By Seth Davis
January 21, 2011
The Weekend Forecast
Saturday, January 22
Noon ET (CBS) No. 1 Ohio State (19-0, 6-0 Big Ten) at No. 23 Illinois (14-5, 4-2)
If we're all in agreement that nobody is going to go undefeated, then this would seem like a perfect time to pick the Buckeyes to lose. They're fresh off being ranked No. 1 (a traditional jinx), and before they spanked Iowa by 22 points Wednesday night, the Buckeyes had won their four previous games by a total of 15 points. Yes, the Illini will have a hard time matching up with Jared Sullinger inside -- who doesn't? -- but the Buckeyes will also have their hands full with Illinois' guards. The Illini lead the Big Ten in three-point percentage (42.7) and three-point percentage defense (29.4). Demetri McCamey has very quietly had an All-America-caliber season. He ranks in the top 10 in the nation in assists (7.2 per game) and three-point percentage (52.5), and he's ninth in the Big Ten in scoring (16.2). When the Illini are at their best, they're as good as anybody. This is a prime opportunity to prove it.
Noon ET (ESPN) No. 7 Villanova (16-2, 4-1) at No. 3 Syracuse (18-1, 5-1)
I'm assuming that Syracuse forward Kris Joseph, who suffered a concussion last weekend that forced him to miss Monday's loss at Pittsburgh, will play in this game, but even if Joseph wasn't playing I would still go with Syracuse. Part of it is the difficulty of winning on the road, but I also think Syracuse's zone will prove to be an especially tough matchup for Villanova. The Wildcats' guards are streaky shooters (Corey Fisher had 28 points in the loss to UConn, but Corey Stokes did not make a field goal), but what they really thrive on is getting to the foul line. That's hard to do against any zone, much less one as impenetrable as Syracuse's. I also love the way Orange guard Scoop Jardine has been playing of late. He is ranked in the top 10 of the Big East in both steals and assists, and he's averaging 12.8 points per game in league play.
2 p.m. ET (CBS) Tennessee (12-6, 2-2) at No. 8 UConn (15-2, 4-2)
As if Bruce Pearl hasn't drawn enough unwanted attention this season, he will be firmly implanted in the center circle in Hartford, where he will be permitted to coach because this is not a league game and thus not part of his eight-game SEC suspension. Under assistant Tony Jones, the Vols have pulled the proverbial rabbit out of their hat in the last two outings, coming back from 17 down to beat Vandy and then clipping Georgia on a putback by center Brian Williams at the buzzer. (Apparently they don't call over-the-back fouls in Athens.) I like that UT is making better use of Williams, but UConn is also making better use of sophomore center Alex Oriakhi. He has been the difference, averaging 13.3 points and 12.5 rebounds since having zero and six in the Huskies' loss at Notre Dame on Jan. 4.
2 p.m. ET No. 22 Saint Mary's (17-2, 5-0) at Vanderbilt (13-4, 2-2)
If we had pointed to this game in the preseason and guessed that one team would be ranked, I'm sure most of us would have assumed it would be Vanderbilt. I'm also assuming that when Randy Bennett scheduled this trip, he didn't realize it would come right before he has to play his two toughest league road games at Gonzaga and Portland. Winning this game would be pure gravy for the Gaels, but it's a must-win for Vanderbilt. The Commodores are still licking their wounds over the collapse at Tennessee last weekend, and though they bounced back with a nice win at home over Ole Miss on Wednesday night (they shot 34 free throws in the win, making 28), they still very badly need this one to get their mojo back. And you all know how much I love desperate home teams.
4 p.m. ET (CBS) No. 10 Texas (15-3, 3-0) at No. 2 Kansas (18-0, 3-0)
Both teams are coming off games that were supposed to be major tests, but turned into major laughers. Kansas went into Waco and embarrassed Baylor by 20 points on Monday night, and Texas likewise waxed Texas A&M in Austin on Wednesday night by 21. For Texas fans, there is no better sight than Jordan Hamilton scoring with confidence (he had 27 points on 10-for-14 shooting against the Aggies), but in this game he will have to do it on the road against an even better defensive team. And yes, it's time to start talking about Marcus Morris as an All-America candidate again. Over his last four games, Morris is averaging 21.2 points and 7.3 rebounds. Kansas still commits too many turnovers, but the Jayhawks should be able to overcome that while playing a huge game at home against a young team.
