Friday January 14th, 2011

Weekend Picks
 
Saturday, January 15
 
6 p.m. ET (CBS College Sports)No. 6 San Diego St. (18-0, 2-0 Mountain West) at New Mexico (13-4, 1-1)
At first glance, this would be a great place to predict the Aztecs' first loss of the season, but I think New Mexico will be a comfortable matchup for them. San Diego State is one of the slowest teams in the country (ranked 310th nationally in tempo), so the best way to attack them is to speed them up. New Mexico, however, isn't much faster (170th). The Aztecs are also the best rebounding team in the Mountain West Conference, thanks to their fabulous frontline of Kawhi Leonard and Malcolm Thomas, who combined for 33 boards in the big win over UNLV Wednesday night. The matchup at point guard between New Mexico's Dairese Gary and San Diego State's D.J. Gay will be fun to watch, but the Lobos will be overmatched inside.
 
1 p.m. ET (CBS)Maryland (11-5, 1-2) at No. 7 Villanova (15-1, 4-0)
Corey Stokes was supposed to be the third wheel in Villanova's backcourt, but he has been this team's best player from Day 1. Stokes leads the Wildcats in scoring at 17 points per game, and he poured in 23 in 'Nova's win over Louisville on Wednesday. It's remarkable that a guy who made just 29.6 percent from three-point range as a freshman is now leading the Big East both three-point shooting (46.8) and free-throw shooting (93.9). Maryland, meanwhile, still has not found enough perimeter scoring to complement Jordan Williams down low. The only danger here for the Wildcats is that they don't look past the Terps, which is a possibility considering after this one they have road games at UConn and Syracuse.
 
1 p.m. ET (ESPN2)No. 15 Missouri (15-2, 1-1) at No. 14 Texas A&M (15-1, 2-0)
Is it possible to be a top 15 team and fly under the national radar? That's just what Mark Turgeon's Aggies are doing. Sophomore Khris Middleton is ranked in the top 10 of the Big 12 in scoring (15.0) and field-goal percentage (49.7), but he's hardly a household name. The main advantage Texas A&M will have in this one is on the boards. The Aggies are ranked first in the Big 12 in rebound margin; the Tigers are 11th. Marcus Denmon has been fabulous all season long for Missouri, but the Aggies do a great job slowing the pace, and though guards Dash Harris and B.J. Holmes aren't great scorers they can really guard. Time for Texas A&M to move the needle.
 
3 p.m. ET (Big Ten Network)No. 16 Illinois (13-4, 3-1) at No. 20 Wisconsin (12-4, 2-2)
What has two thumbs and is crazy enough to pick the Badgers to lose in Madison? This guy! When the Illini beat Wisconsin in Champaign two weeks ago, Demetri McCamey shot 11-for-15 from the free-throw line. That tells me he won't rely too much on hoisting threes. Then again, since Illinois is ranked third in the nation in three-point shooting (43.4), and Wisconsin is 259th in three-point defense (36.2), that might not be such a bad strategy. McCamey only shot two free throws in the Illini's loss at Penn State last weekend, so hopefully he's ready to bounce back. If not, Wisconsin sophomore guard Jordan Taylor, who remains one of the real underappreciated players in America, will be ready to pounce.
 
11 a.m. ET (ESPN2)Marquette (12-5, 3-1) at No. 18 Louisville (13-3, 2-1)
I'm frankly not sure why Louisville continues to be ranked so high. The Cardinals' best wins came at home against Butler and UNLV, but their three losses have been at home to Drexel and by double-digit margins to Kentucky and Villanova. The Cards will have to play this one without Jared Swopshire, who is out for the season with a groin injury, and leading rebounder Rakeem Buckles, a 6-foot-7 sophomore, who is still out with a broken hand but will return in a couple of weeks. I don't love Marquette, but I sure do like 'em. The Golden Eagles are a scrappy team whose five losses have come by a total of 22 points. I also think they got a burst of confidence by their convincing win over Notre Dame, when they shot 12-for-17 from three-point range.
 
