|The First Five|
Saturday, 9 p.m.
Too bad for UCLA this one is in Pauley Pavilion. The better scenario would be to hit the road and face a crowd that hates Kevin Love. After Love responded to the fan abuse at Oregon last week by going for 26 points and 18 rebounds in a five-point win, Oregon athletic director Pat Kilkenny should have apologized to Ernie Kent, not Ben Howland. Arizona, meanwhile, has had less success on the road (though the Wildcats did pick up an important win at USC on Thursday night), but the Wildcats don't suffer from a lack of talent. Their problem is a lack of depth. When they scored their biggest win of the season at home against Washington State last week, the Wildcats had four players on the floor for 37-plus minutes, and a fifth, Nic Wise, played 30 minutes. Five guys played 33-plus against USC. I think Arizona can hang with UCLA for a while (especially if Jerryd Bayless is hitting shots, which he usually does), but I don't think the Cats have enough bodies to pull it out down the stretch.
UCLA 76, Arizona 69
Saturday, 7 p.m.
Mississippi State 79, Tennessee 76
Saturday, 5 p.m.
Don't look for the guys at Pitt to feel much sympathy for UConn. The Huskies are hoping to get sophomore guard Doug Wiggins back for this game following his citation for underage possession of alcohol, but Jerome Dyson will be suspended for another four weeks because he failed a drug test. Pitt, however, has lost senior forward Mike Cook for the year and it is still another week or two away from getting point guard Levance Fields back from his broken foot. The Panthers also lost two other players to season-ending injuries before the first game. So the question becomes, which team is better equipped to win a physical conference game with a thin bench? Well, Pitt out-rebounded Villanova by eight in its win on Wednesday night, but I doubt that will happen against UConn. My sense is the Huskies have turned the corner in terms of understanding how tough they need to be and how smart they need to play. That, plus the two days of additional rest and preparation they had this week after beating Louisville on Monday, should be the difference.
Connecticut 74, Pittsburgh 71
Saturday, 1:45 p.m.
By one metric, Baylor should be favored here. The Bears won at Texas A&M last week (though it did take them five overtimes), while the Longhorns got waxed in College Station by 17 on Wednesday night. But since picking games is all about anticipating the swing of the pendulum, I suspect Texas will come home on the heels of that loss and play well. What?s more, unlike Texas A&M, Baylor does not have the big men to take advantage of the Longhorns' deficiencies in the paint. The Bears' two centers, Mamdou Diene and Josh Lomers, have a total of two double-digit scoring games between them. If Texas isn?t getting high-percentage shooting from D.J. Augustin and A.J. Abrams, it can lose to just about anyone, but those guys don't have too many off nights in the Erwin Center.
Texas 84, Baylor 75
Saturday, 3 p.m.
It was one thing for Washington State to drop games at Arizona and UCLA, but when the Cougars lose to Cal in Pullman, you know something is up. As the Jigsaw Man so sagely pointed out this week, Washington State is sublimely efficient in its halfcourt offense but the Cougars do not generate enough easy baskets in transition. That leaves them vulnerable when Derrick Low and Daven Harmeling shoot a combined 3 for 16, as they did in the loss to Cal. Then again, that's probably bad news for Stanford, winners of four in a row, since Washington State will come into this game with an added sense of urgency. Brook Lopez is having a fabulous season, but I have to be a little bit suspicious when he can score 31 points, as he did in the win over Washington on Thursday, while nobody else on the team reaches double figures. Wazzu's starting center, Aron Baynes, is not as good as Lopez, but he is big and mobile enough to at least keep Lopez in check. That will turn the game over to the guards, where Washington State has the clear advantage.
Washington State 68, Stanford 65
|The Second Five|