Unlike the weekend after Thanksgiving, the weekend after Christmas is not stock full of action that will keep you glued to your seat. There are a few games over this holiday weekend that will help determine what teams will be doing the jig near St. Patty's Day.
UAB vs. (19) Louisville, 4:00PM ESPN2
Before the season started, a game between the Blazers and Cardinals looked like it could be a matchup of top 25 teams, but UAB, under former Indiana coach Mike Davis, hasn't gotten off to the hot start they thought they would. Louisville's had even more problems, stumbling out of the gate and falling flat on its face.
Louisville should be able to rebound and make the NCAA Tournament, but UAB needs these kinds of wins in the non-conference portion of its schedule to pad its résumé.
It certainly won't be easy for the Blazers. After several defections and academic issues, Mike Davis is down to just six scholarship players. One injury and UAB can kiss its chances of winning Conference USA goodbye. Look for UAB to try to slow the game down to avoid tiring out early.
Louisville shouldn't have a lot of trouble slowing down UAB's three-man attack of Paul Delaney, Robert Vaden, and Lawrence Kinnard. The Cardinals rank first in the country in defensive efficiency and rank in the top 10 in the country in field goal percentage defense and defensive rebounding.
West Virginia vs. (13) Ohio State, 4:00PM CBS
Once again, before the season these two teams looked like they'd have reversed roles right now entering this game. West Virginia had aspirations of being well into the Top 25 behind stud freshman Devin Ebanks, but losses to Kentucky and America's Cinderella, Davidson, have the Mountaineers unranked.
The Buckeyes, on the other hand, looked like they might be able to jump into the Top 25 at some point behind stud freshman center B.J. Mullens. He hasn't performed to expectations, but everyone else has, which means Thad Matta's team is still undefeated.
This will be Ohio State's first big game without star wing David Lighty, who went down with an injury three games ago. OSU still has several weapons in another stud wing, Evan Turner, and former Mr. Ohio Basketball Jon Diebler.
Like Louisville, Ohio State employs a very effective defense, but without Lighty, one of the team's best defenders, the Buckeyes could struggle against a deeper, stronger WVU team. West Virginia is also no slouch on the defensive end, ranking in the top five in the country as well.
Expect a very low-scoring, slow-paced basketball game that has a legitimate chance of failing to escape the 50s on each side.
Washington State vs. LSU, 2:00PM ESPN2
The Cougars have had several chances to register résumé building victories in the first six weeks of the season, but haven't cashed in on those opportunities. The Tigers are the complete opposite. LSU hasn't really played anybody and lost its only game against a major conference opponent (Texas A&M).
Washington State is most known for its slow play and filthy defense, but LSU might bring more defensive intensity to this game—well, at least down on the blocks. The Tigers rank near the top of the country in field goal percentage, two-point field goal percentage, and shot blocking. 6'11" Chris Johnson is an absolute monster on the block.
LSU will also have a cavalcade of capable offensive catalysts. Marcus Thornton, Bo Spencer, and Tasmin Mitchell can all put points on the board in a hurry.
Washington State is the yin to LSU's yang. The Cougars don't score much and only have two players averaging double-digits. WSU hangs its hat on a defense that allows a mere 48 points per game.
Drake vs. Evansville, 3:05PM
Nobody outside the Missouri Valley is going to be able to watch this game, but it's one definitely worth keeping tabs on. The Bulldogs are the reigning conference champions but lost numerous key players to graduation. Evansville is on the up and up as the Purple Aces are off to a great 8-2 start.
If Evansville doesn't win this game, the Purple Aces will have trouble picking up an at-large bid. For Drake, a win means the Bulldogs might have enough talent to contend for another MVC title.
A Few One-Liners
Miami vs. St. John's 12:00PM Saturday
The Johnnies are 9-2. That's extremely deceiving. Miami should win this matchup of one-time Big East foes going away.
Florida Atlantic vs. Kentucky, 3:00PM Saturday, ESPN360.com
Jodie Meeks has outscored his opponents in the first half of Kentucky's last two games. FAU is pretty bad, so a third straight game of Meeks > Opponent is a distinct possibility.
Wagner vs. NJIT, 6:30PM Sunday
The Highlanders haven't won since the second half of the 2006-2007 season. Wagner's 6-3, so a win for NJIT is once again not likely.
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