"I Know the Game Like I'm Reffing It"

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Today's Games To Watch - New Year's Eve

Yep, it's New Year's Eve. The last day of 2014. Get ready for the horrible New Year's Eve shows, the hazy sight of the ball dropping and, of course, the sunglasses and Advil. But first, there is a bunch of college basketball to digest. The Big Ten got underway yesterday and today the Big East, AAC, and the Mountain West follow suit.

#18 St. John's (10-1) at Seton Hall (10-2) 12PM, Newark, NJ, FS1

The Big East gets rolling at noon with a tri-state area match-up in rough and tumble Newark. Don't worry, the game will be played inside and there will be plenty of security. The Johnnies have looked really good lately. They handled Long Beach State and Tulane last week with relative ease, which shows they are no longer playing to the level of the competition, their previous M.O. Seton Hall has been surprisingly solid, as well. The Pirates have mixed experience with youth nicely, but their no-show at Georgia over a week ago showed they may not be ready for primetime. The Hall is also likely to be without their primary offensive threat, freshman phenom Isaiah Whitehead, who has been sidelined with a stress fracture in his foot. Prediction: St. John's 69, Seton Hall 62.

Butler (10-3) at #7 Villanova (12-0) 2:30PM, Villanova, PA, FS1

The second Big East game of the season features the league's presumptive best team. Nova has been hitting on all cylinders since the start of the season. They are not invincible, by any means, as evidenced by Syracuse taking the Wildcats to overtime in Philadelphia. But, Jay Wright has one of the deepest, most balanced teams in the nation, so in order to beat them, the opposing team will have to be on their A-game. Butler is capable. They are balanced, as well, and have beaten the likes of North Carolina and Georgetown already this season. Prediction: Villanova 73, Butler 67.

Georgetown (8-3) at Xavier (9-3) 10PM, Cincinnati, OH, FS1

The last game of the Big East triumvirate is a good one that will likely end while many are stumbling to the television and looking for someone to kiss. But, if you can manage to sneak away to check out this match-up, you're almost sure to see a spirited battle that will tell you a lot about both teams. Xavier has been up-and-down so far this season. They are notoriously tough at home and their three losses have all come away from the friendly confines of the Cintas Center. Georgetown is coming off a big win over a good Indiana team at Madison Square Garden, but this will be the Hoyas' first true road game. A fourth referee may be needed just for the low post to keep an eye on Georgetown's Josh Smith and Xavier's Matt Stainbrook, which is a 600-plus pound match-up. Prediction: Xavier 72, Georgetown 70. 

Other games of note...

Temple (9-4) at Connecticut (6-4) 1PM, Hartford, CT, ESPN2
Minnesota (10-2) at Purdue (8-5) 3:15PM, West Lafayette, IN, BTN
Georgia (7-3) at Kansas State (7-5) 4PM, Manhattan, KS, ESPNU
Indiana (10-3) at Nebraska (8-4) 5:30PM, Lincoln, NE, BTN
Creighton (9-4) at Providence (10-3) 7:30PM, Providence, RI, FS1
Boise State (8-3) at #24 Colorado State (12-0) 9PM, Fort Collins, CO, ROOT

Other Top 25 games...

Penn State (12-1) at #5 Wisconsin (12-1) 1PM, Madison, WI, BTN
Wofford (7-3) at #2 Duke (11-0) 3PM, Durham, NC, ESPN3
George Mason (4-6) at #13 Oklahoma (8-3) 5PM, Norman, OK
#19 Wichita State (9-2) at Drake (2-9) 6:05PM, Des Moines, IA
Mississippi Valley State (1-11) at #9 Iowa State (9-1) 7PM, Ames, IA

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Today's Games To Watch

The Big Ten kicks off today with four afternoon games. The league has been disappointing in the non conference, having dropped to 5th in conference RPI rankings. But, the grind of league play will allow us to separate the B1G's true contenders and pretenders.

Iowa (9-4) at #17 Ohio State (11-2) 1PM, Columbus, OH, ESPN2

The Hawkeyes travel to Columbus to set off their Big Ten season. Iowa has struggled against solid competition, as they are 1-4 versus top 30 teams. Ohio State has looked better overall, but they are 0-2 against the two NCAA Tournament caliber teams they have played so far, albeit versus UNC and Louisville. So, like the Big Ten in general, both of these teams have plenty to prove entering conference play. Prediction: Ohio State 72, Iowa 67

#15 Maryland (12-1) at Michigan State (9-4) 5PM, East Lansing, MI, ESPN2

Maryland has probably been the surprise team in the Big Ten so far. Coach Mark Turgeon had come under fire from many of the Terrapins faithful, but he seems to have answered his critics after a 12-1 start that is tied for the best record in the league. There is also more good news in Terpland, as Dez Wells is back in the line-up after being out with a wrist injury. The Spartans have struggled, for the most part, this season. Their best win to date was versus Marquette and they were beaten at home by Texas Southern ten days ago. This is a huge opportunity for the Spartans to get their first true quality win. Prediction: Michigan State 68, Maryland 67.

Other games of note...

Illinois (10-3) at Michigan (6-5) 3PM, Ann Arbor, MI, ESPN2
Cincinnati (8-3) at NC State (10-3) 4PM, Raleigh, NC, ESPNU
Florida (7-4) at Florida State (7-5) 7PM, Tallahassee, FL, ESPN2
Mississippi (8-3) at Dayton (9-2) 8PM, Dayton, OH, CBSS

Other Top 25 games...

Virginia Tech (8-4) at #22 West Virginia (11-1) 2PM, Morgantown, WV, ESPNU
Long Beach State (4-9) at #4 Louisville (11-1) 4PM, Louisville, KY, ESPN3
Davidson (8-1) at #3 Virginia (11-0) 6PM, Charlottesville, VA, ESPNU
William & Mary (4-4) at #12 North Carolina (9-3) 7PM, Chapel Hill, NC, ESPN3
Hartford (6-5) at #14 Notre Dame (12-1) 7:30PM, South Bend, IN, ESPN3
Norfolk State (6-5) at #25 Baylor (10-1) 8PM, Waco, TX
Kent State (7-3) at #16 Kansas (9-2) 8PM, Lawrence, KS, ESPN3
Carroll at #11 Utah (9-2) 9:30PM, Salt Lake City, UT, P12N 

Monday, December 29, 2014

Top 25 - Week 7

There is not too much movement in the rankings this week, as last week was relatively slow. But, things pick up quickly with the Big Ten starting conference play tomorrow and the Big East kicking off on New Year's Eve.

1. Kentucky (13-0) - The Wildcats passed their latest test with flying colors, going into Louisville and winning going away. They get a week off for their efforts and start SEC play next Tuesday vs. Ole Miss.
2. Duke (10-0) - The Blue Devils were off last week. They tune up with Toledo and Wofford before their ACC opener with BC on Saturday.
3. Virginia (11-0) - The Cavs, too, were off last week. They host Davidson then travel to Miami this week.
4. Louisville (11-1) - The Cards drop a notch after struggling to score and losing at home to Kentucky. They have Long Beach State and Wake Forest on the docket this week.
5. Wisconsin (12-1) - The Badgers took care of Cal and a game Buffalo squad last week. They start the Big Ten season with winnable games versus Penn State and Northwestern.
6. Gonzaga (11-1) - The Zags got a solid win at BYU last week. They travel to San Diego and Portland this week.
7. Villanova (12-0) - Nova avoided the NJIT scare in grand fashion last week. The Cats host Butler and travel to Seton Hall to start off the Big East season.
8. Arizona (12-1) - Zona gets the side-eye for losing at UNLV last Tuesday night. They host Arizona State in their Pac 12 opener Sunday.
9. Iowa State (9-1) - Cyclones moved up by staying idle last week. They travel all the way to Brooklyn, NY just to play South Carolina Saturday.
10. Texas (10-2) - The Longhorns showed vulnerability in their home loss to Stanford last week. They get Rice and an interesting away game at Texas Tech this week.
11. Utah (9-2) - The Utes coasted to a win over South Dakota State. They host the Pac 12 Los Angeles schools this week.
12. North Carolina (9-3) - UNC blew out poor UAB over the weekend. They shouldn't have much trouble with William & Mary or Clemson this week, either.
13. Oklahoma (8-3) - The Sooners crushed Weber State last week. They host Baylor Saturday.
14. Notre Dame (12-1) - The Irish blew out Northern Illinois last Monday. They host Georgia Tech on Saturday.
15. Maryland (12-1) - The Terps handled Oakland last week. They have a tough start in their new Big Ten home, at Michigan State and versus Minnesota this week.
16. Kansas (9-2) - Bill Self's squad went to Philly and got destroyed by Temple. They now have been outscored 149-92 in their two losses. They're at suddenly dangerous UNLV on Sunday.
17. Ohio State (11-2) - The Buckeyes continued to crush lesser competition last week. They'll have to step it up versus Iowa and Illinois this week.
18. St. John's (10-1) - The Johnnies are off to their best start in years, after taking care of Long Beach State and Tulane. They get Seton Hall and Butler this week.
19. Wichita State (9-2) - Close games finally caught up to the Shockers when they were tripped up by George Washington in Hawaii. They see Drake and Illinois State this week.
20. Northern Iowa (11-1) - The Panthers face Evansville and Loyola Chicago this week, after taking down South Dakota State over the weekend.
21. VCU (9-3) - The Rams blew out East Tennessee State last Monday. They are at Fordham to kick off their Atlantic 10 schedule Sunday.
22. West Virginia (11-1) - Bob Huggins has the Mountaineers looking good, as they prepare for their Big 12 opener at TCU on Saturday.
23. Washington (11-1) - The Huskies lost their first game of the season in shocking fashion to Stony Brook last night. They'll have to regroup quickly for road games at Cal and Stanford this week.
24. Colorado State (12-0)- The Rams remained undefeated with an overtime victory at New Mexico State Saturday. They have tough match-ups with Boise State and New Mexico this week.
25. Baylor (10-1) - The Bears survived a minor scare from Southern seven days ago. They are at Oklahoma on Saturday.

