Here is a preview of the top mid-major games of the weekend. For me, a mid-major team is any team not in the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, SEC, A-10, Mountain West or C-USA. I will try to publish this every weekend until the season ends, choosing five or six of the top mid-major games every weekend.
Furman (17-6, 9-3 SoCon) at Charleston (16-7, 9-2 SoCon)
Charleston showed me a few things against Wofford on Thursday night.
First, the game does not have to be the Andrew Goudelock show in order for the Cougars to win. They have multiple players, such as Jeremy Simmons and Donavan Monroe, that can put together strong scoring outputs.
Second, the Cougars can play defense. Charleston shut down Wofford in every way on Thursday.
If Charleston plays like it did against Wofford, Furman will have no chance. Since Furman is a little more flexible on offense than Wofford is, the Paladins will cause some more trouble for Charleston.
However, Charleston is still the better team and has the homecourt advantage.
My pick: Charleston by 10
Oakland (17-8, 12-0 Summit) at IUPUI (14-10, 8-3 Summit)
This will be Oakland's best chance to lose in the Summit League. The Golden Grizzlies are a perfect 12-0 in league play, while IUPUI stands in second place at 8-3.
As good as IUPUI has been in conference play, the Jaguars will fall short against Oakland tomorrow night.
The key to this game will be rebounding. Oakland is one of the best rebounding teams in the nation at 39.5 RPG, while IUPUI is in the bottom 40 in the country with only 31.8 RPG. The Golden Grizzlies' rebounding advantage will limit IUPUI to one shot on most possessions and give Oakland its share of offensive rebounds.
Although IUPUI is at a big disadvantage on the boards, the fact that this is a big-time game for the Jaguars, and they are playing at home, should be enough to keep them close for most of the game.
My pick: Oakland by seven
Lipscomb (14-9, 9-5 A-Sun) at Jacksonville (14-7, 8-4 A-Sun)
In a game for third place in the Atlantic Sun, Lipscomb and Jacksonville face off for the second time this season. In the first meeting, Jacksonville defeated the Bisons 60-56. Both teams enter this game after losing the previous game.
Lipscomb is definitely the more talented team of the two. However, the Bisons have struggled on the road this season, especially on offense. This season, four of their five conference losses have been on the road. The scoring struggles on the road occur particularly at the start of the game.
If Lipscomb gets going early, this game will be theirs.
My pick: Lipscomb by seven
Butler (14-9, 6-5 Horizon) at Cleveland State (21-3, 10-2 Horizon)
Butler is facing some big trouble. The Bulldogs seemed to be finding their groove in December and early January. However, they have lost three straight games and four of their last five. If Butler loses to Cleveland State, not only can the Bulldogs kiss an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament goodbye, but the Bulldogs would also fall to 6-6 in the Horizon League.
On the other side, Cleveland State hit a rough spot early in conference play but is back in a groove with six straight wins. The Vikings are currently receiving votes for both the AP Top 25 and the ESPN/USA Today Poll.
The two keys to this game will be whether or not Matt Howard gets into foul trouble and the three-point shooting from both teams.
Howard is possibly the best player in the Horizon League. However, he tends to get into foul trouble. During Butler's three-game losing streak, Howard is averaging over four fouls per game. To beat a strong team like Cleveland State, Butler needs Howard to be on the court as much as possible.
Both Cleveland State and Butler have a few very respectable three-point shooters. In some games, Butler has lived and died by the three-point shot. Cleveland State is a big threat from beyond the arc because it has a handful of good three-point shooters. Both teams need to capitalize from beyond the arc, and the team that capitalizes more will have a huge advantage.
My pick: Cleveland State by eight
Old Dominion (18-5, 9-3 CAA) at George Mason (18-5, 10-2 CAA)
Highlighting this weekend is a game between the second and third place teams in the CAA. More importantly than being a game between two teams at the top of the CAA, it is a game between two teams trying to put in the résumé for an at-large bid in the case that they are not the winner of the CAA Tournament.
The winner of this game will be in solid shape to get an at-large, while the loser could be in some trouble.
Look for this game to come down to Old Dominion's defense. If the Monarchs' defense can hold George Mason to 60 points or less, this game is Old Dominion's.
If George Mason scores in more than 60 points, the Patriots will almost definitely win. The last time Old Dominion won when allowing more than 60 points, January 15 at Hofstra. When allowing more than 60 points per game, Old Dominion is only 4-4.
Due to George Mason's recent offensive success, where the Patriots have scored more than 70 points in six of their last eight games, expect the Patriots to score enough to defeat Old Dominion.
My pick: George Mason by six
Which team has a better chance at an at-large bid to the 2011 NCAA Tournament in the event that it does not win the CAA Conference Tournament?
Other Games To Look Out For:
Quinnipiac (15-7, 7-4 NEC) at Long Island (17-5, 9-2 NEC)
Quinnipiac was the preseason favorite to win the NEC. However, the Bobcats hit a rough spot in mid-January and are currently in fourth place in the conference. With a month of college basketball left, the Bobcats get a chance to take down the first place Blackbirds and narrow the gap between them and first place to only one game.
Northeastern (8-15, 4-8 CAA) at Hofstra (14-9, 8-4 CAA)
Hofstra has looked bad recently, and Northeastern has looked great. After holding first place for the first half of CAA play, Hofstra has lost three straight games and is in fourth place. Northeastern opened conference play at 0-8, but the Huskies have won four straight games, with the most recent win being over first place Virginia Commonwealth.