Games You Need to Watch
(5) Syracuse vs. (9) West Virginia, Noon Saturday on ESPN
The last time the Orange went to Morgantown, the 'Cuse received one of its worst road beatings since a disastrous 39 point beat-down to DePaul in 2006. That West Virginian beat-down came at a time when Andy Rautins had a bum knee, Wes Johnson was still an Iowa State Cyclone, and the Mountaineers still didn't really have a point guard.
Some things don't change.
That point guard play could and likely will be the deciding factor between the Mountaineers continuing to slide through the rankings and WVU legitimizing itself after disappointing losses on the road.
The two man rotation coach Bob Huggins has used throughout this season just hasn't worked. Truck Bryant and Joe Mazzulla haven't been the reliable floor generals West Virginia needs to run its forward dominated lineup.
It's been so bad at times that Huggins has started FIVE forwards. Playing so many forwards doesn't always work out so well.
When West Virginia faced an extremely physical Purdue team, the Mountaineers turned the ball over on 30 percent of their possessions, the highest rate of the season.
At time, wingman Da'Sean Butler has pulled an Evan Turner and played lead the Mountaineers as a point-forward. That really won't fly against a trapping zone that capitalizes on poor point guard play.
Luckily for West Virginia, if you don't have a solid, experienced floor general, the easiest way to beat the zone is find open looks from three, bury them, and if you don't, offensive rebound the air out of the ball.
Looking up and down Huggins' roster, shooters are abound. Six players have attempted at least two three-pointers per game and at any one time, Huggins can put four or even five shooters on the floor.
When those shots don't fall, West Virginia ranks FIRST in the national in offensive rebounding. As good as the Syracuse zone has been, rebounding has still been an issue.
My pick: West Virginia 76, Syracuse 70
(11) Georgetown at (4) Villanova, Noon Sunday on ESPN360
Scottie Reynolds has been REALLY GOOD this year. Sneaky good in fact. Austin Freeman for Georgetown has also been REALLY GOOD lately. His emergence hasn't been quite so sneaky. Exploding for 28 points in one half on national television against Connecticut loudly declared Freeman's dark-horse candidacy in the Big East Player of the Year race.
Freeman's the main reason the Georgetown offense is running at high efficiency, and that potent offense should stop Villanova's unbeaten streak through the league.
Although Villanova's defense has been, well to be nice, mediocre. The Wildcats have knocked off a handful of teams highly efficient offenses—Mississippi, Marquette (twice), Maryland, and Louisville.
The one game 'Nova lost? Temple, who's ranked 130th in offensive efficiency.
The difference between the wins and one loss? Tempo.
Jay Wright's stable of guards ran like heck (except against Marquette) in those wins; the offense stayed great and the defense wasn't terrible. Temple made Villanova guard the Owls for 25 or 30 seconds each possession and the Wildcats frequently broke down.
That's how the Georgetown offense breeds baskets and that's how the Hoyas will win Sunday.
My pick: Georgetown 69, Villanova 65
Mid-Major Matchup of the Weekend
Dayton at Xavier, 11:00 A.M. Saturday on ESPN2
After Xavier took down Charlotte on its homecourt during the week, coach Chris Mack asked his Twitter followers to be even louder and more boisterous for the next team to come to town—the A-10 favorites, Dayton Flyers.
This is a pivotal game for the Musketeers. In a sense, it's almost a must-win if X wants to go dancing this season. Losses piled up in the nonconference slate and Mack's team doesn't have a marquee win.
Generally, when top guard Jordan Crawford plays poorly, Xavier loses. He can't have the 4-for-20 or 6-for-19 shooting days that haunted him in the Old Spice Classic losses.
Crawford has been finding his role within the offense as Mack said in Orlando that Crawford has the green light on any shot that's within the offense. When the shooting guard started shooting shots Mack disapproved of, Mack benched him. Crawford has since responded by being much more efficient, but Xavier still hasn't been able to beat the best teams it's played.
Dayton has the athletes to potentially stop Crawford, but the Flyers don't have the brute size to contend with Xavier's trees in the post. Combine that with the homecourt advantage that stunned Cincinnati and Xavier could have a statement win.
My pick: Xavier 66, Dayton 58
The Upset You Shouldn't be Surprise About
(15) Connecticut at Michigan, 1:30 Sunday on CBS
The Huskies might be the worst 15th ranked team in awhile (and by awhile I clearly mean November) because that's when the Wolverines held down that same spot. Seven losses later and John Beilein's team must win this game to keep its tournament hopes alive.
The Crisler Arena isn't exactly the toughest place to play, but right now the Huskies don't look like they can win anywhere. The half-court offense is pretty putrid (check out the 3:30 mark of the video for Jim Calhoun testiness about his offense).
Matt Norlander of the College Hoops Journal had all the right to question Calhoun's offense. The Huskies scored just .9 points per possession and frankly, that's not going to beat anyone in the Big East (except DePaul and Rutgers).
Michigan might not be a Big East team, but if Connecticut converts like it has been, the Wolverines should get that much needed win.
My pick: Michigan 73, Connecticut 64
The Best of the Rest
(23) Mississippi at (10) Tennessee, 1:30 Saturday on ESPN360
The Volunteers avoided a letdown against Auburn after defeating top ranked Kansas, and now Bruce Pearl's team plays in front of his incredibly supportive home crowd again.
(18) Georgia Tech at (13) North Carolina, 2:00 Saturday on ESPN
Both teams are close to hitting the panic button. If UNC blows Georgia Tech out or GTech manages to upset the Tar Heels, it will be time for the loser to hit the drawing board.
Texas A&M at (1) Texas, 6:00 Saturday on ESPNU
The Aggies shouldn't stand in the way of the Longhorns pursuit of perfection. TAMU's first game against a quality opponent without Derrick Roland ended in disaster against Kansas State.
(2) Kentucky at Auburn, 4:00 Saturday on ESPN360
The Tigers couldn't beat a six-man Volunteers squad. What do you think will happen when the first six players in Kentucky's rotation are better than anyone Auburn has?