On the outside looking in...

Georgetown (8-3); Minnesota (11-2); San Diego State (9-3); ODU (10-1); Indiana (10-3); Butler (10-3); Michigan State (9-4); TCU (12-0); George Washington (9-3); Providence (10-3).

Dropped out:


Saturday, December 27, 2014

Today's Games To Watch

Highlights of this past week include George Washington beating Wichita State to take the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii, Hawaii taking Wichita State to overtime and beating Colorado, Stanford upsetting Texas, UNLV shocking Arizona, Temple crushing Kansas, and Providence handling Miami in Brooklyn.

This last Saturday in 2014 brings us a couple of good games and a monster.

Indiana (10-2) vs. Georgetown (7-3) 12PM, New York, NY, ESPN2

I'll be at this one to watch two teams on the outside looking in at the Top 25 and take-them-seriously status. So, both teams will want this game and we will likely start looking at the winner differently. The Hoosiers are coming off a nice win over Butler seven days ago, while the Hoyas looked a tad shaky in escaping with a 3-point victory at home versus Charlotte. Georgetown will look to slow down Indiana's explosive perimeter offense and make Josh Smith a major force on their end. But this game will likely be determined by guards, Yogi Ferrell, James Blackmon Jr and Robert Johnson for the Hoosiers, and D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera and LJ Peak for the Hoyas. Prediction: Georgetown 75, Indiana 73.

#1 Kentucky (12-0) at #3 Louisville (11-0) 2PM, Louisville, KY, ESPN2

Yeah, it doesn't get any better than this one. This rivalry game is a must watch every year. This year, if you're watching anything else, please turn in your college hoops pass. It has been opined that if Kentucky can win this game, they are destined to run the table. The problem with that theory is that there is no doubt UK will be as focused today as they will be for any game this season. Pitino and Louisville will likely see the Wildcats' best effort. That's pretty scary. But, Louisville isn't bad either and they have a great coach, also. These are arguably the two best defensive teams in the nation. However, Kentucky is the far better offensive team at this point. Oh, and don't forget those 8 McDonald's All-Americans Coach Cal will throw at Pitino. Louisville will have to get extraordinary offensive contributions from their guards, as well as from All-American Montrezl Harrell, who must also avoid foul trouble going up against Kentucky's four-deep frontline. Prediction: Kentucky 74, Louisville 66. 

#8 Gonzaga (10-1) at BYU (8-3) 6PM, Provo, UT, ESPN2

Another one of the best teams in the nation, the Zags will try to get a nice road win at dangerous BYU. The Cougars are coming off wins over Stanford and UMass and are one of the more potent and efficient offensive teams in the country. Gonzaga's lone loss this season was at Arizona and they are one of the few teams in the country even better offensively than BYU. But, the Bulldogs better be on their game in Provo, where the Cougars' only blemish was Utah. Prediction: Gonzaga 83, BYU 77. 

Other games of note: 

Georgia State (6-3) at Green Bay (7-3) 1PM, Green Bay, WI, ESPN3
#25 Colorado State (11-0) at New Mexico State (4-8) 9PM, Las Cruces, NM, ROOT

Other Top 25 games:

UAB (4-8) at #13 North Carolina (8-3) 4PM, Chapel Hill, NC, ESPN2
Oakland (3-8) at #18 Maryland (11-1) 5PM, College Park, MD, BTN
Wright State (6-5) at #19 Ohio State (10-2) 7PM, Columbus, OH, BTN

Friday, December 26, 2014

I Can't Breathe Breathes Much-Needed Life Into Athlete Activism

On a Wednesday night, earlier this month, the entire Georgetown Hoyas basketball team donned the now familiar "I Can't Breathe" t-shirts during warm-ups of their nationally televised game versus Kansas.

The message seemed clear. The Hoyas were joining the nationwide protest against police brutality and concurrent judicial inaction in the wake of the deaths of Eric Garner, Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin.

However, even as they seemingly take a stand, athletes have been apt to tread lightly.

After the game, Georgetown senior Josh Smith followed LeBron James's lead from two nights earlier. Smith painstakingly pointed out that he was not making a statement against the police, not picking sides, but rather, simply supporting the family of Eric Garner.

What struck me about Smith and James's caveat was the reluctance of athletes, both professional and amateur, to say or do anything that could be considered politically or socially controversial.

What are they afraid of?

Of course, there is that long talked about specter of disparaging one's reputation, or "brand." This is the old Michael Jordan, "republicans buy sneakers, too," argument, or a fear that pissing off a certain percentage of your "fans" will be detrimental to your career and livelihood.

But, throughout recent history we have seen athletes prosper after such heinous acts or allegations of rape, murder and domestic violence.

Speaking out about a political or social issue of importance can't be that bad, can it?

There is also this narrative propagated by the professional leagues and much of the public that states: playing professional sports or college athletics is not a right, but a privilege.

While the "not a right" part may be correct, calling it a privilege seems disingenuous.

The only privilege I see is the privilege of being super talented.

These leagues, owners, schools and fans are not giving athletes anything they haven't earned. If athletes were not extraordinary at their sports they would not be rewarded. If athletes were providing services that were easily duplicated, fans would not be uncontrollably drawn to those athletes and owners would have no reason to compensate them.

The point is, if you are really good at sports, you can prosper and certainly survive some people disagreeing with your opinion, however controversial.

Though, I struggle to find controversy in the opinion that unarmed individuals, as a rule, should not be killed by protectors of the peace. Just as there is no controversy in stating that the murder of a police officer is a heinous act. 

When it comes to college athletes, like the Georgetown team, it makes even more sense to express opinions on political and social issues. This is one of the purposes of college and higher education: to develop young minds and critical thinkers.

When a reporter questioned Georgetown Coach, John Thompson III, about their pre game statement, his father, the legendary John Thompson II interrupted the press conference. "It's a [expletive] school, man. This ain't no professional team."

Although crudely put, he was right on.

In college, it is actually the responsibility of the coach to discuss and help student athletes think through world issues. The college coach is a teacher of young men, afterall.

Another perplexing aspect of athletes' reluctance to speak out is that there doesn't seem to be any push-back from the media.

Members of the majority white sports media that I have heard speak on the subject have been unanimous in their acceptance of athletes expressing their opinions on subjects important to them. Many in the media almost seem to long for more of it.

It is doubtful this acceptance existed in the volatile 1960s, when out-spoken athletes, such as Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown and Bill Russell, risked much more than their brands by speaking out against injustice similar to what has taken place recently.

The tragic incidents between the police and minorities that have recently grabbed national attention are nothing new. In New York alone, it seems like we go through this once every couple of years. A black or hispanic person is killed in a police shooting, there is immediate uproar and protest, things eventually calm down, two years later there's another police shooting, and the cycle continues.

A majority of professional athletes and a large portion of college athletes are minorities who come from communities where tension with police is a way of life. These athletes know as well as anyone the potential danger involved in a confrontation with police. Thus, there may be no better spokespersons on the subject.

So, I commend the Georgetown men's basketball team for deciding to make a statement, just as I commend Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose, the St. Louis Rams 5, and countless other sports figures who have done the same.

I just hope it continues.

With no apologies.

This first appeared on College Hoops Daily, The College Basketball Blog.

Brooklyn Hoops Holiday Invitational

Brooklyn and the Barclays Center have quickly become a hotspot for college basketball.

This year, teams such as Duke, Virginia, Villanova, VCU, Michigan, Oregon, Stanford, UNLV and Temple have traveled to the borough of Brooklyn for key non-conference match-ups.

Monday night, the beat continued in the Brooklyn Hoops Holiday Invitational, with a Big East/ACC match-up, preceded by a New York City bragging rights game.

