Friday December 12th, 2008

The First Five
North Carolina Duke
Saturday, 2 p.m.

How bad has Memphis' point guard situation gotten? John Calipari is going to start Wesley Witherspoon, a 6-foot-8 freshman who has never played the position (even in high school) at the point against the 19th-ranked Hoyas. That is a move you make in hopes of being at your best in March, not December. Georgetown, on the other hand, is locked and loaded at that spot, with 6-1 sophomore Chris Wright having posted a 2.5-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio through the Hoyas' first seven games. Georgetown's freshman forward, Greg Monroe (13.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.0 apg), is a skilled lefty who is drawing comparisons among NBA scouts to Chris Bosh. Georgetown's talent drops off considerably when John Thompson III has to go to his bench, so Memphis' best hope is getting the Hoyas either tired or into foul trouble. That's not much to hang your hat on in a road game against a good team.

Georgetown 74, Memphis 67
Indiana Kentucky
Saturday, 4 p.m.
Indiana (5-4) at Kentucky (6-3)

My new studio partner, Greg Anthony, who will be in Lexington calling his first college game for CBS, better be careful. One of the coaches might try to put him in the game. These are two proud programs, but you won't find many teams that do a worse job taking care of the ball. Kentucky and Indiana are ranked 326th and 327th, respectively (out of 330 Division I teams nationally) in turnovers per game. Even when the Hoosiers had their best win of the season Wednesday night, a 66-56 victory over TCU, they coughed it up 18 times. Of course, it's no surprise IU is struggling, and while Kentucky's travails are plenty disconcerting, the Wildcats still have considerably more talent. In 6-4 junior guard Jodie Meeks and 6-9 sophomore forward Patrick Patterson, UK has arguably the two best players in the SEC at their position. If backup freshman point guard DeAndre Liggins ever figures it out, they could be dangerous.

Kentucky 79, Indiana 59
North Carolina Duke
Sunday, 6 p.m.
No. 4 Gonzaga (7-0) at Arizona (6-2)

As my colleague Luke Winn illustrated last week, this is not your older brother's Gonzaga Bulldogs. But while it's nice to celebrate the Zags' newfound commitment to defense, the most alluring thing about them remains their breathtaking ability to get scoring from everywhere and everyone. This team has six guys who can score 20 points in any given game, and in Austin Daye and Josh Heytvelt, the Zags have two big men who can post up and finish around the goal as well as shoot it from behind the three-point line. (Heytvelt, amazingly enough, is making a team-high 47.4 percent from three.) Arizona is getting better production lately from point guard Nic Wise, but like most people who go up against the Zags, he'll be overmatched by Jeremy Pargo, whose assist-to-turnover ratio is nearly 5-to-1.

Gonzaga 88, Arizona 76
Xavier Cincinnati
Saturday, 8 p.m.

Even though Xavier is 8-0 and ranked 10th in this week's AP poll, I'm not sure how good the Musketeers really are. Their best wins were two close neutral-court victories over struggling Memphis and mediocre Virginia Tech. (Xavier needed a buzzer-beating halfcourt heave to prevail over the Hokies by one.) With Derrick Brown and C.J. Anderson up front, the X-Men have dominated teams on the boards, but their guard play has been underwhelming at both ends of the floor. Xavier is ranked 11th in the Atlantic 10 in three-pointers made (5.3 per game), 12th in turnovers (16.4) and last in steals (5.4). Cincinnati, meanwhile, is an intriguing team. The Bearcats are not as advanced as their intra-city rivals, but they've got an exciting, if inexperienced, three-man nucleus in 6-1 junior Deonta Vaughn, 6-9 freshman Yancy Gates and 6-7 junior Mike Williams. (Williams, who hasn't played the last two years, is coming off his best game as a collegian, a 17-point performance in a win over UAB.) The Crosstown Shootout is one of the great nonconference rivalries in college hoops, so you know it's going to be hot and bothered. I'm going to take a flyer and go with the home team in a thrilling upset.

Cincinnati 71, Xavier 70 (OT)
Tennessee Temple
Saturday, 12 p.m.

The Volunteers' inexperience on the perimeter remains an ongoing concern, but if Tennessee still has to overcome a toughness and maturity gap, the Owls have a longer ways to go. In its 83-73 loss at Buffalo on Nov. 29, Temple was outrebounded by 11 and outscored from the foul line by 13. Bruce Pearl has been shuffling his lineup around -- his latest wrinkle was to move freshman Scotty Hopson and sophomore Brian Williams into the starting lineup and bring Wayne Chism and J.P. Prince off the bench -- but that is part of the luxury of having so much depth. And since there doesn't seem to be any team in the SEC that can really challenge Tennessee (outside of maybe Florida), they'll probably get a pretty high seed in the NCAA tournament. Tennessee may be a work in progress, but they've got enough pieces in place to pick up a win in Philadelphia.

Tennessee 80, Temple 65
The Second Five
No. 16 UCLA (5-2) at DePaul (4-3)

This is no way for the Blue Demons to try to snap a three-game losing streak.

UCLA 71, DePaul 57

Last year, Butler beat the Buckeyes at home by 19 points. I'm guessing that might come up during Thad Matta's pregame pep talk.

Ohio State 77, Butler 64

Aztecs forward Lorenzo Wade had 11 points in his first game Wednesday after being suspended while going through legal difficulties. St. Mary's, which is playing in the second game of a rigorous five-game road swing, needs to keep building up its at-large resume.

St. Mary's 79, San Diego State 76
Utah (5-3) at No. 5 Oklahoma (9-0)

I might consider this a trap game if it were being played in Salt Lake City, but while the inside battle between Luke Nevill and Blake Griffin will be worth watching, the Utes, who dropped their last two to Idaho State and California, don't have the horses to win in Norman.

Oklahoma 70, Utah 61
Texas A&M (6-1) at Alabama (5-2)

The Aggies have been mildly impressive during their 6-1 start (their best win was by one at home over Arizona), but 'Bama needs this one real bad, and they're playing at home.

Alabama 72, Texas A&M 70

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