Previewing your college hoops weekend: Will Ohio State lose?

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UPSET SPECIAL

Sat. 2:00 pm: No. 1 Ohio State @ No. 14 Wisconsin: Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know.

A Wisconsin win on their home court may not even be qualified to be considered an upset, even if the opponent is the undefeated and No. 1 Ohio State Buckeyes. But since Wisconsin is ranked 14th and Ohio State is ranked 1st, we are calling it an upset to justify the use of this space to preview what is the marquee game of a pretty good slate of games.

The Badgers don’t score a lot of points, but don’t let that fool you — Wisconsin is the most potent offensive team in the country. The reason for that? They don’t turn the ball over and they make their free throws. Its that simple. They maximize the number of possessions that end in a shot which counteracts the fact that they are just an above average team shooting the ball, and they capitalize on their freebies.

Jon Leuer is the star of this team, but Jordan Taylor is their most important player. He controls their offense and thus the pace of the game, he doesn’t turn the ball over, he scores and he creates shots for his teammates, and the ball is in his hands at the end of a clock. It will be interesting to see who ends up guarding him; Aaron Craft and David Lighty are both terrific defenders.

By now, you surely know the way that Ohio State’s offense runs. They play off of their massive freshman Jared Sullinger, getting the ball into the post and allowing him to essentially be the playmaker. With shooters like Jon Diebler, David Lighty, and Williams Buford around him, Sullinger has plenty of options if an opponent doubles him. Wisconsin will probably have to, has their big men will be at a severe mismatch.

But they create a mismatch for the Buckeyes to deal with. Both Leuer and Nankivil are terrific shooters. Sullinger is going to have to guard one of them on the perimeter, and for everything he does well, the big fella is not built for defending 20 feet from the rim. That matchup is a big reason this game is so interesting. Now consider this — Wisconsin is the best team in the country at knocking down free throws and keeping possession of the ball, but Ohio State is the best in the country at keeping opponents from getting to the foul line and are the tenth best team when it comes to forcing turnovers.

This won’t be a high-scoring game, but if you appreciate quality, fundamental basketball, you’ll love this game.

UPSET ALERT

Sat. 1:00 pm: No. 21 North Carolina @ Clemson: This is not meant as a diss to the Tar Heels. If you read what I wrote off of Wednesday’s Duke-UNC game, you’ll understand that. This is meant more as a complement to the Tigers. Clemson looks like they may have the parts to play their way into that fourth spot in the ACC standings. They also seem to matchup pretty well with UNC. They are a solid defensive team with a couple of veteran guards that will like nothing more than to shut down Kendall Marshall. Clemson wants to play at a more deliberate pace than the Heels, so is Demontez Stitt can control the tempo and Clemson can limit their turnovers, the Tigers have a shot at home.

Sat. 1:00 pm: Temple @ Dayton: I know Dayton has been bad this season, but I still like the talent and athleticism that the Flyers have on their roster. Chris Wright and Chris Johnson are both quality basketball players while Juwan Staten has been one of the better freshman this season. Temple, however, is a terrific defensive team, which is an issue for a team like Dayton that really struggles to score at times. Dayton needs to play like they did against La Salle, when they scored 85 points, and not the way they did down the stretch against Rhode Island, scoring just 26 points in the last 25 minutes.

Sat. 4:00 pm: Baylor @ No. 3 Texas: I know this seems silly, but the Bears look like they are slowly turning into the team we expected in the preseason. They aren’t quite there yet, and may never get there with AJ Walton running the point, but Perry Jones has played so well of late that there is discussion he could be the No. 1 overall pick next season. Quincy Acy, who was moved to the bench, continues to rebound and block shots while Anthony Jones has made some big plays in the past couple of games. And, of course, they still have LaceDarius Dunn, who can explode for 30 points on a given night. I know how good Texas has been of late as well, but Baylor needs this win more than Texas. Hopefully, the Bears come out hard and make this a game.