The latter featured two teams from the Bronx that have struggled to varying degrees. Manhattan (4-7) from the MAAC took on Fordham (3-6) from the Atlantic 10.

Manhattan and coach Steve Masiello have struggled to get it going this season, after making the NCAA Tournament last season and putting a scare into Louisville in the first round. The Jaspers' three wins coming into Monday night's game were against three of college basketball's lesser outfits, whose combined record is 4-33. Luckily for Manhattan, Monday's game was versus another such opponent.

There were unusually high expectations for Fordham this season, after they secured one of their biggest freshman signings in many years, nabbing Eric Paschall from Dobbs Ferry, NY. They also expected a major contribution from sophomore, Jon Severe, after his stellar freshman season. However, Severe left the team indefinitely due to a family issue, and while Paschall has lived up to the hype, he has struggled a bit due to a lack of help around him.

Manhattan took full advantage Monday night. The Jaspers pressured Fordham for the entirety of the game and double-teamed Paschall in the half court to get it out of his hands. Paschall was held to 7 points on 2-8 shooting, as Manhattan coasted to a 71-57 victory. The Jaspers were paced by Emmy Andujar's 14 points and 9 rebounds.

In the nightcap, Miami and Providence, two teams with NCAA Tournament aspirations, bumped heads in a spirited contest.

Both teams have been up and down early in the season.

Providence started strong, winning their first six games, including a neutral court win over Notre Dame, but hit a major road block in Lexington, losing to #1 Kentucky. Though the Friars were actually competitive with the Wildcats for most of the game, the loss, as well as some nagging injuries, seemed to have a residual affect. Providence suffered back-to-back bad losses to Boston College and Brown. However, Ed Cooley's squad regrouped and had won three straight entering Monday's match-up with Miami.

Miami's season has been similar. They won their first eight games, including wins at Florida and over Illinois. But, in their next three games, they lost two inexplicable home games by double-digits to Green Bay (68-55) and Eastern Kentucky (72-44). So, Miami came into Brooklyn looking to right the ship.

Providence would have none of it.

The Friars, led by the playmaking of Kris Dunn, jumped out to an early 21-12 lead midway through the first half and maintained a 9-point lead until the 4:20 mark. But, Miami fought back, behind solid play from Angel Rodriguez, and tied the game on a Shelden McClellan bank shot at the halftime buzzer.

In the second half it was all Friars. They scored the first eight points of the half and never looked back. LeDontae Henton, Providence's leading scorer, took control. He scored on drives to the basket, drilled perimeter jump shots and took advantage of Miami's lax transition defense, scoring on numerous fast break opportunities.

Providence took their biggest lead of 72-55 at the 4:42 mark and went on to beat Miami 76-62.

The Friars had a balanced offensive attack with four players scoring in double figures, led by Henton's 25 points and Dunn's 15 points along with 13 assists.

Coach Cooley was pleased after the game.

"I thought our leaders were big-time tonight." He would not go so far as to concede Monday's game was their best performance so far this season, citing the sloppy way they ended the game.

Best game or not, it was a wonderful performance from the Friars that will likely pay dividends down the road in March when the Selection Committee starts looking at resumes. Not to mention, the confidence and momentum a game like this provides, heading into Big East Play.

For Miami, a season that started so brightly, now looks daunting as they head into ACC play having lost three of four.

This post originally appeared on College Hoops Daily, The College Basketball Blog.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Top 25 - Week 6

After a lazy week and hectic weekend, not much changed at the top of the rankings. The bottom half of the rankings remained fluid, however. Washington and Maryland made a push forward due to impressive wins, while West Virginia, Baylor and Colorado State make appearances thanks in part to big time slip-ups by Michigan State and Miami.

1. Kentucky (12-0) - Big Blue Nation is riding high after completely embarrassing UCLA, 83-44 (41-7 at halftime), on national television over the weekend. They get their biggest test so far at Louisville on Saturday.
2. Duke (10-0) - The Dukies methodically took care of UConn in New Jersey. They are off this week.
3. Louisville (10-0) - The Cardinals survived the ejection of Montrezl Harrell and won a sneaky tough road game at Western Kentucky. Harrell will be forced to miss Tuesday's game versus Cal St. Northridge, but will be there for the showdown against Kentucky, Saturday at the Yum Center.
4. Arizona (12-0) - The Cats survived a surprisingly tough road test at UTEP. They are at struggling UNLV on Tuesday.
5. Virginia (11-0) - The Cavs must've been inspired by Kentucky before destroying Harvard, 76-27, over the weekend. They get this week off for their efforts.
6. Wisconsin (10-1) - The Badgers were idle last week. They are back in action tonight at California.
7. Texas (10-1) - The Longhorns took care of Lipscomb and Long Beach State last week. They host Stanford tomorrow.
8. Gonzaga (10-1) - The Zags took it easy last week with a lazy victory over Cal Poly. They travel to BYU this Saturday.
9. Villanova (11-0) - Nova got all they could handle from Syracuse on Saturday, but found a way to get the W. They face the dangerous NJIT Highlanders on Tuesday.
10. Kansas (9-1) - After an easy win over Lafayette Saturday, the Jayhawks travel to Temple to face the Owls tonight.
11. Wichita State (7-1) - Thanks to a furious champion-like comeback, the Shockers avoided an upset loss to Alabama. They are in Hawaii for the Diamond Head Classic this week.
12. Iowa State (9-1) - The Cyclones blew out Drake last week and are idle this week.
13. North Carolina (8-3) - The enigmatic Tar Heels showed their good side by beating Ohio State from wire to wire Saturday in Chicago. They host UAB this Saturday.
14. Washington (10-0) - The surprising Huskies remained undefeated after beating Oklahoma in Vegas over the weekend. They host Tulane tonight.
15. Utah (8-2) - The Utes won at UNLV Saturday. They host South Dakota State tomorrow.
16. Oklahoma (7-3) - The Sooners lost a tough game to Washington over the weekend. They are home for Weber State tonight.
17. Notre Dame (11-1) - The Irish kept rolling by destroying Purdue Saturday. They host Northern Illinois tonight.
18. Maryland (11-1) - The Terps, still without Dez Wells, picked up a big road win at Oklahoma State yesterday. They have a soft week, as Oakland comes to town Saturday.
19. Ohio State (9-2) - Ohio State's weak early season schedule was illuminated by their double-digit loss to UNC over the weekend. They host Miami Ohio tonight.
20. Northern Iowa (10-1) - The Panthers handled big brother Iowa, 56-44, on Saturday. They are off until Sunday when they face South Dakota State.
21. St. John's (8-1) - The Johnnies played with fire, but came back from a 15-point halftime deficit to beat St. Mary's. They will need to come ready to play versus similarly pesky Long Beach State tonight.
22. VCU (8-3) - Shaka Smart & co. blew out Belmont and a Mick Cronin-less Cincinnati squad last week. They host East Tennessee State tonight.
23. West Virginia (10-1) - Huggy Bear has his team back in the rankings, after a victory over NC State in New York Saturday night. They host Wofford tonight.
24. Baylor (9-1) - The Bears have been solid, with their lone loss coming to Illinois. They are home for Southern tonight.
25. Colorado State (10-0) - Larry Eustachy has his squad undefeated, with wins over UTEP and Colorado. They have what should be an easy one versus Charleston Southern tonight.

On the outside looking in...
San Diego State (8-3); ODU (9-1); Indiana (9-2); Minnesota (9-2); Georetown (7-3); Butler (8-3); Miami (9-2); Michigan State (8-4).

Dropped out:
Michigan State; San Diego State; Miami.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Today's Games To Watch - Saturday, Dec. 20th

After a slow week, things pick up drastically today.

The few highlights of the week so far were Wichita State's huge comeback versus Alabama, Cincinnati winning a slugfest over San Diego State, Duke handling their business against UConn, and Miami losing to Eastern Kentucky by 28.

But, back to today...

#25 VCU (7-3) at Cincinnati (7-2) 12PM, Cincinnati, OH, ESPNU
The Rams are coming off an exhilarating double OT victory over Northern Iowa last week, which was really their best win of the year. Cinci has a similar story. They're coming off a bruising overtime victory over San Diego State. This will be a battle. VCU's efficient fast paced offense and havoc defense vs. Cincinnati's football team. Prediction: VCU 60, Cincinnati 56.

#14 Ohio State (9-1) vs. #17 North Carolina (7-3) 1PM, Chicago, IL, CBS
The winner of this game should probably be taken seriously. The loser will be a TBD. This will literally be the Buckeyes' second tough game, having lost to Louisville in their other one. UNC was severely humbled in Lexington last weekend, but has some decent wins on paper. Prediction: UNC 76, Ohio State 73.