2 p.m. ET (ESPN) Kansas State (13-6, 1-3) at No. 11 Texas A&M (16-2, 3-1)
It has been painful watching Kansas State, which was ranked third in the AP's preseason poll, lose three of its last four games to drop out of the rankings. That includes a loss to Colorado at home and a 16-point pasting at Missouri on Monday. The Wildcats committed 24 turnovers in the latter, so they're in no position to knock off a Texas A&M team that is going to be hungry after getting run off the floor by Texas. I have no idea where Khris Middleton came from, but the Aggies' 6-foot-7 sophomore forward has a very bright future in this sport. He is a rangy, agile and highly skilled small forward who can do a little of everything -- including get to the foul line, which he has done nearly five times per game this year while converting 82 percent.
6 p.m. ET (ESPN) No. 12 Kentucky (14-4, 2-2) at South Carolina (12-5, 3-1)
So much attention was paid to John Calipari's profanity-laced tirade at Terrence Jones late in the Wildcats' loss to Alabama that few seemed to notice that Kentucky nearly won the game after being down by 20 points. You could see this young team's identity getting forged during that comeback as the 'Cats cranked up their D and attacked the rim instead of settling for jump shots. Even though South Carolina has been on a roll of late having won four of its last five games, I think these young Wildcats learned something in their loss in Tuscaloosa, and they'll be eager to prove they're growing up.
9 p.m. ET (ESPN) No. 17 Michigan State (12-6, 4-2) at No. 14 Purdue (16-3, 5-1)
It's hard to watch Purdue and not imagine what could have been. JaJuan Johnson has been sensational all season (hard to believe Penn State let him get so open for that game-winner Wednesday night off a baseline out-of-bounds play), and though E'Twaun Moore has been spotty of late, he would obviously be having an easier time if Robbie Hummel was there to be that third wheel. Moore's recent dip is a major concern (he's averaging 10 points on 31 percent shooting over his last five games), but so is Michigan State's lack of toughness on the road. The Spartans attempted just nine free throws in their loss at Illinois on Tuesday, and they allowed the Illini to shoot 53 percent from the floor.
7 p.m. ET (ESPN2) Memphis (14-4, 3-1) at UAB (13-4, 3-1)
Between all the drama at Memphis and UCF's surprising success during nonconference play, nobody seems to notice that Mike Davis' Blazers are part of that four-way tie atop the Conference USA standings. UAB has one of the best point guards in America in Aaron Johnson, the pint-sized senior who is ranked second in the nation in assists with 7.9 per game and is also fourth in the conference in steals (1.82). Johnson gets so many assists because he has senior Jamarr Sanders and junior Cameron Moore to finish those plays (they're averaging a combined 35 points per game). That's a major contrast with Memphis, which is one of the youngest teams in America and was fortunate to win at Southern Miss by one point on Wednesday night. Junior forward Wesley Witherspoon's suspension has been lifted, but he will not play in this game because of an injury. That will leave a young squad even younger, and certainly not ready to win this kind of tough league game on the road.
7 p.m. ET (ESPNU) Boston College (14-5, 4-1) at Florida State (14-5, 4-1)
The most impressive thing about Florida State's win over Duke is that the Seminoles followed it up by beating N.C. State at home and Miami on the road. That tells me that FSU's loss at Auburn was much more of a fluke than was its win over Duke. That hiccup aside, the Seminoles are having a solid season, and though most of the credit obviously goes to 6-9 junior forward Chris Singleton, senior point guard Derwin Kitchen is also coming into his own. (Kitchen had 22 points against Duke and ranks in the top 10 of the ACC in assists and steals.) Meanwhile, it's long past time for BC junior guard Reggie Jackson to get more love -- he's second in the ACC in points, assists and three-point percentage -- but for that to happen he's going to have to lead his team to a win in Tallahassee. And that's a little too much to ask.
Record Last Week: 7-3               Overall: 41-19

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