College Basketball Top 25 Weekend Preview: Rivalry Week Continues

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College Basketball Top 25 Weekend Preview: Rivalry Week Continues

No. 25 Florida State at No. 8 Wake Forest, 4 PM ET Saturday on ESPN360

The Seminoles are red hot. The Demon Deacons are not. Florida State had struggled against ranked opponents until it knocked off Clemson. Wake Forest is undefeated in ACC play against ranked teams, but just 2-4 against unranked teams.

It's a game of opposites as FSU will play defense, defense, and more defense while Wake Forest will try to get out and run.

FSU coach Leonard Hamilton's team continues to win ballgames in a very tough ACC despite only having one consistent scorer. In fact, Toney Douglas is Florida State's only player who is averaging double figures.

Wake Forest is just the opposite. Three players—Jeff Teague, James Johnson, and Al-Farouq Aminu—are all dropping at least 13 points per game.

The one thing these two teams truly share in common is the ability to force opponents into bad shots. Wake Forest ranks sixth in the nation in defensive field goal percentage while Florida State is 13th. For FSU, which just barely scores more than a point per possession, putting points on the board is going to be very difficult.

If Wake Forest can stay out of foul trouble, something it struggled to do against unranked ACC teams, the Demon Deacons should hold serve and win on their home court.

My pick: Wake Forest 73, Florida State 65

 

Georgetown at No. 22 Syracuse, Noon ET Saturday on ESPN

The Big East's best rivalry is lacking a little bit of pizazz as the two bitter foes have lost a combined 12 of 15 games. But rivalry games always provide both teams will a chance to get back on track and that could certainly prove to be true once again in the Carrier Dome.

The 'Cuse will try to Orange-out the Dome with 30,000-plus waving Syracuse's version of the Terrible Towel to give the Orange a strong home-court advantage. It's an advantage that led to two blowouts in the Carrier Dome of Hoya teams that were clearly better the past two seasons.

Syracuse's key will be stopping Greg Monroe, who has the rare ability as a freshman to shred the 'Cuse's 2-3 zone, not with his scoring ability, but rather his passing ability. If the Orange collapses on Monroe like it did against Jeff Adrien against UConn, SU will force Georgetown into bad shots and turnovers.

For John Thompson III's team, strong field goal defense will be necessary to come away with a victory. It seems like Syracuse always commits its 15 turnovers each game, but it's the games the 'Cuse shoots poorly in that the 'Cuse loses.

The combination of the Orange's home-court advantage and overall team strength will lead to an SU victory.

My pick: Syracuse 78, Georgetown 76

 

Southern California at No. 18 Arizona State, 10 p.m. ET Sunday

The Trojans are in a similar position to UCLA in that both Los Angeles teams are looking to avoid being swept in the state of Arizona.

USC lost a close game Thursday to Arizona and finds itself teetering on the bubble entering Sunday's contest against the Sun Devils. Southern Cal doesn't have much of a non-conference résumé so a win over a ranked Arizona State team will help make up for the lack of quality wins before the New Year.

USC coach Tim Floyd's star recruit—DeMar DeRozan—is starting to figure things out in conference play after looking pretty mediocre in the non-conference slate. The super freshman will need to match Arizona State's stud sophomore slasher James Harden, who led the Sun Devils to a sweep over preseason conference favorite UCLA.

Harden is likely a top-three pick in the NBA draft and hasn't really been stopped in Pac-10 play except...against USC. The Sun Devil guard didn't record a single field goal in the two teams' first game early in Pac-10 play. That poor performance led to a convincing 61-49 victory for the Trojans.

If DeRozan can repeat his 22-point performance and solid defense on Harden, USC can sneak its way off the bubble and into the NCAA Tournament. But Harden learned his lesson in the first game and will lead ASU coach Herb Sendak's team to another solid conference win.

My pick: Arizona State 67, USC 62

Illinois-Chicago at No. 15 Butler, 7 PM ET Friday on ESPNU

Gordon Hayward has been simply spectacular in his freshman season (12.7 ppg) as the Bulldogs look to win their third game in a row after losing their first Horizon League game against Wisconsin-Green Bay.

My pick: Butler 62, Illinois-Chicago 51

 

No. 13 Villanova at West Virginia, 9 PM ET Friday on ESPN

The Wildcats are absolutely on fire, winning two consecutive Big East games and scoring 102 points in each game. West Virginia has been very solid on the defensive end of the floor, but nothing is going to slow down Scottie Reynolds and Dante Cunningham.

My pick: Villanova 91, West Virginia 78

 

No. 1 UConn at Seton Hall, Noon ET Saturday on ESPN360

The Pirates have suddenly won five in a row after starting out 0-6 in conference play and are slowly working their way back into the bubble picture.

A win against the Huskies won't be easy with Hasheem Thabeet in the middle, who's coming off a seven-block performance against rival Syracuse. UConn lost Jerome Dyson for the season, but that won't cost Jim Calhoun's team a victory Saturday.

My pick: UConn 78, Seton Hall 68

 

No. 6 UCLA at Arizona, 1 PM ET Saturday on CBS

West Coasters must hate this game as it starts at 10 a.m. local time for Californians. The Bruins need to be awake to come up with a win and avoid being swept by Arizona and Arizona State in consecutive games. The Wildcats have won six straight since rebounding from a 1-5 start in Pac-10 play.