Syracuse (6-3) at #9 Villanova (10-0) 1PM, Philadelphia, PA, FOX
The young, struggling Orange travel to Philly to face an old Big East Rival that is already clicking on all cylinders. It's not a good look for the Cuse right now, who are coming off a 2-point home victory over Louisiana Tech. Nova has rolled over mediocre teams like the current Syracuse squad so far this season, no need to stop now. Prediction: Nova 73, Syracuse 63. 

Indiana (8-2) vs. Butler (8-2) 2:30PM, Indianapolis, IN, FS1
This is a nice in-state rivalry game. Butler has been solid all year, in and out of that bottom of the top 25 all year. Indiana has been on the fringe of those heights with decent wins over SMU and Pittsburgh. The Bulldogs are coming off a disappointing loss at Tennessee last weekend. Prediction: Butler 74, Indiana 71.

UCLA (8-3) vs. #1 Kentucky (11-0) 3:30PM, Chicago, IL, CBS
This one is up here simply because if you get a chance to watch the best team in the country versus a team with talent, you probably should. Other than that, this shouldn't be much of a contest. The Bruins have lost to every other good team they've played by double-digits (Oklahoma, UNC, Gonzaga). And Kentucky is the best. Prediction: Kentucky 83, UCLA 65.

Iowa (8-3) vs. #23 Northern Iowa (9-1) 7:30PM, Des Moines, IA, BTN
The Panthers must be chomping at the bit. They are 9-1, in the Top 25 with a chance to kick their in-state big brother while they're kinda down. UNI hasn't played since their heartbreaking double OT loss at VCU, so they should be ready. The Hawkeyes, on the other hand, were dismantled at home by Iowa State eight days ago and haven't really looked good this year, save a road win at North Carolina. Prediction: UNI 72, Iowa 66.

#12 Oklahoma (7-2) vs. #18 Washington (9-0) 9PM, Las Vegas, NV, ESPNU
There's a good one at the MGM Grand tonight and it ain't gonna end in a decision. The Sooners have been very impressive so far this year, besides a loss at Creighton in their second game of the season. The undefeated Huskies will see how good they really are, as this will be their toughest test to date. Both teams have been strong defensively, but OU's offense is a bit more potent. Prediction: Oklahoma 68, Washington 63.

Other games of note...

Charlotte (6-4) at Georgetown (6-3) 12PM, Washington, DC
SMU (7-3) at Michigan (5-4) 12PM, Ann Arbor, MI, ESPN2
Massachusetts (6-4) at Providence (8-3) 1PM, Providence, RI, CBSS
Purdue (8-3) vs. #21 Notre Dame (10-1) 5:15PM, Indianapolis, IN, BTN
NC State (9-2) vs West Virginia (9-1) 9:30PM, New York, NY, ESPN2
Stanford (6-2) at BYU (6-3) 11PM, Provo, UT, ESPNU
#15 Utah (7-2) at UNLV (6-2) 11:30PM, Las Vegas, NV, ESPN2

Other Top 25 games...

#3 Louisville (9-0) at Western Kentucky (5-4) 12PM, Bowling Green, KY, FS1
Lafayette (6-2) at #10 Kansas (8-1) 3PM, Lawrence, KS, ESPN3
#13 Iowa State (8-1) vs. Drake (2-8) 5PM, Des Moines, IA
Texas Southern (1-8) at #16 Michigan State (8-3) 5PM, East Lansing, MI, ESPNU
Long Beach State (4-6) at #7 Texas (9-1) 8PM, Austin, TX, LHN
Ball State (2-5) at #19 San Diego State (7-3) 10PM, San Diego, CA
Cal Poly (3-4) at #8 Gonzaga (9-1) 10PM, Seattle, WA, ROOT

Monday, December 15, 2014

Top 25 - Week 5

1. Kentucky (11-0) - Despite the season-ending injury to Alex Poythress, the Wildcats continued to roll, this time over an overwhelmed North Carolina squad. They host UCLA Saturday.
2. Duke (8-0) - The Blue Devils were off last week. They face UConn Thursday in New Jersey.
3. Louisville (9-0) - The Cardinals were too much for guard heavy Indiana last week. They have a relatively easy slate until Kentucky on the 27th.
4. Arizona (10-0) - The Cats absolutely destroyed poor Michigan over the weekend. They are at UTEP on Friday.
5. Virginia (9-0) - The Cavs were off last week. They host Harvard in an interesting match-up Sunday.
6. Wisconsin (10-1) - The Badgers took care of Milwaukee and Nicholls State last week. They have this week off. 
7. Texas (8-1) - The Longhorns blew out Texas State over the weekend. They have Lipscomb and Long Beach State on the docket this week.
8. Gonzaga (8-1) - The Zags easily took care of two Pac 12 teams last week, including at UCLA Saturday night. Their strength of schedule should drop this week after facing a couple of cream puffs.
9. Villanova (10-0) - Nova beat Illinois in NYC, then had an easy time with Philly rival, Temple. They host former Big East rival, Syracuse, on Saturday.
10. Kansas (8-1) - The Jayhawks survived two tough ones last week, winning at Georgetown and holding off Utah in Kansas City. They host Lafayette on Saturday.
11. Wichita State (6-1) - The Shockers beat up-start Seton Hall and won a tough contest at Detroit last week. They host Alabama tomorrow.
12. Oklahoma (6-2) - The Sooners won at in-state rival Tulsa. They have a nice match-up with Washington on Saturday.
13. Iowa State (8-1) - The Cyclones tallied 3 wins last week, including a big one, at Iowa, with relative ease. They get a chance to two-piece Drake on Saturday.
14. Ohio State (8-1) - OSU continued to feast on cupcakes, with wins over High Point and Morehead State. They will get a change of pace Saturday when they face North Carolina.
15. Utah (7-2) - The Utes proved their early legitimacy last week by winning at BYU and taking Kansas to the wire. They travel to UNLV Saturday.
16. Michigan State (7-3) - The Spartans destroyed Oakland over the weekend. They take on Eastern Michigan and Texas Southern this week.
17. North Carolina (6-3) - UNC was dominated by Kentucky in Lexington. No shame in that, I suppose. They'll get another test Saturday versus Ohio State.
18. Washington (8-0) - The Huskies won a close game with Eastern Washington to remain unbeaten. They get their biggest test of the season, versus Oklahoma, on Saturday.
19. San Diego State (7-2) - The Aztecs beat Long Beach State in a nail biter. They are at Cincinnati on Wednesday for what could look more like rugby than basketball.
20. Miami (9-1) - The Canes had the equivalent of an off week, beating Savannah State. They face Eastern Kentucky on Friday.
21. Notre Dame (10-1) - The Irish blew out Florida State in their first ACC game of the season. They have a neutral court game versus Purdue on Saturday.
22. St. John's (7-1) - The Johnnies breezed past FDU and Fordham last week. They host St. Mary's on Friday.
23. Northern Iowa (9-1) - The Panthers won at Denver, then lost in double overtime at VCU. They have a big one versus Iowa Saturday. 
24. Maryland (10-1) - The Terps got two pedestrian victories over North Carolina Central and USC Upstate last week. They up the competition level with a trip to Oklahoma State Sunday.
25. VCU (6-3) - The Rams are back in the rankings after the aforementioned double OT win over UNI. They face Belmont and Cincinnati this week.

On the outside looking in...
West Viginia (9-1); Baylor (8-1); Syracuse; Butler (8-2); Georgetown (6-3); ODU (7-1); Iowa (8-3).

Dropped Out:
Michigan (5-4); Butler.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Today's Games to Watch - Saturday, 12/13/14

After a couple of soft schedule days, college basketball kicks back into high gear today with several big time match-ups.

#13 North Carolina (6-2) at #1 Kentucky (10-0) 12PM, Lexington, KY, CBS

Today we have one of the season's marquee match-ups, in a rematch of last season's 82-77 Tar Heel win in Chapel Hill. Many have branded Kentucky as unbeatable, however, UNC is one of the few teams in the country that can match the Wildcats' size and depth of size. They are also one of the few teams that can put at least half as many McDonald's All-Americans on the floor. Big Blue Nation suffered a soon-to-be-determined-how-serious blow, with the loss of junior Alex Poythress for the year due to an ACL tear. Though Kentucky has the bodies to replace him, Poythress was one of their frontline veterans, coming into his own, and often sparked them offensively and defensively in moments of need during close games.  The Tar Heels were a popular preseason Top 5 pick, but have struggled early, losing to Butler and Iowa. This should be a fun game to watch, as UNC will likely be the first team to attempt to run with the gazelles from Lexington. Prediction: Kentucky 83, UNC 77.

#19 Utah (7-1) vs. #10 Kansas (7-1) 3:15PM, Kansas City, MO, ESPN

Very intriguing game, here. Utah has opened eyes this season, jumping out to a more than solid start, with a win versus Wichita State and coming off a nice road win at rival BYU this week. Their road gets tougher today in Kansas City. Yes, we remember, Kansas lost by 32 to Kentucky in November. But, apparently, the Jayhawks remember as well. Bill Self's team has not lost since and their last three wins were solid ones over Michigan State, Florida and Georgetown. Both squads are good on both sides of the ball and both have a wealth of offensive contributors. Prediction: Kansas 66, Utah 61.

