By Seth Davis
February 04, 2011
The Weekend Forecast
Friday, February 4
7 p.m. ET (ESPNU) Harvard (15-4, 4-0 Ivy) at Princeton (14-4, 2-0)
You better bring some extra pocket protectors for this one -- the game of the year in the Ivy League. Harvard's record includes a nine-point win at Boston College and a three-point loss at Michigan. Tommy Amaker has brought a fast pace to Cambridge, where his Crimson rank second in the Ivy in points (71.4) and made threes (7.4), but also average the most turnovers in the league (14.1). Princeton, meanwhile, is not the tortoise it once was. The Tigers are scoring 71.1 points per game and lead the league in field-goal percentage (47.5) and three-point percentage (37.1). Harvard will have the best player on the floor in 6-foot-8 junior forward Keith Wright, who ranks in the top five in the league in points (14.7), rebounds (8.4) and blocks (1.56), but he'll still be playing on the Tigers' floor, and Jadwin Gymnasium has not been good to Harvard over the years.
Saturday, February 5
Noon ET (ESPN) No. 25 West Virginia (15-6, 6-3) at No. 12 Villanova (18-4, 6-3)
You have to give the Mountaineers a ton of credit for how they've played their three games since Bob Huggins suspended leading scorer Casey Mitchell indefinitely. After fighting Louisville hard on the road before losing by one, West Virginia won at Cincinnati by 11 and then throttled Seton Hall by 12 at home. Still, WVU would have a hard time winning at Villanova even if Mitchell were in the lineup, and that's doubly true considering the Wildcats are just getting over a stretch where they lost three out of four. The best news about Villanova's bounce-back win over Marquette on Wednesday night was the fact that it finally won a game from the inside out. Mouphtaou Yarou had 18 points and Antonio Pena added 14 points and 10 rebounds. Most of the league opponents 'Nova faces are bigger than Marquette, but that is no excuse for not letting those big dogs eat.
1 p.m. ET (CBS) St. John's (13-8, 5-5) at UCLA (15-7, 7-3)
The Red Storm's feel-good win over Duke last weekend will help their case to make the NCAA tournament, but it shouldn't give anyone amnesia. This is still the team that lost five of its previous six games, not to mention nonconference losses to St. Bonaventure and Fordham. St. John's did well to edge Rutgers by a bucket at home Wednesday night, but I think it is going to have a harder time in Steve Lavin's return to Pauley Pavilion. People like to bash on UCLA (and the Pac-10 in general), but the Bruins have quietly put together a pretty decent season that is likely to end with them in the NCAA tournament. As always, the key for UCLA will be keeping freshman center Josh Smith out of foul trouble. Ben Howland is now bringing him off the bench, and he responded with 15 points and six rebounds over 29 minutes in the win over USC Wednesday night. It will hurt Lavin to lose this game, but as he walks off the floor, he can take solace in looking up at those 10 NCAA championship banners and thinking to himself, "Thank goodness I don't have to coach under those anymore."
4 p.m. ET No. 2 Kansas (21-1, 6-1) at Nebraska (15-6, 3-4)
Is there a bigger X-factor in America than Josh Selby? The last time KU faced Nebraska (in Lawrence, no less), the Jayhawks were lucky to win, largely because their X-factor was a non-factor. Bill Self was so disgusted with Selby's four early turnovers that he sat his player on the pine and didn't put him back in. Selby finished with three points in 13 minutes. Two games later, Selby had four points on 2-of-9 shooting as Kansas blew a 15-point lead at home against Texas. Lesson learned. Selby has been terrific in the three games since, averaging 14.3 points on 53.1 percent shooting. Nebraska has been getting steady production from senior guard Lance Jeter, who is third in the Big 12 in steals (1.95) and fifth in assists (4.3), but that won't be nearly enough against a very good team playing with a greater sense of urgency.
4 p.m. ET (ESPN) Memphis (16-6, 5-3) vs. Gonzaga (15-8, 5-3)
It wasn't too long ago that this game was going to help decide who would get a high seed in the NCAA tournament. Now it might determine which one of these teams gets to play in the NCAA tournament. Gonzaga suffered a devastating loss at home to Saint Mary's last week, which capped a three-game losing streak, but the Zags bounced back with two straight wins, including an impressive road win at Portland Thursday night. Memphis, meanwhile, is coming in on a two-game losing streak with losses at Marshall and at home Wednesday to Tulsa. With junior forward Wesley Witherspoon still shelved by an injury, Memphis coach Josh Pastner is forced to start four freshmen alongside senior forward Will Coleman. The Tigers are simply too young to win a game against a veteran team that is so achingly desperate for a win.
