By Seth Davis
February 11, 2011
The Weekend Forecast
Saturday, February 12
2 p.m. ET (ESPN) No. 1 Ohio State (24-0, 11-0) at No. 13 Wisconsin (18-5, 8-3)
The numbers are impressive. During Bo Ryan's tenure in Madison, the Badgers are 149-11 at the Kohl Center. They are 75-6 against Big Ten teams, and 7-0 against Ohio State. They are also 24-7 against teams ranked in the AP's Top 25. So if you think the Buckeyes will not go undefeated -- and most people seem to think they won't -- then it's only logical to expect that they will lose this game. So that's what I'm expecting. Wisconsin will obviously try to keep this a low-scoring affair. The Badgers are ranked dead last in the country in tempo, and they're ranked first in turnover percentage. Ohio State is actually comfortable playing at a slow pace (the Buckeyes are ranked 244th in tempo), but five of their Big Ten wins have come by five points or less. They're a very good team, but their luck is ready to run out.
9 p.m. ET (ESPN) No. 4 Pittsburgh (22-2, 10-1) at No. 9 Villanova (19-5, 7-4)
As I watched Pittsburgh win at West Virginia sans Ashton Gibbs, I thought to myself, "That's what a Final Four team looks like." The Mountaineers were geeked up to play their rival, they needed a win to bolster their NCAA tournament credentials, and they got maybe the best game Deniz Kilicli has played as a collegian. Yet, Pitt prevailed thanks to double-figure scoring from four of its five starters. The real question now is how Villanova will play after losing three of its last five, including that wild one at Rutgers on Wednesday which was decided by a four-point play with under a second left. One problem Villanova is having right now is that Corey Stokes has really cooled off the last month. He scored in double figures in 13 of his first 14 games but has failed to reach that standard in five of his last ten. Villanova will come out hyped up in an effort to bounce back at home, but there's something about this Pitt team that tells me they can handle it, even without Gibbs. Pitt is just too tough, and Villanova has been a little too unsteady.
Noon ET (ESPN) No. 12 Syracuse (20-5, 7-5 Big East) at No. 16 Louisville (18-6, 7-4)
Both of these teams suffered heartbreaking losses Wednesday night. The Cardinals fought hard at Notre Dame before petering out in overtime, while Syracuse dropped its third straight home game after being outscored by Georgetown 15-3 over the last six minutes. The good news for Louisville is that it is finally getting healthy again. The team's leading scorer, Preston Knowles, returned after missing the previous game with an injured hamstring. Two more injured players returned to practice on Thursday: freshman center Gorgui Dieng, who missed the last four games with a concussion, and 6-foot-7 sophomore forward Rakeem Buckles, who was the Cardinals' leading rebounder when he broke his finger six weeks ago. Both are expected to play against the Orange. In other words, Louisville is headed in the right direction, while Syracuse is finding its way.
1 p.m. ET (CBS) No. 18 Kentucky (17-6, 5-4) at No. 23 Vanderbilt (17-6, 5-4)
Much of the discussion around Kentucky's supposed vulnerabilities has been misguided. People say the Wildcats can't win on the road, but their three road losses in the SEC came by a total of six points. People say they're too young, but the freshmen have actually been terrific. The older players are the ones who have been inconsistent, but they came to play against Tennessee on Tuesday night. Nor do I share the concerns about Kentucky's depth. Plenty of teams have gone deep into March playing six or seven guys. It's only a matter of time before the Wildcats break out, and I've got a feeling that time is coming fast.
1 p.m. ET (ACC Network) No. 20 North Carolina (17-6, 7-2) at Clemson (17-7, 6-4)
A big element in picking games is trying to anticipate which way the emotional pendulum will swing. North Carolina played a valiant game at Duke on Wednesday night, but in the end the Tar Heels couldn't overcome Duke's maturity. Now this young group has to fight the tendency to exhale against a good conference team that needs a win on its home court. Advantage, Clemson. The Tigers were fortunate to survive their last game at home against Boston College after blowing most of a 17-point lead, but they were able to hold on thanks to senior forward Jerai Grant's 17 points. North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall has been terrific his last two games, but he only had one field goal in 22 minutes while being guarded by Clemson senior Demontez Stitt in Chapel Hill two weeks ago. Clemson needs this win more than North Carolina, and it says here the Tigers will get it.