#21 Michigan (5-3) at #4 Arizona (9-0) 5:15PM, Tucson, AZ, ESPN

Go Blue has been more blue than go, recently, after losing back-to-back home games to NJIT and Eastern Michigan. They will undoubtedly fall from the rankings unless they can pull off the huge upset in Tucson. It might be more realistic for Michigan to focus on simply playing well. Arizona has been rock solid again this year, as evidenced by their win-loss record. Last Saturday, the Wildcats prevailed in maybe the season's best game to date, a 66-63 overtime win versus Gonzaga. Prediction: Arizona 70, Michigan 62.

#24 Northern Iowa (9-0) at VCU (5-3) 7PM, Richmond, VA, NBCS

The upstart Panthers of Northern Iowa get their first real test of the season in the form of havoc in Richmond. UNI has looked impressive on the court, but their best wins so far have been over the likes of Stephen F. Austin and Richmond. Not exactly murderers row. VCU, on the other hand, has paid for their tough early schedule. Two of their three early losses have come to two of the country's best teams, Villanova and Virginia. So, while this game is obviously huge for the team from the Missouri Valley, it is just as big for the Rams to get back on the national radar. Contrasting styles will be in play here, as VCU will attempt to speed up the methodical Panthers. VCU 71, UNI 67.

#8 Gonzaga (7-1) at UCLA (8-2) 10PM, Los Angeles, CA, ESPN2

The high-powered Zags play their second road game versus a high profile Pac 12 team in as many weeks, after losing a heart-breaker at Arizona last Saturday. That, of course, was Gonzaga's only loss of the season. They possess one of the country's most potent offenses, with nearly 6 players averaging double figures (Gary Bell being the 6th at a 9.6ppg clip). UCLA's record looks OK until you take a closer look and notice that their best wins came over the likes of Long Beach State and San Diego (not State). The Bruins were beaten rather soundly by Oklahoma and blown out by UNC. Prediction: Gonzaga 82, UCLA 72.

Other games of note...

Dayton (7-1) at Arkansas (6-2) 2PM, Fayetteville, AR ESPN2
St. Bonaventure (6-1) at Pittsburgh (4-3) 2PM, Pittsburgh, PA, ESPNU
Saint Mary's (4-1) at Creighton (8-2) 2:15PM, Omaha, NE, FS1
#12 Oklahoma (5-2) at Tulsa (5-4) 2:30PM, Tulsa, OK, CBSS
Xavier (7-2) at Missouri (4-4) 4PM, Columbia, MO, ESPN2
Oregon (4-3) at Illinois (7-2) 7PM, Chicago, IL, BTN
Florida State (4-4) at #22 Notre Dame (9-1) 8PM, South Bend, IN, ESPN2
Cincinnati (6-1) at Nebraska (5-3) 9PM, Lincoln, NE, BTN
Purdue (8-2) at Vanderbilt (4-2) 9PM, Nashville, TN, SECN

Other Top 25 games...

#11 Wichita State (5-1) at Detroit (4-3) 12PM, Detroit, MI, ESPNU
Morehead State (3-7) at #14 Ohio State (7-1) 1PM, Columbus, OH, BTN
Nicholls State (0-4) at #6 Wisconsin (9-1) 3PM, Madison, WI, BTN
Texas State (3-1) at #7 Texas (7-1) 8PM, Austin, TX, LHN

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Games to Watch - Wednesday, Dec. 10

Last night, the Jimmy V Classic provided two entertaining games and verified what we already knew: Villanova and Louisville are very good college basketball teams. The Big Ten's Illinois and Indiana fell victim to them, respectively.

We also became even less sure of fellow B1G member, Michigan, as they were upset at home for the second game in a row, this time by Eastern Michigan.

Wichita State took care of previously undefeated Seton Hall, despite 23 points from Hall freshman, Isaiah Whitehead. Finally, Creighton barely escaped a bad home loss, beating South Dakota in double overtime.

As for tonight...

#10 Kansas (6-1) at Georgetown (5-2) 7PM, Washington, DC, FS1

After coming back from a 17-point deficit to beat Florida in Lawrence, the Jayhawks take their act on the road to face the new look Hoyas. It hasn't exactly been smooth sailing for Kansas, but they are getting better game by game and seem to be hitting their stride. However, this is their first true road game and the Hoyas have been historically tough against non conference opponents in DC. GTown is also improving daily, as they incorporate fresh(man) talent, much like Kansas. JTIII's squad played Wisconsin very tough in the Bahamas and will look to get over the hump tonight. Prediction: GTown 68, Kansas 65.

#19 Utah (6-1) at BYU (5-2) 9PM, Provo, UT, ESPNU

Although excitement is not what comes to mind when I think of the state of Utah (granted, I've never been), there should be plenty of it tonight when these two rivals get together. This is a big game every year, but this year it has national implications because both are good. Utah is coming off of an overtime victory against a very good Wichita State team. Their only loss was a slugfest at San Diego State. A double overtime loss to SDSU and an overtime loss to Purdue, both in Maui, are BYU's only blemishes. This game is also a clash of contrasting styles. BYU plays fast and is one of the country's best offensive teams. The Utes play slow and are defensive minded. Prediction: Utah 74, BYU 73.

Other games of note...

Rhode Island (4-2) at Providence (6-3) 7PM, Providence, RI, FS2
Colorado State (8-0) at Colorado (5-2) 9PM, Boulder, CO, P12N
Long Beach State (4-5) at #18 San Diego State (6-2) 10PM, San Diego, CA ESPN3
Wyoming (6-1) at California (7-1) 11PM, Berkeley, CA, P12N

Other Top 25 games...

Columbia (5-2) at #1 Kentucky (9-0) 7PM, Lexington, KY, ESPN2
High Point (5-2) at #14 Ohio State (6-1) 7pm, Columbus, OH, ESPNU 
Fairleigh Dickinson (2-4) at #25 St. John's (5-1) 8PM, Jamaica, NY, CBSS
#24 Northern Iowa (8-0) at Denver (4-3) 9PM, Denver, CO
#6 Wisconsin (8-1) at Milwaukee (2-5) 9PM, Milwaukee, WI, ESPN2
Washington State (4-4) at #8 Gonzaga (6-1) 11PM, Spokane, WA, ESPNU 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Tonight's Games to Watch - Tuesday, Dec. 9

Last night was pretty much a sleepy one, with the two games of note involving the Ivy League.

Providence, whose season looked to be promising just a week ago, was upset at home by Brown. That is back-to-back bad losses for the Friars, losers at Boston College last week, which will likely be an issue for them come March.

The other Ivy League team that played last night, Yale, was coming off a monumental upset of UConn. 

Let's just say it looks like they'll need more than sunglasses and Advil for their next hangover.

Florida pummeled the Bulldogs, 85-47. 

What might be considered just another blowout between a highly thought of SEC team versus a lowly Ivy, might actually be a springboard for the Gators, whose early season struggles have been well documented.

BIlly Donovan's squad likely put forth its best performance of the year, which will pay dividends versus tougher competition coming soon.

But, I digress. Tonight's games...

#9 Villanova (8-0) vs. Illinois (7-1) 7PM, New York, NY, ESPN 

Jay Wright and Nova are back in New York, this time in the Garden for the Jimmy V Classic. The Wildcats looked pretty good in Brooklyn a few weeks back, when they dismantled VCU and outlasted Michigan. They have continued to roll since then. Illinois has been solid in their own right, with a win over Baylor and their only loss coming at Miami. This is a matchup of similar guard dependent styles. Prediction: Nova 73, Illinois 66.

Seton Hall (7-0) at #11 Wichita State (4-1) 7PM, Wichita, KS, ESPN2

One of the Big East's early surprise teams gets its first major test tonight. The Hall have been impressive, with an equal dose of veteran leadership and precocious neophytes (shout out to Clyde Frazier). But that precociousness could be a problem in Wichita versus a gritty, battle tested, Top 15 team. Prediction: Wichita St 67, Seton Hall 58.

Indiana (7-1) vs. #3 Louisville (7-0) 9PM, New York, NY, ESPN 

In the Jimmy V Classic nightcap, Rick Pitino comes back to one of his favorite places to pace the sidelines, at least as a college coach. The Cardinals have looked as good as anyone in the country, this side of Lexington, so far. Tenacious defense, solid guard play and a beast named Montrezl have carried them. The Hoosiers have been surprisingly solid, led by their explosive guards, Yogi Ferrell and two freshmen. That's not likely to be enough versus Pitino & co. Prediction: Louisville 74, Indiana 60.

Other games of note...

Texas A&M (6-1) at Baylor (7-1) 9PM, Waco, TX, ESPN2

Other Top 25 games...

