Game You Need to Watch
(No. 6) West Virginia at (No. 4) Purdue, 2:30PM Friday on ESPN
This New Year's Day matchup has the potential to be the best college basketball game of the season so far. Only six teams remain unbeaten headed into the New Year, and two will play each other Friday.
The Mountaineers already have one quality road win after knocking off Seton Hall in New Jersey last weekend. A win Friday could mean that WVU, not Syracuse is still the team to beat in the Big East.
The Mountaineers should prove to be a great tune-up for the Boilermakers, as West Virginia functions more like a Big Ten team rather than a Big East squad.
Bob Huggins' team will slow things down and crash the glass hard with five forwards in the starting lineup. Purdue is built to beat this team, as the team's weakness—shooting and defending the three—(rank 260th in three-point shooting and 236th in three-point defense) likely won't be exploited.
West Virginia is a mediocre three-point shooting team and scores an exceptional amount of points off of put-backs and offensive rebounds. The Boilermakers are a solid rebounding team and kept the two longest teams they've played (Tennessee and Wake Forest) off the glass. Both Tennessee and Wake had either their worse or second worst offensive rebounding games of the year against Purdue.
West Virginia's hopes fall onto the shoulders of Devin Ebanks. Ebanks will get help from Da'Sean Butler, who has played like an All-American, and Kevin Jones, who has become one of the most underrated players in the country. The missing piece to a completely dominant WVU frontcourt is a healthy, focused Ebanks.
He's beginning to come into his own with three straight strong performances, including two in which scored at least 14 points and grabbed at least 13 boards.
Purdue has the bodies to contain two of WVU's three talented forwards, but if all three play well, the Boilermakers don't have the make up to stop three strong scorers and dominant rebounders.
My pick: Purdue 69, West Virginia 64
Pitino vs. Calipari, Blue Grass Battle Edition
Louisville at Kentucky, 3:30PM Saturday on CBS
The media circus that will occupy Rupp Arena should produce about 1,000 stories about the same two or three angles of the off the court indiscretions these two coaches have faced recently.
National featured columnist Jonathan Lintner will be one of those media members representing Bleacher Report. Look for a very different take from him Saturday after the game.
As for the actual game, Kentucky has started to play very well behind freshmen John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins, whose statistics for every 40 minutes in points and rebounds rank near the top of the country. Patrick Patterson should also give Louisville's frontcourt fits in what should be a fairly easy win in this heated rivalry.
My pick: Kentucky 83, Louisville 70
Mid-Major Battle of the Weekend
Dayton at (No. 17) New Mexico, 9:00 PM Friday
Entering the season, it looked like if one of these teams would be ranked 17th on the first day of 2010, it would be Dayton. However, the Flyers defense hasn't been as strong as last season and the offense still hasn't come around.
Dayton should still be a favorite to win the Atlantic-10 this season, but the Flyers don't look like the preseason top 25 team that many thought they would be.
New Mexico has exceeded expectations thus far, with efficient scorers up and down its roster. If the Lobos can push the tempo, then the Flyers will have trouble defending, as their worst defensive games of the season came in up-tempo games.
Between New Mexico's offensive balance and the fact that this game is at the Pit, a win for the Flyers would be a legitimate upset.
My pick: New Mexico 71, Dayton 62
The Upset You Should Not Be Shocked About
(No. 8) Villanova at Marquette, 3:30 PM Saturday on ESPN2
Both teams don't have much size, and by much size, I mean Marquette plays Jimmy Butler and Lazar Hayward at the four and five when neither one is taller than 6'7'' and Villanova only plays two guys who are 6'8'' or taller.
Despite the guard dominated lineup, Villanova allows team to shoot well and often from three-point range. Marquette is shooting extremely well from deep and operates an offense that allows them to get a lot of shots from three. Marquette's dribble-drive motion and reversal of the ball should give 'Nova fits.
Marquette also has the make up to shut down Villanova's potent offensive attack which revolves around getting to the hoop and drawing contact.
My pick: Marquette 78, Villanova 70
It's a Party in the Missouri Valley Conference
The Missouri Valley Conference dominates New Years Day as all 10 teams will be in action. However, there's only one intriguing game out of the five, with Illinois State squaring off against Missouri State. The two teams have a combined three losses this season and this game could prove to be a title game preview.
Other Important Action
(No. 18) Clemson at (No. 7) Duke 7:45 PM Sunday
The Blue Devils can show they belong in the same tier of teams as the current unbeatens with a win against Clemson.
Xavier at Wake Forest 5:30 Sunday
This is a must win game for both teams, as they look to bolster their at-large resumes for March. Xavier is playing better, but the Musketeers certainly have not looked like one of the three best teams in the Atlantic-10.
(No. 1) Kansas at (No. 19) Temple 5:30 PM Saturday on ESPN2
The Owls have certainly been a surprise thus far this season and can continue their shockingly strong play with an upset against the Jayhawks. For KU's Morris Twins, this game is somewhat of a homecoming back to Philadelphia. The twins helped handle another Philly team in La Salle and should do the same against Temple on Saturday.