8 p.m. ET (CBS College Sports) No. 6 San Diego State (24-1, 9-1) at UNLV (18-6, 6-4)
It's very difficult to beat San Diego State by slugging it out. You're better off trying to push the pace and outscore the Aztecs, but that's not UNLV's game. The Rebels don't do much runnin' these days. They're ranked fifth in the Mountain West in scoring and eighth in both three-pointers made and three-point percentage. They do hold opponents to just under 63 points per game, but the Aztecs have done even better by keeping their opponents under 59 points per game. A lot of people wrote off San Diego State's chances at a No. 1 seed after the loss at BYU, but if the Aztecs run the table from here on out they'll be in great position. They are the better team and this is a comfortable matchup, even on the road.
6 p.m. ET (ESPN) Tennessee (15-9, 5-4) at No. 17 Florida (19-5, 8-2)
The Gators are playing steady, confident basketball right now, but they haven't exactly looked like world beaters. Two of their last four wins came in overtime, and they were within a Brandon Knight three-point attempt of losing to Kentucky at home. Still, this team is in a groove right now, and I don't foresee the Volunteers upending it. Tennessee is just not showing enough toughness at the defensive end. The Vols allowed Kentucky to outrebound them by 10 at Rupp on Tuesday and they gave the Wildcats 27 free-throw attempts while only attempting 12 of their own. On the season they are allowing opponents to score 67.4 points per game, which ranks ninth in the SEC.
Sunday, February 13
1 p.m. ET (CBS) No. 14 Purdue (19-5, 8-3) at Illinois (16-8, 6-5)
Illinois needed that win at Minnesota on Thursday night in the worst way. Yes, the Gophers are staggering with just eight scholarship players available these days, but the Illini have endured a horrible stretch of five losses in seven games. Bruce Weber shook up his lineup and brought Demetri McCamey, Mike Tisdale and Jereme Richmond off the bench. McCamey responded with 17 points, but Richmond only had two. Purdue will be a much tougher test because the Boilermakers do such a good job of taking care of the ball. (They're ranked ninth nationally in turnover percentage.) But like a lot of teams, Purdue is very beatable on the road, having lost its last four games away from Mackey Arena. I say this will be number five.
1 p.m. ET (ESPN) Marquette (15-9, 6-5) at No. 11 Georgetown (19-5, 8-4)
Georgetown is one of the hottest teams in the country, and definitely the hottest in the Big East. The Hoyas have won seven in a row, including on the road against Villanova and Syracuse. Moreover, they've blown a hole in the theory that they can't beat good teams without a big game from Chris Wright. The 6-1 senior guard did not score in the win over Villanova, and he had just six points against Syracuse Wednesday night. They look like a team that starts three seniors and a junior, which is why even though they're due to get clipped, I don't foresee it happening at home against Marquette. The Golden Eagles were fortunate to escape by one point at South Florida on Wednesday night. They lead the Big East in scoring at 78.5 points per game, but they'll have a hard time racking that up against the Hoyas.
2 p.m. ET (Fox Sports Ohio) Xavier (17-6, 8-1) at Duquesne (16-6, 8-1)
This matchup would have had a little more luster if both teams had avoided surprising losses last week, but it is still a terrific matchup that will give the winner sole possession of first place in the Atlantic 10. If you haven't watched the Dukes play yet, you gotta check 'em out. Their coach, Ron Everhart, loves up-tempo, frenetic basketball, and he finally has the personnel to pull it off. Duquesne is ranked 12th in the nation in scoring at 81 points per game, and they're getting assists on 67.7 percent of their made field goals, which ranks third nationally. They're also ranked 27th in defensive efficiency, so they're not just looking to outscore you. Obviously job No. 1 will be to collar Tu Holloway, who scored all 18 of his points in the second half of Xavier's big win at Georgia Tuesday night. That was a mighty impressive win, but by the time this game tips off Duquesne will have had eight days to stew over its loss at St. Bonaventure. That respite also gave the Dukes time to rest and retool for the big clash with Xavier. Throw in the home-court advantage, and you've got your pick.
Record Last Week: 8-2               Overall: 59-31

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