UMKC (1-6) at #15 Iowa State (5-1) 7PM, Ames, IA, ESPNU 
Mount St. Mary's (2-4) at #22 Notre Dame (8-1) 7PM, South Bend, IN, ESPN3
Utah Valley (3-4) at #4 Arizona (7-0) 9PM, Tucson, AZ, P12N
Eastern Michigan (4-1) at #21 Michigan (5-2) 9PM, Ann Arbor, MI, ESPNU 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Top 25 - Week 4

There was some movement at the top and much movement at the bottom of this week's rankings, thanks to a hectic 7 days of college basketball.

1. Kentucky (9-0) - Ball don't lie. The Wildcats have been dominant. They took Texas's best shot and came out comfortably. Then, they handled their business versus Eastern Kentucky, jumping out to a 41-14 half-time lead.
2. Duke (8-0) - Duke has been impressive throughout this young season, but going into Wisconsin and beating last year's Final Four squad, pretty soundly, was eye-opening.
3. Louisville (7-0) - Rick Pitino already has his team playing at an elite level defensively and the offense will continue to improve. They withstood a late rally to take care of Ohio State last week.
4. Arizona (7-0) - Zona was the last team standing in their overtime brawl with Gonzaga. They host Michigan this weekend.
5. Virginia (9-0) - The Cavs continued to show their mettle last week, winning at Maryland and VCU. They'll take the week off for exams.
6. Wisconsin (8-1) - The Badgers drop In the rankings on the strength of the loss to the Dukies and the disappearing act of highly regarded, Sam Dekker.
7. Texas (7-1) - The Longhorns gave all they could muster at Kentucky on Friday, but it wasn't enough. However, they showed they can play with anyone in the nation.
8. Gonzaga (6-1) - The Zags lost an overtime heartbreaker at Arizona over the weekend. They had their chances in regulation, but Pangos & co. couldn't close the door. They are at UCLA on Saturday.
9. Villanova (8-0) - Nova coasted to two victories over Big 5 opponents in Philly. They face Illinois at the Garden tomorrow.
10. Kansas (5-1) - Bill Self seems to be slowly but surely turning another one of his young teams into a winner. The Jayhawks overcame a 17-point deficit to beat Florida, Friday. They travel to Georgetown on Wednesday.
11. Wichita State (4-1) - The Shockers lost a tough overtime game at Utah, Wednesday. They rebounded by destroying Saint Louis. They host up-start, Seton Hall, tomorrow.
12. Oklahoma (5-2) - The Sooners had an easy time with Missouri last week. They are at Tulsa on Saturday.
13. North Carolina (6-2) - Just when you thought the Tar Heels would start rolling, they mess around and lose at home to a solid Iowa team. They better get it together quick, as they travel to #1 Kentucky on Saturday.
14. Ohio State (6-1) - The Buckeyes looked shell-shocked in the first half at Louisville, based on the competition level. They pulled themselves together in the 2nd, but came up short.
15. Iowa State (5-1) - The Cyclones had their way with Arkansas, Thursday, beating them by 18. They face in-state rival Iowa on Friday, in what should be a good one.
16. Washington (7-0) - The undefeated Huskies join the rankings after an impressive, thorough beating of San Diego State last night.
17. Michigan State (6-3) - The Spartans lost at Notre Dame in overtime last week. They've looked solid, but they have come up short in their three toughest contests.
18. San Diego State (6-2) - The Aztecs surprisingly were handled at Washington in a low scoring game that illuminated their offensive deficiencies. They host Long Beach State Wednesday.
19. Utah (6-1) - The Utes squeaked out a big win over Wichita State last week. They have a rivalry game at BYU on Wednesday.
20. Miami (7-1) - The U seemed to be coasting through the early season until Green Bay brought them back down to earth, handing the Canes a 13-point home loss.
21. Michigan (5-2) - The Wolverines had a weird week. They beat Syracuse in a competitive game, then suffered one of the worst losses we've seen so far this season, losing at home to NJIT. They are at Arizona on Saturday.
22. Notre Dame (8-1) - The Irish won a thriller of a game in overtime against Michigan State, led by their outstanding guard combo of Jerian Grant and Demetrious Jackson. This week, their ACC season starts with a home game versus Florida State.
23. Butler (7-1) - The Bulldogs took care of Indana State and Northwestern last week and have become one of the Big East's surprise teams. They have wins over North Carolina and Georgetown, with their only loss coming at the hands of Oklahoma.
24. Northern Iowa (8-0) - The Panthers are undefeated, with wins over Stephen F. Austin, Northwestern and Richmond. But they get their first real test this weekend at VCU.
25. St. John's (5-1) - While they don't always look pretty, the Johnnies, and their experienced, guard heavy lineup showed they are capable of big things this season. They won going away at Syracuse over the weekend and their only loss was to Top 10 Gonzaga.

On the outside looking in: Creighton (7-2); Iowa (7-2); Syracuse (5-3); Illinois (7-1); Maryland (8-1); West Virginia (8-1); Seton Hall (7-0); Baylor (7-1); VCU (5-3); Providence (6-2); ODU (6-1)

Dropped out: Arkansas (6-2), West Virginia; Illinois; Syracuse; VCU; Providence 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Today's Games To Watch, Saturday, Dec. 6

Last night, Kentucky was a bit too much for Texas, Providence was outhustled and suffered a bad loss at BC, SMU got a much-needed win versus Wyoming, and Kansas stormed back from a 15-point halftime deficit to beat Florida by 6. Oh, and Yale won at UConn. Yes, Yale.

Today, the docket is relatively thin, but there are a handful of intriguing match ups.

#9 Virginia (8-0) at #24 VCU (5-2) 2PM, Richmond, VA, ESPNU

The undefeated Cavs make the short distance trip to Richmond to face their relatively new in-state rival. UVA is coming off another solid win at former ACC rival, Maryland. Once again, Virginia is doing it with defense and patience on offense. VCU is like the polar opposite. The Rams will try to speed and muddy the game up with their full court pressure and quick shots on the other end. A win for VCU would be huge for their program and resume. Prediction: UVA 64, VCU 61.

#7 Gonzaga (7-0) at #5 Arizona (7-0) 5:15PM, Tucson, AZ, ESPN

The west coast gets some love with the unquestioned game of the day. A true pick 'em, the loser will have tasted their first dose of defeat. Both are among the top teams in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Gonzaga has solid wins over SMU, Georgia and St. John's, while Zona's best wins were over Kansas State and San Diego State. Not much separates these two besides the 1,400+ miles the Zags were forced to travel. Prediction: Arizona 70, Gonzaga 68.

St. John's (4-1) at #23 Syracuse (5-2) 5:15PM, Syracuse, NY, ESPN2

The Big East just can't let go, can they? Here's another reunion game that pits two original Big East members against each other. The Cuse is coming off an impressive performance, albeit in a close loss at Michigan. The young Orange seem to have made great strides even in the last couple weeks. The Red Storm lack size - which Syracuse could exploit - but, they have potent, experienced guards that should be able to score against the 2-3 zone. The Johnnies tend to play to their competition level and size of the moment. Expect this to be a brawl. Prediction: St. John's 69, Syracuse 67.

Alabama (5-1) at Xavier (5-2) 8PM, Cincinnati, OH, CBSS

This under the radar game is interesting because both teams look like the bubble is in their not so distant future. Xavier's start was solid, but they are coming off back-to-back losses to UTEP and Long Beach State. Bama looks like this could be one of coach Anthony Grant's better teams, but they were handled by 10 vs. Iowa State in their only real test. Prediction: Xavier 65, Bama 62.

Other games of note...

Rutgers (4-3) at Seton Hall (6-0) 12PM, Newark, NJ, MSG
Oklahoma State (6-0) at South Carolina (4-3) 12PM, Columbia, SC, ESPNU
#1 Wisconsin (7-1) at Marquette (4-3) 12:30PM, Milwaukee, WI, CBS
Arizona State (5-2) at Texas A&M (5-1) 2PM, College Station, TX, SECN
Green Bay (3-2) at Miami (8-0) 2PM, Coral Gables, FL, ESPN3
Kansas State (4-3) at Tennessee (2-3) 3:15PM, Knoxville, TN, ESPN2
Northwestern (5-2) at Butler (6-1) 4:30PM, Indianapolis, IN, FOX
Saint Louis (4-2) at #10 Wichita State (3-1) 6PM, Wichita, KS
Wake Forest (4-4) at NC State (6-1) 7:30PM, Raleigh, NC, ESPNU
Boise State (4-2) at Saint Mary's (4-0) 11:30PM, Moraga, CA, ESPNU

Other Top 25 games...

