By Seth Davis
February 24, 2012
The Weekend Forecast
Seth Davis' Take 5
Source:SI's Seth Davis weighs in on the five hottest topics in college hoops.
Friday, Feb. 24
7 p.m. (ESPNU) Butler (18-12, 11-6 Horizon) at Valparaiso (20-10, 13-4)
Butler's five-game winning streak raises a tantalizing question: Is this déjà vu all over again -- again? Much as I'd love to see the Bulldogs steamroll through the bracket for the third straight year, I don't think that will happen. Butler has done well to grind its way into second place in the Horizon League, but this team has struggled to score even by its own recent standards. The Bulldogs are ranked 329th in the country in three-point shooting, and their 63.5 points per game ranks seventh in the conference. Butler has gone on this streak through defense and rebounding, but that won't be enough to win a road game against a good team that, despite a couple of stumbles the last two weeks, has already sewn up the league title and will be amped up to close out its season in style.
Saturday, Feb. 25
Noon (CBS) Vanderbilt (20-8, 9-4 SEC) at No. 1 Kentucky (27-1, 13-0)
We all know Kentucky plays terrific defense, but what's really impressive is the way these young Wildcats adapt during a game. When Kentucky came out of the locker room facing a 13-point deficit at Mississippi State Tuesday night, they were committed, en masse, to coming back from the defensive end. They did the same at Vanderbilt two weeks ago when they held the Commodores scoreless over the final four minutes to win by six. You have to imagine they won't have to work quite so hard in Rupp.
9 p.m. (ESPN) No. 2 Syracuse (28-1, 15-1 Big East) at UConn (17-10, 7-8)
I almost wish Syracuse was playing a better team on the road, because I'm itching to pick an upset. As it stands, UConn is in no position to pull this one off. Besides being without their leader, Jim Calhoun, the Huskies simply don't have the patience and maturity to solve the Orange's 2-3 zone. Yes, UConn pulled off a badly-needed overtime win at Villanova on Monday night, but that came against a bad team that was missing two injured starters, including leading scorer Maalik Wayns. Syracuse is much better than Villanova, and it's playing at full strength.
4 p.m. (CBS) No. 3 Missouri (25-3, 12-3 Big 12) at No. 4 Kansas (23-5, 13-2)
I realize Missouri would like to win this game, but I'm not so sure the Tigers really want to win. This team has done wonders with only seven scholarship players, but there were some tired legs on the court in Columbia Tuesday night when Missouri shot just 8-for-26 from three-point range in a 10-point loss to Kansas State. As impressive as Missouri's win over Kansas was on Feb. 4, the Tigers needed a closing 11-0 run and a couple of questionable charge calls to escape with a three-point win. That was the game where Jeff Withey was a no-show for Kansas. I think he'll show up for this one.
4 p.m. (ESPN) No. 7 North Carolina (24-4, 11-2 ACC) at Virginia (21-6, 8-5)
This is exactly the kind of game North Carolina should lose. Yes, it would be nice to stay in the chase for an ACC regular-season title, but in the grand scheme of things this game doesn't matter a whole lot. Plus, it's a road game against a team that plays a tortoise-like style. Still, Virginia is stumbling down the stretch thanks to a couple of key injuries to its starting center, Assane Sene (who is still out with an ankle injury), and its best three-point shooter, Joe Harris (who is playing despite a broken bone in his non-shooting hand). Without Sene, the Cavs will have a hard time defending the Tar Heels' post scorers. Tyler Zeller, Harrison Barnes and John Henson combined for 49 points when the Heels blitzed the Cavs by 18 points in Chapel Hill two weeks ago.
7 p.m. (The Mtn.) No. 18 New Mexico (22-5, 8-3 Mountain West) at TCU (16-11, 6-5)
New Mexico deserves a mulligan. The Lobos were coming off one of the best weeks in the recent history of the program (winning at San Diego State and by 20 points over UNLV at home) and had to hit the road to play a pretty good Colorado State team that is fighting for its NCAA tournament life. New Mexico lost the game, but now that that's behind them, the Lobos can get back to their winning ways. Their top priority will be to collar TCU guard Hank Thorns, who scored a career-high 32 points when the Horned Frogs beat UNLV in overtime on Valentine's Day. Offensively, the Lobos need to get their own leading scorer, sophomore guard Tony Snell, back on track. Snell, who had 17 points when New Mexico beat TCU in Albuquerque, did not score in the win over San Diego State (his second scoreless performance in a row), and he only had two in the loss to the Rams Tuesday night.
2 p.m. (CBS) UCLA (16-12, 9-6 Pac 12) at Arizona (20-9, 11-5)
It won't be easy getting an at-large bid out of the Pac 12, but Arizona has done a good job playing itself back into the conversation. The Wildcats have won six of their last seven games, mostly because of the way they have played on both sides of the three-point line. Arizona leads the league in made threes per game (7.5) and three-point percentage (37.9), and it is also first in three-point percentage defense (27.2). The Wildcats' real vulnerability is in the paint. You'd think UCLA should be able to take advantage with Josh Smith and the Wear twins, but those three have not pulled their weight this season. It's hard to imagine them playing any differently on the road against a good team that really needs to keep winning.
6 p.m. (ESPN2) George Mason (23-7, 14-3 CAA) at VCU (24-6, 14-3)
If this game is remotely as exciting as the first meeting between these teams, then it will be well worth tuning in. George Mason's Sherrod Wright capped a crazy comeback by nailing a three-pointer at the buzzer to give the Patriots a 62-61 win. That game, however, was in Fairfax. Now the site moves to Richmond, where VCU should shoot better than the 36.2 percent (including 6-for-21 from three-point range) it put up that game. The Rams would also do well to put the clamps on Patriots forward Ryan Pearson, who had 24 points and 11 rebounds against VCU but shot 3-for-12 in GMU's overtime loss at Northeastern Wednesday night.
7 p.m. Penn (23-3, 9-1 Ivy) at Harvard (23-3, 9-1)
Gosh, if only people would talk about Harvard basketball a little more! Get ready for a little more chatter about the Crimson, which is on the verge of clinching their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1946. To accomplish that, Harvard first needs to win Friday at home against Princeton, which handed the Crimson their only conference loss two weeks ago in Baldwin Gymnasium. Assuming Harvard gets its revenge (and I believe it will), I like it to upend a plucky Penn squad that mustered just 32 percent shooting in an ugly 56-50 loss to Harvard in Philly two weeks ago. I?ve said before that the way this Harvard team defends reminds me of Butler the last couple of years. I?m not saying the Crimson will get to the Final Four, but I am saying they are far and away the class of the Ivy.
Sunday, Feb. 26
4 p.m. (CBS) No. 16 Wisconsin (20-7, 9-5 Big Ten) at No. 8 Ohio State (23-5, 11-4)
I'm sure the Buckeyes hoped they would enter the last week of February in first place in the Big Ten and on track for a No. 1 seed, but that kind of disappointment is a high-class problem. The Buckeyes are a very good team, but they do have some flaws that have been exposed while they've lost two of their last four games. Like a lot of teams, if OSU doesn't shoot well from the perimeter, it can be beaten. (OSU rebounded to shoot 65 percent in its 16-point thrashing of Illinois Wednesday night.) Like a lot of teams, Ohio State doesn't get enough production from its bench. Still, Wisconsin has its own problems and has also lost two of its last four, including at home by six points to the Buckeyes three weeks ago. Ohio State simply has too big a margin for error. Plus, it's playing at home.
Last Pickoff: 6-4               Overall: 85-35

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