College Basketball Weekend Top 25 Preview: The Regular Season Wraps Up

Jameson FlemingSenior Writer IMarch 6, 2009

No. 1 Connecticut at No. 4 Pittsburgh, Noon Saturday on CBS

The beastly Big East provides tremendous matchups every single week. This one tops them all (even the first encounter between these two teams). The first time Pittsburgh and UConn tipped off, the Huskies were still learning how to play without Jerome Dyson.

Jim Calhoun's team has had enough games to figure out how to win without him and will try to show the country they are still the team to beat by crashing Pittsburgh's Senior Night.

The Huskies are capable of beating the Panthers. However, it will be extremely difficult to do on Levance Fields' home floor and on Sam Young's Senior Night.

I would rather try to de-thaw reindeer meat in the Arctic than try to beat Pitt on Senior Night.

UConn is battle tested since Dyson went down. They already squared off with Pitt once, knocked off Notre Dame at home, and went on the road to Marquette.

Calhoun will need A.J. Price and Hasheem Thabeet to continue to step up.

Fields and Blair dominated the first matchup against Price and Thabeet. Blair's big body forced Thabeet into foul trouble which allowed the sophomore to grab 23 boards.

What UConn needs to do is feed the ball to Thabeet on the offensive end; Blair should be forced into foul trouble if the ball enters the paint enough because of Thabeet's size. But does Thabeet have the offensive skills to pull off this strategy?

The winner all but locks up a top seed, while the loser (more so Pitt than UConn) will need to win some games in the Big East Tournament to ensure they keep their one seed.

My pick: Pitt 83, UConn 72


No. 7 Duke at No. 2 North Carolina, 4:00 P.M. Sunday on CBS

UConn-Pitt on Saturday and Duke-North Carolina on Sunday, is there a better a way to go out with a bang in the regular season?

The Blue Devils are surging ahead and have thrown their names back into the proverbial hat to garner a No. 1 seed on Selection Sunday.

If Oklahoma, Pitt, or UConn slips up and Duke takes home a win Sunday and an ACC Championship, Mike Krzyzewski will have Duke on the top seed line once again.

Duke has retooled its rotation, inserting freshman Eliot Williams into the starting lineup to provide freaky athleticism. In the two team's first meeting, Williams did not even get to experience this storied rivalry as the freshmen never checked in.

After sitting in the next game (a loss to Boston College), Williams became an instant impact player after Krzyzewski started the McDonald's All-American from Memphis.

In the five games since then (all Duke wins), Williams has average almost 12 points per game, scoring in double figures four times, which is something he had not done all year.

His athleticism will help slow down UNC's up-tempo attack, but one freshman who's never played in the Dean Dome probably is not a big enough difference to make up for the 14-point thumping UNC laid on Duke in Cameron.

Tyler Hansbrough and Danny Green will lead the Tar Heels on Senior Day in a game that can all but lock up a No. 1 seed, as well as a No. 1 ranking, if UConn goes down on Saturday.

My pick: UNC 97, Duke 85


No. 25 Syracuse at No. 15 Marquette, 2:00 P.M. Saturday on ESPN360

The 'Cuse just did something it has never done in Big East play. Marquette is doing something it has not done all year.

For the Orange, that's win three consecutive Big East games by at least 24 points and for Marquette, that's consistently struggle.

SU just dismantled three Big East teams, St. John's by 29, Cincinnati by 24, and Rutgers, on senior, night by 30.

Marquette just lost five of eight, including three in a row to top-ten teams.The Golden Eagles' struggles come after losing senior stalwart Dominic James to a broken foot.

Marquette's defense has been a significant problem lately. Buzz Williams' team has allowed 1.1 points per possession, a tenth of a point higher than the national average, four times in the last seven games.

In Marquette's previous 23 games, the Golden Eagles were that bad defensively only twice.

With Syracuse entering the encounter on its best five-game offensive streak of the year, Marquette could be in serious trouble.

SU could be facing the same predicament. The 2-3 zone has not been particularly good this year until this three-game winning streak. Syracuse's latest opponents have shot terribly from beyond the arc, but Marquette can light things up from three.

Both squads should get plenty of open looks. The Orange's will be near the basket, Marquette's from three-point territory.

Whoever has the hot hand comes away with a victory in a high-scoring affair.

My pick: Syracuse 88, Marquette 85


No. 20 Purdue at No. 8 Michigan State, Noon Sunday on CBS

For the past few weeks, it looked like Purdue might finally be developing into a team that could win the Big Ten.

That was until the Boilermakers somehow lost to Northwestern on Senior Night. A win against Michigan State will not earn Purdue any accolades, but it will give the Boilermakers some added confidence after beating the league champions twice.