Noon ET (ESPN)Vanderbilt (12-3, 1-1) at Tennessee (10-6, 0-2)
If I'm the Charlie Brown of prognosticating, then Tennessee is Lucy holding the football. I mean, the Vols have to pull out one of these games, don't they? Of all the deficiencies this team has showed the last month, to me the most puzzling is the total disappearance of senior center Brian Williams from the offense. Williams had 12 points and seven rebounds in the Vols' win over Villanova back in November, but that is just one of two double-figure games he has had this season. He didn't even start in Tennessee's overtime loss against Florida Tuesday night. Still, you all know I love desperate home teams, and Tennessee is catching Vanderbilt at the right time. The Commodores rebounded from their road loss at South Carolina to knock off a surging Georgia team in Nashville, so the pendulum is poised to swing back. Bruce Pearl or no Bruce Pearl, if the Vols can't get geeked up to play a league an in-state rival when they're staring at an 0-3 start in the SEC, then my name's not Charlie Brown.
 
1:30 p.m. ET (Big 12 Network)Oklahoma State (13-3, 1-1) at Colorado (13-4, 2-0)
Oklahoma State is a prime example of a team that is not as good as its record. The Cowboys have a couple of decent home wins over Missouri State and Kansas State, but on the two occasions when they've had to play a good team on the road, they haven't just lost, they've been embarrassed -- by 21 points at Gonzaga, and on Wednesday night by 23 points at Texas A&M. In this one the Cowboys will be facing a red-hot Buffaloes team that has knocked off ranked teams (Missouri at home and Kansas State on the road) in its last two outings. And as good as Alec Burks has been, CU is not a one-man show. Senior guard Levi Knutson had 20 points in the win over K-State; another senior guard, Cory Higgins, is ranked ninth in the Big 12 in scoring (16.2); and 6-7 freshman Andre Roberson is in the top 10 of the Big 12 in rebounds (7.5), steals (1.71) and blocks (1.24).
 
2:30 p.m. ET (Fox Sports Net)Arizona State (9-7, 1-3) at Arizona (14-3, 3-1)
It has been hard for Arizona to generate any buzz, so when the Wildcats stumbled at Oregon State on Jan. 2, the few people who were paying them any kind of attention lost interest. They can ill afford to lose this one at home to a team that is having such a lousy year (especially with a trip to the Washington schools coming up next week). Derrick Williams is obviously terrific, and this is actually a pretty good defensive team. (The 'Cats are ranked first in the Pac-10 in rebound margin and three-point percentage defense.) Arizona's main problem continues to be that it doesn't get enough pop from its guards, who have been way too careless with the ball. Since the Sun Devils are only putting up about 63 points per game (last in the conference), the Wildcats shouldn't have too much trouble outscoring them, but at some point Williams is going to have to get a little more help from his friends.
 
Sunday, January 16
 
1:30 p.m. ET (CBS)No. 8 Purdue (15-1, 4-0) at West Virginia (10-4, 2-2)
I've been saying that Purdue is overranked for several weeks now, but I was actually impressed with how the Boilermakers played during their 70-67 loss at Minnesota Thursday night. They hung tough despite a horrendous performance from E'Twaun Moore, who shot just 2-for-14 from the field. Unfortunately, in West Virginia the Boilermakers are facing a team with a similar style and profile to Minnesota -- and this one comes on the road and outside the conference. That's a bad cocktail. West Virginia has a pretty good sharpshooting guard of its own in Casey Mitchell, but on this team the points can come from anywhere. To wit, senior forward John Flowers, who averages 8.7 points per game, scored a career-high 24 in Thursday night's thrashing of Providence.
 
Noon ET (Big East Network)No. 9 Notre Dame (14-3, 3-2) at St. John's (10-5, 3-2)
To me, Notre Dame is a classic case of a team that is going to be nearly impossible to beat at home but could lose to anyone on the road. Rims are much friendlier when you shoot on them every day in practice, and the Irish are flat-out lethal when they're knocking down outside shots. So far, however, they've failed miserably in their main tests away from home. They got blown out by Kentucky by 14 points in Louisville, and they lost by a combined 34 points at Syracuse and Marquette. So it comes down to this: Is Notre Dame for real, or is it a fraud? I think the Irish are for real, but at some point they have to prove it by beating a good team on the road. Here's your chance, guys.
 
Record Last Week: 7-3               Overall: 34-16
 

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