By Seth Davis
December 03, 2010
Weekend Picks
Friday, December 3
11 p.m. ET (Fox Sports Net) No. 5 Kansas State (6-1) at Washington State (5-0)
Washington State has gone undefeated thanks to a weak schedule and a combined 43 points per game from Klay Thompson and juco transfer Faisal Aden. The rubber is about to hit the road. Washington State has to play Gonzaga next week, but first the Cougars have to deal with Kansas State, a hard-nosed team built for success on the road. Priority number one will be to defending Jacob Pullen, who just set a new school record for career three-pointers made during Monday night's win over Division II Emporia State.
Saturday, December 4
3:15 p.m. ET (ESPN) Butler (4-2) vs. No. 1 Duke (7-0) in East Rutherford, N.J.
The big question for Butler is whether junior point guard Ronald Nored is going to play. Nored suffered a concussion in the first minute of the Bulldogs' win at Siena on Nov. 23. He missed the last two games -- an overtime defeat at home to Evansville and a two-point win at Loyola -- and though he can't get officially cleared until Saturday morning, it sounds to me like there's a chance he'll play. Even so, it won't be enough to throttle the nation's best team. I expect Duke to experience an emotional letdown coming off the big win over Michigan State, but it won't be bad enough to lose this championship game rematch at the Meadowlands, a.k.a. Cameron North.
5:15 p.m. ET (ESPN2) N.C. State (4-2) at No. 8 Syracuse (7-0)
I understand N.C. State is playing without its best big man, senior Tracy Smith, for another couple of weeks as he recovers from knee surgery, but that is still no excuse for losing by 39 points at home to Wisconsin. Syracuse might not be getting much production down low from Fab Melo, but its other two freshmen, Dion Waiters and C.J. Fair, have been giving the Orange a nice spark off the bench.
12:30 p.m. ET (CBS) No. 10 Kentucky (5-1) at North Carolina (4-3)
Yes, the Heels looked shaky during losses to Minnesota, Vanderbilt and Illinois, but those are pretty good teams. I do not foresee a disaster in Chapel Hill akin to what happened last season. The question is whether the Heels are ready to take a step forward in this game. I say they are, especially if Roy Williams gives freshman Kendall Marshall more minutes at the point. Kentucky had a nice win in Maui against Washington, but the Wildcats also showed their age and got embarrassed by UConn in the final, so they're hardly invincible. Terrence Jones has been one of the top five freshmen in the nation, but UK's other frosh stud, Brandon Knight, is making just 32.5 percent from three-point range and committing 4.5 turnovers per game. It's odd to characterize a North Carolina win at home as an upset, but that's what it would be. And that's what I'm predicting.
Noon ET (ESPNU) Utah State (5-1) at No. 16 Georgetown (7-0)
If you didn't catch any of Georgetown's overtime win over Missouri in Kansas City on Tuesday night, you missed a beauty. The Hoyas squandered an 18-point, first-half lead, needed a late three-pointer by Chris Wright to tie it in regulation, and then dug deep to outscore a very good Tigers team 17-8 in the extra session. Georgetown does not have overwhelming talent, but there are not many teams whose players have a better understanding of their roles. The Hoyas are ranked 11th in the country in field goal percentage, fifth in three-point percentage (44.9) and fourth in threes made (10.7). That's bad news for Utah State, which is 306th nationally in three-point defense.
1 p.m. ET (Big Ten Network) Harvard (5-1) at Michigan (4-2)
Call this the Tommy Amaker Bowl, Part II. You may recall that three years ago, Amaker, who had been fired by Michigan the previous spring, was in his first season at Harvard when his Crimson knocked off the Wolverines in Boston by 11 points. Ironically, this time around Amaker might have an even better team. Harvard began the season with a road loss at George Mason, but it has since won five straight, including a 16-point blasting of Colorado, which was supposed to be a sleeper in the Big 12. Still, I have to say I was surprised that Michigan was able to get a road win at Clemson this week, especially considering how young the Wolverines are. (They don't have a senior on the roster.) They also darn near knocked off Syracuse last week. I've got to think with Amaker coming to Ann Arbor, they'll be ready to play.
10:05 p.m. ET (The Mtn.) Wichita State (5-1) at No. 17 San Diego State (7-0)
The Shockers blew a golden opportunity to build their case for an at-large bid (should they need one) when they squandered an eight-point lead in the second half against UConn in Hawaii. They now have two chances to get a decent road win outside the Missouri Valley -- this game, which is part of the Missouri Valley-Mountain West Challenge, and a Dec. 18 date at LSU. Unfortunately, I don't think the Aztecs are going to play along. Their perfect record includes a true road win at Gonzaga and a 14-point whooping of Saint Mary's at home on Wednesday night. San Diego State still needs to tighten up its defense and improve its foul shooting (254th in the nation at 64.4 percent), but this is an efficient, balanced, veteran team. Six players are averaging between 8.9 and 16.3 points per game, and leading scorer Kawhi Leonard is ranked first in the Mountain West in rebounding with 10.1 per game.
5:15 p.m. ET (ESPN) No. 20 Illinois (7-1) vs. Gonzaga (4-2) in Seattle
Gonzaga got some good news on Thursday when an MRI on 6-foot-8 sophomore forward Elias Harris revealed no tear in his right Achilles' tendon. Harris injured his heel in the Bulldogs' loss to San Diego State, and he was held out of the team's win over Eastern Washington on Tuesday for precautionary reasons. The bad news for the Zags is that Illinois is one of the few teams that has played a tougher nonconference schedule than they have. The Illini took Texas to overtime before losing in Madison Square Garden, and they handled North Carolina with ease in Champaign on Wednesday night. Illinois isn't the toughest team, but then again neither is Gonzaga. If this game were in Spokane, I might be tempted to go with the home team, but since it's in Seattle I'll take the squad with more and better weapons.
2 p.m. ET (Fox Sports Net) California (4-2) at Iowa State (6-1)
It's going to take a long time for the Golden Bears to live down their five-point first half in their loss to Notre Dame at the Old Spice Classic last week. Even worse was their 12-point defeat two days later to Boston College, which fell at home to Yale in its second game. Yet, Cal also beat New Mexico by 25 points and also knocked off Temple, so the Bears have the potential to win this one if they can make a few shots. It's hard to know what to make of the Cyclones under first-year coach Fred Hoiberg. They piled up wins against weak competition and are getting nice production from senior guard Diante Garrett, who is second in the Big 12 in assists (6.0) and fifth in scoring (17.4). But they failed their first real test when they lost at Northern Iowa on Wednesday. I don't think either of these teams will make the NCAA tournament, but Iowa State has a good vibe with The Mayor in charge, and it has the edge playing in Ames.
Sunday, December 5
8 p.m. ET (MASN/FSN) Temple (4-2) vs. Maryland (6-2) in Washington, D.C.
I hope Temple center Lavoy Allen has been studying video of Maryland's Jordan Williams. Allen has been a reliable rebounder and defender during his three-plus years in Philly, but he has never attacked the rim offensively the way Williams has this season. Maryland's 6-10 sophomore is third in the ACC in points (17.1) and first in rebounds (11.8). Temple, on the other hand, has had a couple of disappointing losses to Cal and Texas A&M, and Allen has underperformed throughout. The Owls have also been one of the worst three-point-shooting teams in the country. Bad formula to try to knock off Maryland in a de facto road game at the Verizon Center.
Record Last Week: 0-0               Overall: 0-0

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