The first time around, Purdue held Michigan State to its lowest field goal percentage of the year. Other than Purdue, only North Carolina forced Michigan State to shoot below 40 percent in a game (and people say the Tar Heels' defense is bad).

Like last week's battle between the Spartans and the Illini, this game will feature two stud defenses.

Both teams rank in the top 15 in defensive efficiency, but MSU is a superior rebounding team. Tom Izzo's club ranks in the top five in the country in both offensive and defensive rebounding. Purdue is not in the top 100 in either category.

Against Illinois, MSU had an offensive efficiency of 104, the Illini's was 93. The Spartans grabbed 30 percent of their misses, while Illinois grabbed only 18 percent of their misses. Extra opportunities to score allowed MSU to raise its offensive efficiency enough to knock off Illinois in Champaign.

If Michigan State controls the boards (which they should), the Spartans will win on their home court.

My pick: Michigan State 63, Purdue 58


Tulane at No. 3 Memphis, 1:00  P.M. Saturday

The Tigers cannot afford an inexplicable let down if they want a one seed in the tournament.

My pick: Memphis 71, Tulane 45


No. 12 Missouri at Texas A&M, 2:00 P.M. Saturday on ESPN2

The Aggies are very close to picking up an at-large bid after almost every other bubble team went down in defeat earlier in the week. A victory over Missouri could give Texas A&M the lift it needs. Efficiency models pick Missouri; RealtimeRPI picks Texas A&M.

My pick: Texas A&M 76, Missouri 74


California at No. 21 Arizona State, 2:00 P.M. Saturday on CBS

Haiku time!

Both teams suck lately,

One must prevail in desert,

Harden dominates.

My pick: Arizona State 62, California 58


Oregon at No. 17 UCLA, 3:30 P.M. Saturday on ABC

The Bruins just dismantled Oregon State. Saturday will be deja vu for UCLA.

My pick: UCLA 78, Oregon 51


Oklahoma State at No. 5 Oklahoma, 3:30 P.M. Saturday on ABC

The Cowboys are really close to an NCAA Tournament bid and a win over the Sooners would put them over the top. If Oklahoma wins this game (which it should), Oklahoma State will be forced to win at least one, maybe two games in the Big XII Tournament.

My pick: Oklahoma 85, Oklahoma State 80


No. 11 LSU at Auburn, 4:00 P.M. Saturday on ESPN360

The battle of the SEC West teams nicknamed the Tigers could sneak Auburn onto the bubble. Auburn has won seven of eight and could pick up a tenth SEC win against an LSU team that finally lost again against a mediocre Vanderbilt team.

My pick: Auburn 75, LSU 70


Texas at No. 9 Kansas, 4:00 P.M. Saturday on CBS

The Longhorns wrapped up an at-large bid with a win over Baylor Monday night.

A win at Kansas would help Texas move up a few seed lines away from the 8/9 seed line. However, the Jayhawks never lose at home and will be hungry for a Big XII outright title, so Kansas comes away with a victory.

My pick: Kansas 77, Texas 71


Washington State at No. 13 Washington, 5:30 P.M. Saturday on CBS

The Cougars are one of the hottest teams in the nation and, if they win at Washington, they could suddenly find themselves on the bubble.

Two wins in the conference tournament puts them at 19-14, winning seven of the last ten, with five wins over RPI Top 50 teams in the last three weeks of the season.

Everyone else on the bubble keeps losing so there is a glimmer of hope if you are the Cougars.

Unfortunately for Wazzau, the Huskies are playing extremely well and should win on Senior Day.

My pick: Washington 75, Washington State 64


No. 18 Xavier at Richmond, 7:00 P.M. Saturday

The Musketeers just knocked off Dayton (who is doing everything possible to try to miss the dance down the stretch) and can win the Atlantic 10 title outright with a win over the Spiders.

My pick: Xavier 67, Richmond 66


No. 6 Louisville at West Virginia, 9:00 P.M. Saturday on ESPN

The Cardinals will be rooting hard for Pittsburgh on Saturday afternoon. Combine a Panther win with a Cardinal victory and Rick Pitino's team will be regular-season champions and poised for a top seed in the NCAA Tournament.

My pick: Louisville 75, West Virginia 63 (Louisville wins the Big East)


Virginia Tech at No. 24 Florida State, 2:00 P.M. Sunday

Beating the Seminoles is an absolute must for the Hokies who blew two consecutive opportunities (on their home court) to get the last win Seth Greenberg's team needed to likely secure an at-large bid.

Florida State will force Virginia Tech into reaching the ACC Final to make the tournament as the Seminoles should hold serve on Senior Day behind the departing Toney Douglas and Uche Echefu.

My pick: Florida State 68, Virginia Tech 64


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