Previewing your College Hoops weekend

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UPSET SPECIAL

Sat. 8:00 pm: St. John’s @ No. 15 Notre Dame: The Johnnies are back, baby! Well, at least they will be if they can put together a win in a Saturday night foray into the Joyce Center. After beating West Virginia and Providence on the road and knocking off Georgetown at home, St. John’s heads into the first Big East weekend of the year in first place in the Big East at 3-0. Everyone that has an opinion is going to have a different one on this group. As good as this 3-0 start is, they also have losses to St. Bonaventure and Fordham on their resume.

For Notre Dame, the key to their terrific start — one that has them sitting at 13-2 (2-1) and 15th in the country — has been team play. The Irish move the ball around really well, they understand what a good shot is, they find the guy that is hot, and they usually have a versatile lineup that can give you multiple looks. The reason that I say usually is because Carleton Scott will be out of the lineup as he nurses a hamstring back to health.

The way I see it, there are two keys to this game. The first is that Notre Dame is going to have to execute offensively. St. John’s isn’t the greatest defensive team in terms of efficiency, but they are physical and did a good job of taking Georgetown out of what they wanted to do offensively. The other thing that Notre Dame is going to need to do is slow down St. John’s around the rim. The Johnnies big men have been really effective of late, while DJ Kennedy and Justin Brownlee have proven to be quite dynamic up front.

UPSET ALERT

Sat. 2:00 pm: Marquette @ No. 5 Pitt: Marquette is going to have their problems with this Pitt team. They are not exactly overflowing with powerful front court players, and Pitt is about as big as it gets this season, especially when it comes to crashing the offensive glass. But Marquette is not the kind of team that gets blown out. They scrap, they hustle, and they defend, and in the end they will be in striking distance. With the shooters and perimeter scorers that Buzz Williams has this year, if Marquette can get hot they have a chance.

Sat. 4:00 pm: No. 11 Kentucky @ Georgia: Trey Thompkins is finally starting to come around. He had 26 points and 7 boards his last time out, and if you factor out his first two games of the season — against Notre Dame and Temple as he was still coming back from his ankle injury — Thompkins is actually having a fairly solid season. I think Georgia is a team that is flying a bit under the radar this year, and while I’m higher on Kentucky than most people, playing your first conference game as a freshmen on the road is not easy. Josh Harrellson better not get into foul trouble.

Sat. 5:00 pm: No. 24 Vanderbilt @ South Carolina: Vanderbilt is a bit different than the typical Vandy teams. They have quite a bit of size and athleticism inside, which combined with guys like John Jenkins and Jeff Taylor makes this a tough team to beat. The bigger issue for Vanderbilt is that they don’t exactly have a point guard. Brad Tinsely is, but he’s more of a playmaking off-guard. Ironically, point guard Brice Ellington, a freshman that starts for Darrin Horn, would be a nice fit for Vandy.

Sat. 8:30 pm: Portland @ Gonzaga: I’m not even sure Portland knocking off the Zags would count as an upset this year as Portland actually has a higher RPI right now. The Pilots shoot a lot of threes, and they hit them at a tremendous clip — 44.4% to be exact. If they get hot, the Zags better watch out.

Sun. 8:00 pm: Maryland @ No. 1 Duke: Yup. I’m saying it. Maryland has a chance to knock off Duke. Its a minute one, I’ll admit, but I like the way that the Terp’s personnel matchup with the Blue Devils. Duke struggles with big, strong post players, and that is Jordan Williams to a T. Gary Williams has also decided to move Terrell Stoglin into the starting lineup. If guys like Sean Mosley, Cliff Tucker, Pe’Shon Howard, and Stoglin play well on the perimeter and Jordan Williams plays like he has all season long, this could be where Duke’s undefeated season ends.

BEST MATCHUPS

Sat. 12:00 pm: Austin Peay @ Murray State: Believe it or not, these may actually be the best two teams in the OVC. And this game is on ESPNU? Yes please.

Sat. 3:00 pm: Florida State @ Virginia Tech: I came into the season thinking that these two teams would fight with UNC for sole possession of second place in the ACC. While that still may very well turn out to be true, they certainly won’t be doing it as ranked teams. Both teams have their star — Malcolm Delaney for Virginia Tech, Chris Singleton for Florida State. It will be interesting to see who can stop who.

Sat. 3:30 pm: No. 9 UConn @ No. 12 Texas: Kemba Walker and UConn have come back down to earth. After a story book start to the season, the Huskies are now sitting at 1-2 in the Big East, with that one being an overtime win over South Florida. The good news is that some of UConn’s freshmen are starting to show flashes of how good they can be. But that has come, apparently, at the cost of Alex Oriakhi, a guy that will be so important for the Huskies on Saturday. Why is he so important? Because Tristan Thompson is slowly by surely developing into a star. That will be a fun matchup to watch, as will Dogus Balbay guarding Kemba and Jordan Hamilton going up against UConn’s slew of lanky wings.

Sat. 6:00 pm: Charleston @ Wofford: The SoCon is a very good conference this season, and these two clubs could very well be the two best in the league. Charleston landed themselves a BCS school when they blew out Tennessee in Knoxville last weekend. Wofford didn’t beat any of their high major opponents this season, but they did come close on a number of occasions. Noah Dahlman will be the best big man on the floor, but I don’t think anyone wants to play against Andrew Goudelock right now.

