 p.m. No. 22 Oklahoma State (10-2, 0-0 Big 12) at No. 25 Kansas State (11-2, 0-0)
Marcus Smart is one of the top three freshmen in America, but I wonder if those two missed free throws at the end of the Gonzaga loss are going to haunt him. It's safe to say a young team without a lot of inside scoring will have a hard time winning in Little Manhattan.
 
3 p.m., Pac 12 Network Stanford (9-5, 0-1 Pac 12) at UCLA (11-3, 1-0)
It's hard to imagine a team needing a big win more than the Bruins needed that overtime win over Missouri. I like this team's talent, but I am starting to like its chemistry, even though I don't think the Bruins will ever play the kind of lockdown defense we used to associate with Ben Howland's teams. If Stanford has been struggling to beat mediocre teams like Northwestern and Lafayette, and loses to teams like USC, then it's hard to imagine the Cardinal winning in Pauley Pavilion.
 
5 p.m., NBC Sports Network Lehigh (9-3) at VCU (11-3)
This is a terrific inter-conference matchup between two great mid-major teams. It will also feature two of the most dynamic scorers in the country. Lehigh's C.J. McCollum leads the country in scoring with a 25.7 average. VCU's Troy Daniels has made 27 three-pointers in his last three games. The difference is that Daniels will get a more help from his friends.
 
Sunday, Jan. 6
 
4:30 p.m., CBS Temple (10-2) at No. 6 Kansas (11-1)
The more I watch Kansas, the more I'm coming to believe that this is the best team in the country. Temple was able to notch a surprising win over Syracuse in Madison Square Garden, but most of the time this is a team that doesn't make a lot of jump shots and gets out-rebounded by bigger squads. Not a great formula to take into Allen Fieldhouse.
 
8 p.m., ESPNU North Carolina (10-3, 0-0 ACC) at Virginia (10-3, 0-0)
The Tar Heels will get second-leading scorer Reggie Bullock back after he missed the UNLV because of a concussion. They're going to need him to make some jumpers in order to win in Charlotteville. You know Tony Bennett will be ready to muck up this game and slow the tempo, but the Cavaliers just don't have enough offensive firepower to pull off the upset.
 
Last Week: 8-2
 
Season Record: 45-25
 

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