Friday December 18th, 2009

Weekend Picks
Saturday, December 19
12 p.m. ET (ESPN)Michigan (5-4) at No. 1 Kansas (9-0)
With their uninspired play in the Old Spice Classic and their loss at Utah, the Wolverines have proved they are not built for success on the road. Allen Fieldhouse is no place to right that ship. I still can't tell the Morris twins apart, but I do know they are a lot better than most people realize.
2 p.m. ET (ESPN)No. 10 North Carolina vs. No. 2 Texas
My sense is that a college basketball game in Dallas Cowboys Stadium will make for great television but lousy basketball. I like the Longhorns in this one because they don't rely on scoring out of their half-court offense, which means they won't be as dependent on outside shooting. Texas is also one of the few squads with the size, strength and depth on the frontline to match up with North Carolina.
2 p.m. ET (ESPN2)Xavier (6-3) at No. 21 Butler (7-3)
Butler got its must-win at home last week over Ohio State, but the victory came with an asterisk because Evan Turner didn't play. The Bulldogs have not shot the ball well this season (their 33 percent three-point shooting is ranked 208th in the country), but with the chance to further bolster their at-large resume, I think they will deliver. I'm also anticipating Xavier will still be on an emotional high following its dramatic overtime win over Cincinnati in the Crosstown Shootout.
2 p.m. ET (CBS)UCLA (3-6) at Notre Dame (9-2)
How much worse can things get for UCLA? The Bruins finally snapped a five-game losing streak by beating New Mexico State, only to learn the next day that senior forward James Keefe dislocated his shoulder in the game and will miss two to three weeks. The Bruins would have hard a hard time beating the Irish on the road with Keefe. Without him, the task gets that much taller.
4 p.m. ET (CBS)No. 15 Gonzaga (8-2) vs. No. 7 Duke (7-1)
If this were a true neutral court, I might favor the Zags. But Duke always seems to play really well in Madison Square Garden (as evidenced by the way the Blue Devils handled UConn there with surprising ease last month). Kyle Singler was the ACC's preseason Player of the Year, but the top priority for Gonzaga will be to contain Jon Scheyer, who is coming off a 36-point, nine-assist, eight-rebound performance in a win over Gardner-Webb.
7 p.m. ETTemple (8-2) at Seton Hall (8-0)
Seton Hall's undefeated record has been helped by a weak nonconference schedule mostly at home. (The lone exception was a road win at Cornell on Nov. 20.) Temple, by contrast, has played one of the toughest nonconference slates in the country, capped by the Owls' upset of Villanova last weekend. This game will feature two of the country's streakiest outside shooters in Seton Hall's Jeremy Hazell and Temple's Juan Fernandez, but the Owls will benefit from having the best big man on the floor, Lavoy Allen.
8 p.m. ETNo. 16 Texas Tech (9-0) at Wichita State (9-1)
It's amazing to think these schools only have one loss between them, but they've each only played one team that is likely to make the NCAA tournament. (Texas Tech beat Washington at home in overtime; Wichita State's toughest opponent was Pittsburgh, which gave the Shockers their only loss.) It's hard to evaluate teams on that basis, but based on what I saw of Texas Tech during its win over Washington, I think they're capable of beating a decent team on the road.
8:30 p.m. ETNo. 17 Kansas State (9-1) at Alabama (7-3)
In building a 16-point, second-half lead over Purdue last Saturday, the Tide showed they can hang at home against good teams. In blowing that lead to lose by eight, they showed they are too young to put those teams away. Alabama better be ready to put the clamps on the Wildcats' sensational guard duo Denis Clemente and Jacob Pullen, who shot a combined 10-for-18 from three-point range in K-State's 15-point win at UNLV last Saturday.
10 p.m. ETPortland (6-3) at Washington (6-2)
Remember when Portland was college basketball's flavor of the week after beating UCLA and Minnesota and entering the Top 25 for the first time since 1959? Well, the Pilots followed those wins with three consecutive losses to West Virginia, Portland State and Idaho on the road. I still think Washington is a pretty good team despite being so thin in the frontcourt, but the Huskies have already dropped games to Texas Tech and Georgetown. They badly need a win here, and I love home teams with high incentives.
Sunday, December 20
5:30 p.m. ET (Fox Sports Net)Florida State (9-2) at No. 22 Georgia Tech (6-1)
There will be a bevy of really good big men going against each other -- Florida State's Solomon Alabi and Chris Singleton versus Georgia Tech's Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal. So the game should be decided in the backcourt, where I give Georgia Tech the edge, even though Iman Shumpert is out for the next month or so with an injury. That plus the home-court advantage should be enough for Georgia Tech to prevail.
Record Last Week: 7-3               Overall: 7-3

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