NJIT (2-5) at #13 Michigan (5-1) 12PM, Ann Arbor, MI, BTN
St. Joseph's (4-3) at #8 Villanova (7-0) 1PM, Villanova, PA, FoxS1
American (5-3) at #21 Illinois (6-1) 2PM, Champaign, IL, ESPN3
Arkansas Pine Bluff (1-6) at #17 Michigan State (5-3) East Lansing, MI, BTN
Colgate (1-6) at #14 Ohio State (5-1) 4:30PM, Columbus, OH, BTN

Friday, December 5, 2014

Tonight's Games To Watch, Friday, Dec. 5th

We have moved from the ACC/Big Ten Challenge to the Big 12/SEC Challenge. Don't get dizzy yet, there are more challenges to come.

First, props to TCU for a big win at Ole Miss last night. Trent Johnson has things moving in the right direction down in Fort Worth. It looks like the Horned Frogs will at least be a tough out in the Big 12 this year.

Iowa State also made a statement last night for the Big 12, as they blew out a previously up-and-coming Arkansas squad.

On the SEC side, LSU got a very big win at previously undefeated West Virginia. The Tigers now look like possible contenders in the SEC, for second place, that is.

Tonight, the Big 12/SEC Challenge continues, headlined by a marquee match-up in Lexington.

#6 Texas (7-0) at #2 Kentucky (7-0) 7PM, Lexington, KY, ESPN

This is one of the most anticipated games so far this season. We all know about Kentucky. A roster full of McDonald's All-Americans, the "platoon" system, the 30-point win versus Kansas. But, guess what? There's more. They are playing selflessly on both ends of the floor, particularly on the defensive end where they've absolutely stifled opponents when they've wanted to. Texas is one of the few teams that doesn't look embarrassingly inadequate opposite the UK lay up line. The Longhorns have length and talent in their front court, led by freshman, Myles Turner, and have a very capable, athletic backcourt. They would have even more of a chance in this one if starting PG, Isaiah Taylor, were healthy. But, he's not. And even with him, winning in Lexington would be unlikely. Prediction: Kentucky 71, Texas 62.

#25 Providence (6-1) at Boston College (3-3) 7PM, Chestnut Hill, MA, ESPN3

Speaking of Kentucky, Providence just experienced their hospitality. Despite being hobbled by a couple of key nagging injuries, the Friars kept it close for 3/4s of the game. But eventually, Kentucky's superior length, depth and talent wore Ed Cooley's team down. It'll be a little different for them traveling the short distance to Chestnut Hill. Providence has shown in the early season that they are a solid, tough-minded squad. Boston College has been gritty and a little better than expected, so far, under 1st year head coach, Jim Cristian. But, this match-up of former Big East founding members should be a tough one for BC. Prediction: Providence 66, BC 60.

Wyoming (6-0) at SMU (4-3) 7PM, Dallas, TX, ESPNNews

Wyoming, from the Mountain West, has jumped out to an undefeated November and early December, including a 56-33 demolishment of Colorado. SMU and Larry Brown have been a disappointment so far this season. They have failed all of their non-conference tests to date, with losses at Gonzaga and Indiana and a home loss to Arkansas. So, you could say SMU needs this one. Prediction: SMU 59, Wyoming 53.

Florida (3-3) at #12 Kansas (5-1) 9PM, Lawrence, KS, ESPN

Florida was a little overrated to start the season, considering they lost four starters from last year's Final Four team. Billy Donovan will no doubt get them right, but it's a work in progress and they have lost to the three solid teams they've played thus far. Kansas is in a similar position, a young, inexperienced team, highly rated too soon and then taken to the woodshed by Kentucky. But, Bill Self seems to have put things together quickly, capped by a neutral court victory over Michigan State last weekend. Back home, in Lawrence, Kansas should continue its improved play. Prediction: Kansas 68, Florida 61.

Other games of note...

Yale (6-2) at Connecticut (3-2) 7PM, Storrs, CT, ESPNFC
Duquesne (2-1) vs. Pittsburgh (3-3) 7PM, Pittsburgh, PA, ESPN3
Long Beach State (4-4) at Stephen F. Austin (3-3) 8PM, Nacogdoches, TX

Other Top 25 games...

FIU (3-3) at #3 Louisville (6-0) 7PM, Louisville, KY, ESPNFC
Missouri (3-3) at #18 Oklahoma (4-2) 9:30PM, Norman, OK, ESPNU

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Tonight's Games To Watch

Welp, that was fun.

The ACC/Big Ten Challenge concluded last night and the B1G took home the trophy, winning the match-ups by an 8-6 clip.

However, Louisville and Duke came up big with wins over two of the Big Ten's top teams and don't forget Notre Dame's big overtime win versus Michigan State.

All good things come to an end, unfortunately, so tonight's slate is kinda light. But, here are a few to keep an eye on, including the start of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.

LSU (5-2) at #20 West Virginia (7-0) 7PM, Morgantown, WV, ESPN2

After beating UConn, West Virginia rolled over VMI and College of Charleston. They'll have to pick it up versus LSU tonight. The Tigers smacked UMass Tuesday and will be confident coming into the unfriendly confines of Morgantown. Prediction: WVA 80, LSU 75.

#19 Arkansas (6-0) at #22 Iowa State (4-1) 9PM, Ames, IA, ESPN2

The Razorbacks have accumulated some believers already this year, especially when playing at home. They can stack their bandwagon full of admirers with a win in Ames tonight. After losing to Maryland last week, the Cyclones used Lamar as a sacrificial lamb tune-up on Tuesday. Prediction: Iowa State 83, Ark 79.

TCU (7-0) at Mississippi (5-1) 9PM, Oxford, MS, ESPNU

Trent Johnson has his Horned Frogs undefeated and looking respectable for the first time in recent memory. They took care of the State school from Mississippi last weekend. Ole Miss, on the other hand, is coming off back-to-back solid wins versus Creighton and Cincinnati. Prediction: Ole Miss 68, TCU 62.

Other games of note...

Wisconsin GB (3-1) at Georgia State (4-2) 7PM, Atlanta, GA
Baylor (6-1) at Vanderbilt (4-1) 7PM, Nashville, TN, ESPNU
San Diego (4-3) at #16 San Diego State (5-1) 11PM, San Diego, CA, ESPNU

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Tonight's Games To Watch

The ACC/Big Ten Challenge has given us some pretty good games this week. Day 3 should be no different. Add to that a late night west coast battle, and you have yourself another healthy college basketball night.

#17 Michigan State (5-2) at Notre Dame (6-1) 7:30PM, South Bend, IN, ESPN2

Notre Dame is actually a slight favorite in this game, which is a surprise to many. It may be because the Spartans have yet to record a marquee win this season and Notre Dame's win over UMass is the best win for either school. Or, it may be that the Irish are a solid team led by Jerian Grant, one of the best and most underrated guards in the country. Plus, Notre Dame is a tough place to play. Prediction: Michigan State 66, Notre Dame 65.

Iowa (5-2) at #11 North Carolina (5-1) 7:30PM, Chapel Hill, NC, ESPN

UNC faced their first real competition versus Butler in the Bahamas and didn't respond well. But, they regrouped and showed their mettle in convincing back-to-back wins against UCLA and Florida. Iowa is solid, but unspectacular, and if the talented Heels bring their A-game, it's hard to see the Hawkeyes keeping pace. Prediction: UNC 77, Iowa 67.

#9 Virginia (7-0) at Maryland (7-0) 9:15PM, College Park, MD, ESPN2

A little luster was removed from this game when the Terrapins lost Dez Wells for four weeks due to a right wrist fracture.  It still should be no walk in the park for Virginia, whose biggest win was at home versus George Washington. Maryland will need strong performances from Melo Trimble and Jake Layman, but should also receive a boost from the College Park crowd. Prediction: Virginia 63, Maryland 60.

#4 Duke (7-0) at #1 Wisconsin (7-0) 9:30PM, Madison, WI, ESPN

Tonight's marquee matchup is a doozie. Wisconsin gets the edge because of the high level of talent and experience that returns from last year's Final Four squad. The Badgers also are at home, where they have enjoyed remarkable success. Duke has more than a shot, though, if their freshmen continue to play as they have, ignoring all signs of pressure. There are match-ups galore in this game, but the two best are Frank Kaminsky vs. Jahlil Okafor and Sam Dekker vs Justise Winslow. Prediction: Wisconsin 80, Duke 77.

#10 Wichita State (3-0) at Utah (5-1) 11PM, Salt Lake City, UT, ESPN2

This one is worth staying up late for. The Shockers travel west for one of their few non conference tests and the result will go a long way in determining their standing amongst the nation's elite teams. The Utes look good, but that's pretty much based on a tight, low scoring loss at San Diego State. Prediction: Utah 61, Wichita State 59.

Other games of note...