Sun. 12:00 pm: No. 25 Cincinnati @ No. 7 Villanova: The time is finally here. We get to see whether or not unbeaten Cincinnati is for real. Their win over Xavier in the Crosstown Shootout was impressive, but Xavier looks like a team that is going to miss the NCAA Tournament this season. Villanova may win the Big East if they can get Corey Fisher playing on the same level as Corey Stokes. My advice to the Bearcats — get the ball to Yancy Gates. The big guy needs to eat.

Sun. 2:00 pm: No. 21 Minnesota @ No. 2 Ohio State: The Gophers have had a tough start to Big Ten play, and it doesn’t get any easier Sunday as they head to Columbus to take on the Buckeyes. You know about OSU by now — Jared Sullinger is a player of the year candidate while the four guys on the court around him all understand and buy into their roles. Minnesota, however, has enough size that they should be able to give Sully some issues on the block. They will need a much better offensive performance than the one they had against Indiana, but if Minnesota can slow down the big fella, they have a good shot at this win.

Sun. 8:30 pm: Missouri State @ Wichita State: This one will be a dandy and will be televised on ESPNU. The Bears and the Shockers are both undefeated in the Valley and look like they are the two best teams in the conference. They play at a slower pace than the Big Ten, but one of these two will likely be dancing come March. Make sure you know who they are.

BEST STORYLINES

Friday:

  • 7:00 pm: Cleveland State @ Butler: The best two teams in the Horizon League. And the favorite in the league may not be Butler.

Saturday:

  • 11:00 am: West Virginia @ No. 13 Georgetown: I will be at this game trying to determine what exactly is going on with the ‘Eers.
  • 12:00 pm: No. 4 Syracuse @ Seton Hall: The Orange play their first true road game of the season. In New Jersey.
  • 12:00 pm: UNC @ Virginia: The Tar Heels kick off their ACC season with a trip to Charlottesville. Can the Heels get it turned around this season?
  • 1:00 pm: No. 19 Michigan State @ Penn State: Kalin Lucas vs. Talor Battle will be fun to watch, as will practice on Monday if the Spartans lose.
  • 1:00 pm: No. 17 Kansas State @ Oklahoma State: The Cowboys are always tough in Gallagher-Iba, but with Pullen back and Judge playing like an all-american the last couple of games.
  • 1:30 pm: No. 8 Missouri @ Colorado: Colorado really needs a win, if for nothing else than to boost their confidence.
  • 1:30 pm: Tennessee @ Arkansas: Guess whose suspension is starting…?
  • 2:00 pm: George Mason @ Old Dominion: Before the season, I thought these two teams were the two best teams in the league.
  • 2:00 pm: Baylor @ Texas Tech: Can Baylor get a win on the road? The Bears are being flur
  • 3:00 pm: Air Force @ No. 14 BYU: Air Force has been much improved this season, but they are a long way from Jimmer territory.
  • 4:00 pm: No. 6 San Diego State @ Utah: SDSU’s second halves this season have been impressive. Their first halves? Not so much.
  • 4:00 pm: No. 16 Texas A&M @ Oklahoma: What’s the over-under on the number of Big XII games Oklahoma wins?
  • 4:00 pm: East Carolina @ No. 22 Memphis: Can the Tigers bounce back?
  • 4:00 pm: UTEP @ UAB: Randy Culpepper and Aaron Johnson are two of the most entertaining players in the country to watch.
  • 4:00 pm: Alabama @ Mississippi State: Who will Sidney fight on Saturday?
  • 4:00 pm: Richmond @ La Salle: Two of the best in the A-10 square off. Justin Harper going against Aaric Murray should draw the eyes of some NBA scouts.
  • 4:00 pm: Utah State @ Nevada: I had no idea Nevada, and the WAC in general, was going to be this bad this season.
  • 5:00 pm: No. 18 UCF @ Houston: Guess who is still undefeated.
  • 6:00 pm: LSU @ Auburn: The battle for the worst team in the SEC commences.
  • 6:30 pm: Stanford @ Arizona: Believe it or not, Stanford is in first place in the Pac-10. Stanford!
  • 6:30 pm: Oregon State @ Washington: And the Cardinal are tied with Washington. The Beavers fell back to earth against Wazzu on Thursday.
  • 8:00 pm: Ole Miss @ Florida: Chris Warren’s beared is worth watching this game on ESPN3 for.

Sunday:

  • 12:00 pm: Iowa @ No. 10 Purdue: Iowa may be better than we expected, but that doesn’t mean they can win at Mackey.
  • 12:00 pm: No. 23 Louisville @ South Florida: Gus Gilchrist quit the team and then came back. Did you even know?
  • 4:30 pm: No. 3 Kansas @ Michigan: At West Virginia, John Beilein won games like this all this time. He hasn’t been so fortunate at Michigan.
  • 7:00 pm: Indiana @ Northwestern: No one needs a win more than Northwestern right now.
  • 10:30 pm: UCLA @ USC: The two LA schools may actually be the second and third best teams in the Pac-10. This game has a lot more significance than it did at the start of the year.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.