4 p.m. ET UNLV (17-5, 5-3) at No. 8 BYU (21-2, 7-1)
The Jimmer and his mates are playing on some tired legs right now. The Cougars followed up their big win at home against San Diego State by tripping up at New Mexico three nights later. They almost followed that up by losing at Wyoming, where Fredette had his worst shooting night of the season, going 7-for-21 from the floor, including 2-for-11 from three-point range, and finished with 26 points. Still, he made the biggest play of the game when it counted, converting an and-one and a pair of free throws in the final minute to allow the Cougars to escape with a 69-62 win. (There's a reason "The Jimmer" rhymes with "The Winner.") Needless to say, BYU will be pleased to return to Provo to face a team that plays solid D but only makes five three-pointers per game. The Runnin' Rebels lost by 12 points to BYU at home back on January 5, so there's no reason to expect a better result on the road.
9 p.m. ET (ESPN) No. 10 Kentucky (16-5, 4-3) at Florida (17-5, 6-2)
I've been pretty bullish on Kentucky for most of the season, mostly because I'm waiting for this young team to grow up. The irony is, it's not the Wildcats' freshmen who are letting them down -- it's the upperclassmen. When 6-10 senior center Josh Harrelson went for 23 points and 14 rebounds in the win at Louisville, it looked like the start of something really good. It turned out to be the end, as Jorts hasn't broken double-digit scoring in a month. While freshmen Brandon Knight, Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb were combining for 57 points at Ole Miss Tuesday night, DeAndre Liggins and Darius Miller were combining for eight. I might give the 'Cats an edge in this one if the game were at Rupp, but they are going up against an older Florida team that is brimming with confidence, having won four of its last five (including Tuesday's escape at home over Vanderbilt in overtime). Chandler Parsons had 18 points and 11 rebounds in the win. The Gators are at their best when they play through him.
1 p.m. ET (CBS) Illinois (15-7, 5-4) at Northwestern (13-8, 3-7)
Me: Charlie Brown. Illinois: Lucy. I'm gonna take one more shot at sending this thing through the uprights. I have no idea what has gotten into Demetri McCamey lately, but he has been costing himself a lot of money with NBA scouts. Over his last three games, McCamey has scored a total of 16 points and made just six of his 31 shot attempts. Fortunately, Mike Davis scored 22 on Tuesday night, which allowed Illinois to beat Penn State after losing four of its previous five games. Northwestern should get its best player, John Shurna, back after he missed the Ohio State game with a concussion. The Wildcats nearly knocked off the Buckeyes without him before falling by one, so if McCamey and his mates don't bring their A-game they're not going to win. I'll predict they're going to be ready, but I can't say I feel very confident about it.
Sunday, February 6
2 p.m. ET (ESPN) No. 1 Ohio State (22-0, 9-0) at No. 18 Minnesota (16-6, 5-5)
The Gophers are 1-2 since they lost senior point guard Al Nolen to a foot injury. Facing the Buckeyes is no way to get healthy. I believe it's only a matter of time before Ohio State loses, but even though Minnesota is one of the few teams in the league with the size to deal with Jared Sullinger, I don't think they have enough offensive firepower to pull off the upset. Besides having to play without Nolen, the Gophers have lost the ability to play Blake Hoffarber on the wing because he has to take over Nolen's responsibilities at the point. Minnesota's horrid 11-for-22 performance at the foul line cost them in Wednesday night's loss to a suddenly resurgent Indiana team. I do think the Buckeyes' free-throw shooting will cost them sometime soon (OSU was 15-for-25 in its win over Michigan Thursday night), but for now their record will remain perfect.
2 p.m. ET (Fox Sports Net) Florida State (16-6, 6-2) at No. 23 North Carolina (16-5, 6-1)
If you'll recall, I bestowed on the Tar Heels a rare Buy-Plus rating in my annual Hoop Thoughts Stock Report in early January. You'll also recall that I finally leapt off their bandwagon after their 20-point pratfall at Georgia Tech. We'll know more about how legit this team is as it navigates a three-game stretch of Florida State at home, followed by road dates at Duke and Clemson. Larry Drew II shook the program by transferring suddenly this week, but that could be a classic case of addition by subtraction. The best news obviously for North Carolina is that freshman forward Harrison Barnes is starting to play with confidence. The second-best news is that the same can be said for freshman guard Reggie Bullock. He also came into Chapel Hill with a big reputation as a shooter, but until he made four quick three-pointers off the bench to help the Heels overcome a five-point deficit at Boston College, he hadn't lived up to it. Florida State will pose a tough defensive test, but the Seminoles still can't score enough.
Record Last Week: 4-6               Overall: 51-29

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