By Seth Davis
December 10, 2010
Weekend Picks
Friday, December 10
7 p.m. ET Fairfield (5-3) at Siena (2-5)
Siena is usually near-unbeatable in Albany, but the Saints have already fallen at home this season to Vermont and Albany (in double overtime). I like their chances to right the ship in this one, thanks mostly to the presence of 6-foot-9 senior forward Ryan Rossiter, who is the nation's second-leading rebounder (14.5 per game). Rossiter also leads in the MAAC in scoring at 20.2 points per game.
Saturday, December 11
3:15 p.m. ET (ESPN) No. 11 Tennessee (6-0) vs. No. 3 Pitt (10-0) at Consol Energy Center
We're used to thinking of the Volunteers as being suspect on defense and too prone to settle for jump shots on offense. Lo and behold, Tennessee is eighth in the nation in defensive efficiency, and its free throw rate (measured by number of free-throw attempts to number of field-goal attempts) is ranked first. Villanova found out just how tenaciously the Vols can defend when they put their mind to it. Still, I don't see Tennessee out-toughing Pittsburgh, especially in a de facto home game. Keep your eye on the Panthers' rapidly improving sophomore forward Dante Taylor, who has scored in double figures in three of his last four games.
7 p.m. ET Seton Hall (3-4) at UMass (7-2)
If both of these teams end up on the NCAA tournament bubble, this kind of nonconference head-to-head matchup could loom large. The game will be competitive but ugly. Seton Hall, which has lost three of its last four games, is ranked 305th in the country in field goal percentage (39.0), while the Minutemen are 263rd in three-point percentage (30.8). I'll go with UMass because it is at home and because it will have the best player on the floor in 6-foot-3 senior guard Anthony Gurley, who is ranked second in the Atlantic 10 in scoring (21.3) and field goal percentage (58.8).
Noon ET (ESPNU) No. 20 UNLV (9-0) at Louisville (7-0)
Louisville began the season by blowing out Butler at home, but the Cardinals have spent the last four weeks feasting on woefully undermanned opponents. I think the extended exposure to weak competition is going to hurt them. UNLV is an experienced, poised, efficient basketball team that is ranked in the top 20 nationally in both field-goal percentage (53.3) and defensive field-goal percentage (36.9). The Cardinals are very deep, but they're also very young, and they're not doing a good job attacking the rim. Through their first six games Louisville shot just one more free throw than its opponents.
6 p.m. ET (BYUTV) Arizona (8-1) vs. No. 18 BYU (9-0) at Salt Lake City
Yes, Jimmer Fredette is a terrific player, but he will only be the second-best player in this game. That's because Arizona sophomore forward Derrick Williams is an emerging star. He ranks second in the Pac-10 in scoring (20.6), he's fourth in rebounds (7.7), and he's eighth in the country in field-goal percentage (67.1). Unfortunately, the Wildcats' guards will be overmatched by the high-scoring Fredette (23.1 ppg) and defensive ace Jackson Emery (2.86 steals per game.). That plus a little home cookin' should be enough to give the Cougars the edge.
4:30 p.m. ET (ESPN2) No. 21 Washington (6-2) at Texas A&M (8-1)
Nobody can light up a scoreboard like Washington. The Huskies are leading the nation in scoring (95.5) and three-point percentage (51.3), and they're seventh in overall field-goal percentage (51.3). Until they can force teams to go dark on defense, however, they're going to have a hard time winning on the road. The Aggies may not be as electric, but they showed that they can compete with good teams by beating Temple on a neutral court, and they are second in the country in rebound margin (+13.0). If they can keep the game at a reasonable pace, they should be able to pull off the upset (in overtime, by my estimation).
8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN2) Gonzaga (4-4) at No. 23 Notre Dame (8-1)
I was the last passenger aboard the Gonzaga bandwagon, but even I have to hop off after the Bulldogs' putrid performance at Washington State Wednesday night. They allowed the Cougars to make 11-of-21 from three-point range en route to a 22-point drubbing. Notre Dame's night wasn't much better, but at least they hung tough at Kentucky for a half. Ben Hansbrough couldn't miss in the first half, but Kentucky's D choked him off in the second. Gonzaga, however, is not in the choking business.
2:30 p.m. ET (ESPN2) Wisconsin (7-2) at Marquette (7-2)
Marquette has a nice record but still lacks a signature win. This is a good opportunity to get one at home in what is always an entertaining state rivalry game. Vander Blue, the Golden Eagles' much-heralded freshman point guard, just had his best game in a win over Texas A&M Corpus Christi on Tuesday, when he scored 21 points and dished out four assists. Badgers forward Jon Leuer is hard to guard on the perimeter, but the Golden Eagles would still prefer to deal with him out there than in the paint, where Marquette is once again undersized.
7 p.m. ET VCU (6-2) at Richmond (7-2)
This is the under-the-radar gem of the weekend, an intracity rivalry game between two NCAA tournament-caliber teams. It will also feature two of the best mid-major players in America in Richmond senior guard Kevin Anderson (16.4 ppg) and VCU senior forward Jamie Skeen, who had 23 points in the Rams' win over UCLA last month. Besides being the home team, Richmond is also the better defensive team, as the Rams are doing a poor job defending the three-point line and are also getting beat on the boards by five per game. Richmond is getting increased contributions lately from senior forward Justin Harper, who is shooting 51.7 percent from three-point range and just scored a career-high 23 points in a win at Arizona State.
Sunday, December 12
4 p.m. ET (Fox Sports Net) Boston College (7-2) at Maryland (7-3)
I'm going to try to lay aside my anger at the Terps for losing to Temple last weekend, thereby robbing me of a perfect record on my opening pickoff. Maryland has done a good job beating bad teams (whooping up on winless UNC Greensboro by 43 points on Wednesday night), but while BC doesn't qualify as a bad team, it's not a very good team, either. Eagles junior guard Reggie Jackson looks like he's headed for an All-ACC type of season, but that won't be enough to overcome the team's mediocre defense, especially in the paint where Maryland sophomore forward Jordan Williams does his best work.
Record Last Week: 9-1               Overall: 9-1

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