My pick: Arizona 71, UCLA 65

 

Texas Tech at No. 2 Oklahoma, 1:30 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN360

The Sooners have a very unconvincing undefeated record in conference play with struggles over some of the Big 12's worst teams, but Saturday will be a reprieve in Norman with the Sooners winning big.

My pick: Oklahoma 82, Texas Tech 58

 

Nebraska at No. 19 Missouri, 1:30 PM ET Saturday on ESPN360

The Cornhuskers are also making a run at one of the last at-large spots in the NCAA Tournament, but a hot Tigers team coming off a Border War victory against Kansas won't be stopped right now. Mizzou's in-your-face pressure will be too much to handle for Nebraska.

My pick: Missouri 88, Nebraska 71

 

Oregon at No. 24 Washington, 3 PM ET Saturday

The Ducks are as bad as it gets in a BCS conference, which means the Huskies are going to have a field day with the hapless Canards.

My pick: Washington 83, Oregon 54

 

No. 16 Kansas at Kansas State, 3:30 PM ET Saturday on ABC

The Jayhawks looked unbeatable in conference play for eight games, 39 minutes, and 55 seconds, but a late shot by Missouri sent Kansas home with its first Big 12 loss of the year.

KU will get hot a Kansas State team in Manhattan. Not too many upsets are likely Saturday, but this game has an upset written all over it.

My pick: Kansas State 79, Kansas 75

 

Fordham at No. 14 Xavier, 4 PM ET Saturday

The only reason the Rams should show up Saturday in Cincinnati is because of the old saying, "That's why they play the game." Fordham doesn't stand a chance, but odd things have happened in college basketball.

My pick: Xavier 75, Fordham 44

 

No. 23 Purdue at Iowa, 4 PM ET Saturday on Big Ten Network

The Hawkeyes can't really beat anyone anymore and even a hurting Boilermaker team isn't struggling enough for Iowa to grab a conference victory.

My pick: Purdue 58, Iowa 53

 

Cincinnati at No. 4 Pittsburgh, 4 PM ET Saturday on ESPN

The Bearcats are suddenly closing in on an NCAA Tournament bid after defeating Georgetown twice and Notre Dame to add to those two teams' miseries. But Pitt is simply too strong inside for Cincinnati. DeJuan Blair should eat the Bearcat frontcourt alive.

My pick: Pittsburgh 83, Cincinnati 65

 

No. 10 Memphis at Southern Mississippi, 5 PM ET Saturday on CBS

Conference USA has been a major disappointment as a whole and the Golden Eagles are one of the main reasons why. Southern Miss looked like it had some potential to be an NCAA Tournament team in the non-conference season, but has tremendously underachieved.

Things won't be getting better with Memphis up next, which hasn't lost since John Calipari moved Tyreke Evans to the point guard position.

My pick: Memphis 76, S. Miss 58

 

St. John's at No. 12 Marquette, 9 PM ET Saturday on ESPN360

The Golden Eagles have dropped two straight since starting out Big East play 9-0, but Buzz Williams' club will get back on track against the Red Storm. Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews should torch the Jonnies with their 20 ppg scoring averages.

My pick: Marquette 88, St. John's 71

 

No. 17 Utah State at Boise State, 9:05 PM ET Saturday

The Broncos entered the season as one of the favorites in the Western Athletic Conference and will prove it on Saturday night. On its blue court, Boise State will dial up an upset against an Aggies team that has been winning on the road, but in unspectacular fashion.

My pick: Boise State 68, Utah State 66

 

No. 21 Gonzaga at San Francisco, 11 PM ET Saturday on ESPNU

The Zags grabbed their second victory of the year over Saint Mary's College on Thursday night and won't have a letdown game against a terrible San Francisco team.

My pick: Gonzaga 79, San Francisco 46

 

No. 20 Illinois at Indiana, 1 PM ET Sunday on CBS

The Illini are coming off a tremendous comeback victory against Northwestern Thursday night and will use that momentum to thrash the pathetic Hoosiers on Indiana's home floor.

My pick: Illinois 72, Indiana 54

 

No. 11 Clemson at Virginia, 1 PM ET Sunday on ESPN360

The Tigers' full-court pressure will be too much for Virginia to deal with as the Cavaliers will get blown out on their home court.

My pick: Clemson 87, Virginia 62

 

No. 15 Butler at Loyola, 2 PM ET Sunday

The Bulldogs will pick up their second victory in three days against a bad Loyola team.

My pick: Butler 61, Loyola 42

 

DePaul at No. 7 Louisville, 4 PM ET Sunday on ESPNU

The Blue Demons better be scared because this is going to be one angry Cardinals squad after losing by 33 against Notre Dame.

My pick: Louisville 78, DePaul 58

 

No. 5 Duke at Boston College, 5:30 PM ET Sunday

The Blue Devils lost their rivalry game against North Carolina, which means—like Louisville—they'll be plenty angry against a Boston College team that already knocked off North Carolina. BC won't have enough to stop Coach K's team.

My pick: Duke 80, Boston College 68

 

No. 3 North Carolina at Miami, 7:45 PM ET Sunday

This is an absolute must-win game for the Hurricanes after they blew a golden opportunity to upset Duke in Cameron last weekend.

Miami needs every victory it can get to climb back to .500 in conference play. A win against North Carolina would also be a statement victory for the Hurricanes.

The Tar Heels will be too good, though, as they are running on all cylinders after a sluggish start to ACC play.

My pick: North Carolina 99, Miami 87

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