College Basketball Weekend Preview: Five Games Each Featuring Two Ranked Teams

Jameson FlemingSenior Writer IJanuary 16, 2009

(3) Wake Forest at (9) Clemson, 3:30 PM Saturday on ABC

For the second straight weekend, the Demon Deacons will tip-off against a fellow ACC team ranked in the top 10. But unlike last week, when Wake took on North Carolina at home, WF must travel to Clemson to face the Tigers. Playing on the road hasn't been a problem for Dino Gaudio's club, as Wake Forest snapped BYU's 53-game home winning streak.

Wake Forest matches up worse against Clemson then it did against North Carolina because of the lack of ball-handlers that can beat the Tigers' fullcourt press. Superstar Jeff Teague can move the ball, as can L.D. Williams, but the Deacons lack another guard that will consistently provide quality minutes.

Lone senior Harvey Hale will provide senior leadership and experience that could make him the third guard Gaudio will need to get past the press.

Wake Forest's point guard of the past, Ishmael Smith, has been extremely inconsistent this year while battling through injuries and is turning the ball over too much.

Clemson also the depth to match up with Wake Forest. Nine different Clemson Tigers see double-digit minutes, which will give coach Oliver Purnell plenty of bodies to run up and down the court.

The Tigers are a very tough defensive team to face. Clemson ranks near the top of the country in all the intangibles—13th in forcing turnovers, seventh in block percentage, and sixth in steal percentage. They are going to pressure Jeff Teague to the point he's going to have get rid of the ball and let the frontline of trees make plays to put the ball in the basket.

Even with the pressure, Teague shouldn't be fazed. The sophomore's worst game this season came against Baylor, when he scored 14 points but contributed another eight rebounds and eight assists.

Clemson will counter with several guys who can step out and shoot the three. Trevor Booker, K.C. Rivers, and Terrence Oglesby are all shooting better than 35 percent from three. Booker and Rivers will also provide a very potent inside force as the two combine for 15.6 rebounds per game.


(13) Notre Dame at (8) Syracuse, 12:00 PM Saturday ESPN

Both teams are coming off losses that were extra hard to swallow. The Irish blew a lead against Louisville coming down the stretch, scoring just two points in the final nine minutes of regulation and overtime.

Syracuse, on the other hand, never led against Georgetown, the school's most hated rival, and lost to the Hoyas by 14 in the conference's fiercest rivalry.

Both games exposed key weaknesses of both teams. Notre Dame has no depth and eventually wore down against the much more athletic Louisville Cardinals. The Irish has been playing mainly six or seven players each game, with most of the starters seeing well over 35 minutes per game.

Syracuse has been better defensively than last year, but at times the Orange has lacked defensively intensity. When the 'Cuse's defense isn't there, a high school JV team could put points on the board with ease. Players start standing still in the zone, and when Jim Boeheim goes back to man, boxing out is nonexistent.

Despite their exposed flaws, SU and ND are still very good teams, especially on the offensive end of the floor. Notre Dame ranks fifth in the country in offensive efficiency, while the 'Cuse ranks 26th. SU is better from the field (56 percent to 52 percent), while Notre Dame is significantly better at protecting the ball.

If SU remotely contains either Luke Harangody or Kyle McAlarney or forces Notre Dame into foul trouble, Syracuse should have enough offense of its own to rebound from the team's loss to rival Georgetown.

For Notre Dame, the Irish need to get Kyle McAlarney started early from beyond the arc. SU doesn't do a particularly good job at hedging, and Boeheim's guards have a tendency to lose track of shooters in the man-to-man defense.


(12) Georgetown at (2) Duke, 1:30 PM Saturday, CBS

Apparently Georgetown doesn't think its Big East schedule is hard enough. Scheduling Duke in the middle of conference play is like someone who's trapped in a Saw movie stabbing themselves in the leg for the pleasure of it. Seriously, what was John Thompson III thinking?

The Hoyas will have a bunch of momentum heading into their game with the nation's second ranked team. Georgetown is fresh off a solid victory against rival 'Cuse and also has a Big East win against UConn.

GTOWN will need to continue to be efficient on the offensive end of the floor if it wants to have a chance against Duke. The Blue Devils are the second most efficient team on defense to compliment its usual highly explosive offense.

Where Duke can win this game is with its bench. The Blue Devils will go 10 deep on most nights, as opposed to Georgetown, who outside of its game against Syracuse has gotten little, if not any production from its bench. Duke doesn't have the bigs to force DaJuan Summers and Greg Monroe into foul trouble, but Mike Krzyzewski has slashers in Gerald Henderson and Nolan Smith who will draw contact near the basket.

The Hoyas are going to need to be hot from three as well. Before the Syracuse game, Georgetown was shooting 33.3 percent from behind the arc, but after a 12-21 performance, the Hoyas shooting percentage jumped up to 35 percent.

If Georgetown can connect from deep, it'll spread Duke's defense and take some pressure off the ball. Without a steady floor general, the Hoyas need to give their plethora of passers space and lanes to distribute the ball.


(1) Pitt at (20) Louisville, 6:00 PM Saturday, ESPN

The Panthers are going to get their toughest test of the year on the road against Louisville. The Cardinals are getting on a roll as Rick Pitino's team is undefeated thus far in conference play after a rough non-conference performance. Louisville just took down Notre Dame and also beat Villanova on the road.

Louisville is going to press Pitt to death. It'll create turnovers at time, but the biggest thing the press will do is to control the tempo of the game. Pitt won't be able to walk up the court and move into set plays as easier. Louisville will speed Pitt up into taking quick shots by using a back flow to get the ball out of point guard Levance Fields' hands.

Without a really steady second ballhandler, Fields will have a lot of pressure on him to break the press by himself. A final goal of Louisville's press will be to tire out the opponent. Jamie Dixon has the depth to match up with Louisville, but the Cardinals are the most athletic team in the country and will not wear down.

Despite Pitt's depth, the Panthers will likely still be gasping for air at the end of regulation. Louisville wore Notre Dame out Monday night so much that the Irish's high-powered offense managed just two points in the final nine minutes of regulation. 

The biggest key for Pittsburgh other than handling the Louisville press well is to hit the offensive boards. Louisville is going to minimize the number of trips you get down the floor, so getting extra possessions is a must. Pitt is the best offensive rebounding team in the country, rebounding almost 45 percent of its misses.

As long as DeJuan Blair stays out of foul trouble, he should be able to pound the offensive glass and take advantage of the youth of fellow center Samardo Samuels.


(15) Arizona State at (7) UCLA, 3:45 PM Saturday, CBS

The Sun Devils will enter Saturday's game hungry, their appetite fueled by a disappointing road loss to UCLA's crosstown rival, USC. After scoring a career-low four points against Southern California Thursday night, superstar James Harden will have another difficult matchup against UCLA. The Bruins have some of the best defenders in the country in point guard Darren Collison, wing Josh Shipp, and superfrosh Jrue Holiday.

Where Arizona State can get at UCLA is under the basket. Center Jeff Pendergraph is one of the most underrated dominant centers in college basketball. He's a spiffy 66 percent from the field and 82.5 percent from the line. He'll be going up against a pretty soft UCLA frontcourt, which is led by senior Alfred Aboya.

Overall, this game is going to be played a very slow pace. UCLA ranks about 250th in pace, while ASU is below 320th. That doesn't mean a lot of points won't be scored. Arizona State, heading into Thursday's loss against USC, was the most efficient offensive team in the country, while UCLA is ranked eighth. You could easily see a game played at 58-62 possessions (nation's average is 67), but each could end up scoring north of 70 or 75 points.