Temple (4-2) at St. Joseph's (3-3) 6:30PM, Philadelphia, PA, CBSS
Northeastern (5-1) at Harvard (3-1) 7PM, Boston, MA
Butler (5-1) at Indiana State (3-3) 7:05PM, Terre Haute, IN
UNLV (4-1) at Arizona State (4-2) 8PM, Tempe, AZ, P12N
Creighton (6-1) at Tulsa (3-3) 8PM, Tulsa, OK, ESPN3
#8 Villanova (6-0) at LaSalle (4-2) 8:30PM, Philadelphia, PA, CBSS
UTEP (4-1) at Colorado State (6-0) 9PM, Fort Collins, CO, ROOT
Georgia Tech (5-1) at Northwestern (5-1) 9:15PM, Evanston, IL, ESPNU

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Tonight's Games To Watch

You can thank the Big Ten and ACC for much of this week's entertainment.

The Big Ten/ACC Challenge officially kicked off yesterday with the Big Ten making an early statement, as Rutgers won at Clemson and Nebraska won at Florida State.

The action continues tonight with a few more marquee match-ups, as well as a few games involving teams from other conferences.

Pittsburgh (3-2) at Indiana (5-1) 7PM, Bloomington, IN, ESPN2

This one is interesting. We all know the story at Indiana. Crean's under fire. The Hoosiers started strong with a win versus SMU. But, then they lost at home to Eastern Washington and SMU's star has since diminished. In other words, Indiana needs this win. Pitt started off shaky, but seemed to put it all together for the first time in their 70-47 win over Kansas State in Maui. Prediction: Pitt 72, Indiana 69.

Massachusetts (5-2) at LSU (4-2) 7PM, Baton Rouge, LA, SECN

Here's a slightly under the radar game between two likely future bubble inhabitants. So, both could really use this win. UMass is the more tested of the two, but is coming off a loss at Harvard. LSU has no reputable wins to date and has a bad loss to Clemson on its docket. Prediction: LSU 68, UMass 63.

#23 Syracuse (5-1) at #13 Michigan (4-1) 7:30PM, Ann Arbor, MI, ESPN

The Cuse is a work in progress with a young and relatively untested squad. Though the competition level left something to be desired, they seemed to make some strides in blowout wins over Loyola, MD and Holy Cross. Michigan looks like it's business as usual under John Beilein, based on their strong performance in Brooklyn last week. Prediction: Michigan 74, Syracuse 67.

#24 VCU (4-2) at Illinois State (3-2) 8PM, Normal, IL, ESPNFC

Another sneaky important game here. VCU needs a win, after getting smacked down by Villanova in Brooklyn and losing at ODU over the weekend. Illinois State, out of the Missouri Valley, has been solid. They hung with Seton Hall in a 4-point loss and beat the aforementioned ODU. Prediction: VCU 70, Ill St 66.

#21 Illinois (6-0) at #15 Miami (7-0) 9PM, Coral Gables, FL, ESPN2

Two undefeateds go at it in this one and it should be one of the night's best games. Miami has looked good with the addition of transfers Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan, but their best win, versus Florida, looked a lot better a couple weeks ago. Illinois hasn't had much in the way of competition either, but they were impressive in beating Baylor last week and possess lots of talent. Prediction: Miami 74, Illinois 71.

NC State (6-0) at Purdue (5-1) 9PM, West Lafayette, IN, ESPNU

This is a match-up between two teams who weren't supposed to do much this season, but have started out impressively. Purdue has ridden the backs of their twin towers, AJ Hammons and Isaac Haas. NC State has been paced by Alabama transfer, Trevor Lacey. Prediction: Purdue 68, NC St 64.

#14 Ohio State (5-0) at #3 Louisville (5-0) 9:30PM, Louisville, KY, ESPN

This is the game of the night in perception and probably reality. The Buckeyes have yet to play anyone of note, so it may take them awhile to adjust to tonight's competition. Louisville's biggest test thus far was opening night versus Lil' Richie (Richard Pitino) and Minnesota, although Cleveland State gave them all they could handle in route to Rick Pitino's 700th win. Prediction: Louisville 67, Ohio State 62.

Other games of note...

Minnesota (3-2) at Wake Forest (4-3) 7PM, Winston-Salem, NC, ESPNU
Stephen F. Austin (2-3) at Memphis (2-2) 7PM, Memphis, TN, ESPNNews
South Florida (4-1) at Alabama (4-1) 9PM, Tuscaloosa, AL, SECN
BYU (3-2) at Utah State (3-2) 9PM, Logan, UT, CBSS

Other Top 25 Games:

Lamar (1-4) at #22 Iowa State (3-1) 8PM, Ames, IA
Texas Arlington (3-3) at #6 Texas (6-0) 8PM, Austin, TX, LHN
Gardner-Webb (2-3) at #5 Arizona (6-0) 9PM, Tucson, AZ, P12N
SE Louisiana (1-5) at #7 Gonzaga (5-0) 9PM, Spokane, WA, ROOT

Monday, December 1, 2014

Top 25 - Week 3

1. Wisconsin (7-0) - the Badgers took care of UAB, Georgetown and Oklahoma in the Bahamas, only really struggling with the Hoyas. They face Duke in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge on Wednesday.
2. Kentucky (7-0) - the Wildcats showed how scary they can be by methodically blowing out a solid Providence team in the 2nd half yesterday. They face a bigger test on Friday when Texas comes to Lexington.
3. Louisville (5-0) - the Cardinals sleep-walked through Pitino's 700th victory versus Cleveland State.  Ohio State comes to town Tuesday.
4. Duke (7-0) - the Blue Devils took it easy this Thanksgiving and beat a couple cupcakes. That changes Wednesday at Wisconsin.
5. Arizona (6-0) - these Wildcats took care of business in Maui, taking home the chip with a win versus rival San Diego State. They host Gonzaga on Saturday.
6. Texas (6-0) - Without star guard, Isaiah Taylor, the Longhorns got a win in one of the most hostile environments, at UConn. They travel to Kentucky on Friday.
7. Gonzaga (5-0) - the Zags beat a pesky St. John's squad in New York last week. They're at Arizona on Saturday.
8. Villanova (6-0) - Nova was quite impressive in Brooklyn, blasting VCU and outlasting Michigan. Their attention focuses on two of the Big 5 this week.
9. Virginia (7-0) - the Cavs looked lackluster versus lackluster competition in Brooklyn last week, but got a couple Ws. They will have to step it up at Maryland and VCU this week.
10. Wichita State (3-0) - the Shockers beat Tulsa handily last week, but face their stiffest competition, to date, Wednesday at Utah.
11. North Carolina (5-1) - the Tar Heels were punched in the face by Butler in the Bahamas, but rebounded with relatively easy victories over UCLA and Florida. They host Iowa on Wednesday.
12. Kansas (5-1) - that nightmare loss to Kentucky is not fading from anyone's mind anytime soon. But, the Jayhawks looked good beating Michigan State yesterday. They host Florida Friday.
13. Michigan (4-1) - the Wolverines showed they will be formidable again this year, splitting with Oregon and Villanova in Brooklyn last week. They host Syracuse Tuesday.
14. Ohio State (5-0) - the Buckeyes continued their early season cream puff schedule last week, but they'll get a shock to their system Tuesday at Louisville.
15. Miami (7-0) - the Hurricanes kept rolling last week, taking care of Charlotte for the second time this season. They host a good Illinois team on Tuesday.
16. San Diego State (5-1) - the Aztecs, once again, just couldn't quite get over the top versus Arizona. However, they did get a couple solid wins in Maui, beating Pittsburgh and BYU. They travel to Washington Sunday.
17. Michigan State (5-2) - the Spartans couldn't get it done versus Kansas last week, but they get another chance for a quality win at Notre Dame on Wednesday.
18. Oklahoma (4-2) - the Sooners beat UCLA and Butler, before succumbing to Wisconsin in the Bahamas. They host Missouri Friday.
19. Arkansas (6-0) - the Razorbacks took care of a solid Iona squad yesterday. They get their biggest test at Iowa State on Thursday.
20. West Virginia (7-0) - Bob Huggins & co. rolled to a couple easy victories last week. They host LSU Thursday.
21. Illinois (6-0) - the Illini beat Baylor to take last week's Las Vegas Invitational. They are at Miami on Tuesday.
22. Iowa State (3-1) - the Cyclones were tripped up by Maryland last week. They host Arkansas on Thursday.
23. Syracuse (5-1) - the Orange blasted two cupcakes last week. They face real competition this week, at Michigan Tuesday and home versus St. John's on Saturday.
24. VCU (4-2) - it was a semi rough week for the Rams, who sandwiched a win versus Oregon with losses to Villanova and at Old Dominion. They're at Illinois State on Tuesday and home for in-state rival Virginia Saturday.
25. Providence (6-1) - the injury prone Friars did not have enough to handle Kentucky on the road. They travel to Boston College on Friday.

On the outside looking in: Northern Iowa (7-0), Connecticut (3-2), Butler (5-1), Utah (5-1), Notre Dame (6-1), Maryland (7-0), Old Dominion (5-1), Nebraska (4-1)

Dropped Out: Connecticut, Stanford.