By Seth Davis
January 29, 2010
Weekend Picks
Saturday, January 30
7 p.m. ET Harvard (13-3) at Cornell (16-3)
It certainly feels strange to lead these picks with a couple of teams whose GPAs are more important than their scoring averages, but this is the best game of the weekend. Obviously the sexiest matchup is at guard between Cornell's Ryan Wittman, the Ivy's second-leading scorer (18.2), and Harvard's Jeremy Lin, who is third in the league in scoring (17.1), second in assists (4.8) and first in steals (2.94, which also ranks fifth in the nation). But the game will be decided in the paint, where Harvard's 6-foot-8 sophomore center Keith Wright, who is fifth in the nation in blocks (1.81), will have to contend with the Big Red's Jeff Foote, a 7-foot senior who is averaging 12.7 points and 8.6 rebounds a game. I'm going with Cornell because of Foote, because it is at home (this will be Harvard's third straight road game), and because it has a terrific point guard in Louis Dale while Harvard has been too careless with the basketball (the Crimson's 17.0 turnovers per game ranks 326th nationally). Incidentally, you won't find this game anywhere on TV, but you can watch it live on I know I will.
4 p.m. ET (ESPN) Vanderbilt (16-3) at No. 1 Kentucky (19-1)
What does Vandy need to do to convince a guy like me that they're for real? Well ... a road win at Tennessee with your top two scorers limited by foul trouble is a pretty darn good start. The best part about the victory is that America saw just how good a player the Commodores have in senior point guard Jermaine Beal, who had 25 points on 8-for-12 shooting. Unfortunately, Vandy can thank South Carolina's Devan Downey for making sure Kentucky will take the court in this one with maximum focus. Vandy can hang with the Wildcats, but I just can't see UK dropping two in a row.
7 p.m. ET (ESPN) No. 2 Kansas (19-1) at No. 11 Kansas State (17-3)
Home-court advantage is usually huge in college basketball, but K-State has not had much of an advantage over KU in Bramlage Coliseum. The Jayhawks have won 25 of the last 26 times they played there, and with the No. 1 ranking in their sights they should have plenty of incentive in this one. But these Wildcats are not the patsies they have been in the past -- as evidenced not only by their win over then-No. 1 Texas at home but also by their impressive road victory at Baylor on Tuesday night. Kansas State is one of the few teams in the country that can match Kansas' depth (10 players are averaging 10 or more minutes), and Jacob Pullen, the bearded sharpshooter who had made just 10-of-39 from three-point range over his previous six games, broke out of his shooting slump against Baylor by hitting 6-of-7 from behind the arc and finishing with 25 points. This one will go to overtime, and the Wildcats will prevail.
4 p.m. ET No. 24 Baylor (15-4) at No. 6 Texas (18-2)
Much attention has been paid to Texas' lack of a defined quarterback point guard. (Alas, Colt McCoy is not available). Rick Barnes appears to be trying to shorten his rotation, playing essentially eight guys in the Longhorns' win over Texas Tech on Wednesday night. But Texas' larger problem (to the degree a team this good has large problems) is that Dexter Pittman and Avery Bradley have had a lousy few weeks. Pittman is averaging 6.0 points and 5.0 rebounds in Big 12 play, while Bradley has shot 38.3 percent over his last five games and dished a grand total of six assists. Baylor is the kind of tall, athletic team that can give Texas trouble, especially since the Bears play so much zone. They fell just short of knocking off Kansas State on Tuesday night, but I've got a hunch they're ready for a breakthrough.
1 p.m. ET (CBS) No. 8 Duke (17-3) at No. 7 Georgetown (15-4)
It is fascinating to watch the debate over whether this Duke team is "for real," or whether it will crap out early in the NCAA tournament like it did the last few seasons. I tend toward the former, but we'll know more after this one. Georgetown appeared to be for real as well until the Hoyas ran into a buzz saw at Syracuse. Georgetown took a 14-0 lead in that game but ended up getting pummeled by 17. The Hoyas, however, are ineffective against a zone defense, which negates much of their Princeton-style cutting, and contrary to preseason expectations, Duke has played very little zone this season. I also like the way Georgetown's guards, Chris Wright and Austin Freeman, match up defensively against Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith.
Noon ET (ESPN) Louisville (13-7) at No. 9 West Virginia (16-3)
Over the last couple of seasons, few teams have improved as much as Louisville during the month of February. Well, it ain't February yet. It is striking to see a Rick Pitino-coached team executing so poorly around the three-point line at both ends of the floor. The Cardinals are ranked 248th nationally in three-point defense (35.6 percent) and 265th in three-point shooting (31.6 percent). West Virginia, which has suffered from spotty point guard play, should be vulnerable against a pressure defense, but Louisville has not yet shown itself to be formidable in that facet of the game. I also think the Mountaineers took an important psychological step forward by coming back from a 12-point deficit against Ohio State to win going away last weekend.
Sunday, January 31
1 p.m. ET (CBS) Florida (15-5) at No. 14 Tennessee (15-4)
Florida's four-game winning streak looks pretty good until you consider the Gators are two Chandler Parsons miracles from having lost four of their last seven games. Junior forward Alex Tyus has quietly been having a solid season (23 points vs. Georgia on Wednesday night), and along with Vernon Macklin he could spell trouble for Tennessee -- especially if Wayne Chism is still affected by his sprained knee. The Vols have lost two in a row, and I usually go with desperate home teams, but it looks to me this team might be running on an empty emotional right now, and the Gators are coming in hot.
1 p.m. ET (CBS) Minnesota (13-7) at No. 20 Ohio State (15-6)
For all the talk about the case Evan Turner is making for national Player of the Year, the contributions of his teammates in recent weeks have gone unnoticed. William Buford had 19 points in the win over Purdue, ripped down 12 boards in the win over Wisconsin, and had a game-high 22 points in the loss at West Virginia. David Lighty had 18 points against the Badgers and 20 in the comeback win at Iowa on Wednesday night. The flip side is the Buckeyes are getting zero help from their bench, and in the end that will be their undoing, but for the time being they should have enough firepower to beat a Minnesota squad that has dropped four of its last six games.
3:30 p.m. ET (Fox Sports Net) California (14-6) at Arizona (11-9)
Sitting atop the Pac-10 standings is like being the world's tallest midget, but give Cal credit for taking care of business the last two weeks. The Bears got 25 points from Jamal Boykin to pick up their fifth win in their last six games win at Arizona State on Thursday night. In other words, they're due for a loss. The Wildcats have also won four of their last five, and they have a rising star in freshman forward Derrick Williams, their leading scorer and rebounder.
7:45 p.m. ET (Fox Sports Net) Virginia (12-6) at North Carolina (13-7)
That thud you hear is the Virginia Cavaliers plummeting back to Earth. Call it the Luke Winn jinx, but after taking surprising hold of first place in the ACC by winning their first three games, the Cavs have since lost at Wake Forest and home to Virginia Tech in overtime. Now they must travel to Chapel Hill to face a team that stopped the hemorrhaging by winning at N.C. State. Deon Thompson played his best game of the season against the Wolfpack, finishing with 20 points while going up against Tracy Smith, but the more promising sign was the 14 points UNC got from freshman guard Dexter Strickland off the bench. North Carolina has a tough stretch coming up (at Virginia Tech, at Maryland, home vs. Duke), so they know it's imperative they win this one in the Dean Dome.
Record Last Week: 4-6               Overall: 38-22

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