Sat. 8:00 pm: No. 6 San Diego State @ UNLV: The Rebels have played well below expectations this season, but the Rebels certainly have the talent to be competitive against SDSU. UNLV can get out and defend, in the full court if necessary, and they have a number of players that can hit threes. Combine that with a Thomas & Mack Center that will be packed, and UNLV should have no problem getting fired up for this one.

Sat. 9:00 pm: Tennessee @ No. 19 Florida: The Vols are a perplexing team. They win games they shouldn’t win and they lose games they shouldn’t lose. They are talented, and when they decide to play and decide they are going to give effort, well, just as Pitt and Villanova what happens. The Vols match up well with Florida, especially Chandler Parsons, as both Tobias Harris and Scotty Hopson will likely see minutes guarding him. Parsons has been sensational of late and is a huge reason why the Gators have jumped out to a two game lead in the SEC.

Sun. 1:00 pm: No. 12 Purdue @ Illinois: Did a Thursday win at Minnesota turn things around for the Illini? Demetri McCamey and Mike Tisdale both came off the bench, and while neither played their best game, its a good sign that Illinois was able to pull out a victory on the road despite being dominated in the paint and shooting just 4-16 from deep. It will be interesting to see if Bruce Weber brings his two seniors off the bench again on Sunday.

BEST MATCHUPS

Sat. 12:00 pm: No. 13 Syracuse @ No. 15 Louisville: The battle of the 2-3 zone. Believe it or not, Syracuse has actually won two straight games on the road while losing their last three in the Carrier Dome. Maybe getting down to the KFC Yum! Center is exactly what they need. The Cardinals have now lost two of their last three games, with the win being a way-too-close four point victory against DePaul. Against Georgetown and Villanova, the Orange struggled getting out to shooters, and if they do that against Louisville, they will get blown out, as the Cards have a number of back court players that are streaky shooters, capable of getting 25 on a given night. Right now, Louisville is tied with Villanova for the all-important fourth spot in the Big East standings. Syracuse sits a game behind both of them.

Sat. 1:00 pm: No. 18 Kentucky @ No. 24 Vanderbilt: You’ll see this written 1,000 times before this game on Saturday, but Kentucky needs to prove that they are capable of winning on the road. They are 1-4 in SEC play on the road and have struggled dealing with a lack of leadership in those games. Each of the four losses have been close games that the Wildcats failed to execute down the stretch. Vandy, on the other hand, is coming off of a win over Alabama that allowed Florida to take over the overall lead in the SEC standings. Kentucky, Vandy, Tennessee, and Georgia are all sitting at 5-4 in the SEC, two games behind Florida in the loss column. Who makes themselves stand out in that group?

Sat. 2:00 pm: Old Dominion @ VCU: George Mason has been playing as well as anyone in the country over the past month, climbing into a first place tie with VCU in the CAA standings. In that run, however, the Patriots dominated ODU at home. VCU will be looking to do the same thing this weekend, as the Monarchs head to Richmond in a game that they have to win if they want any chance at winning the regular season title. The contrast of these two teams will make this fun to watch. ODU is a gritty, physical team known for hitting the glass. The Rams spread the floor and look to get up a lot of threes. Of note — Joey Rodriguez reinjured his ankle on Wednesday night.

Sat. 6:00 pm: Utah @ No. 8 BYU
: This was once one of the fiercest rivalries in the country, but with Utah’s fall from grace over the past few seasons, the importance of the game has been diminished. With both schools leaving the Mountain West next season, it will be quite interesting to see if the rivalry continues. If it doesn’t, which I doubt will happen but is certainly a possibility, than this is the last time the two schools will play. Oh yeah, when BYU played at Utah this year, The Jimmer had 47 points.

Sat. 9:00 pm: No. 4 Pitt @ No. 10 Villanova: This is the biggest game of the weekend for the east coasters. The Panthers are getting ready to run away with the Big East. They are two games up on Notre Dame, three games up on Georgetown, Villanova, and Louisville, and four games up on the rest of the pack. And while they will be playing without Ashton Gibbs in this one, the Panthers are a program that is built to withstand the loss of a key player. Ask West Virginia, who lost to the Gibb-less Panthers on Monday. If Villanova stands a chance in this game, they are going to need to get on the defensive glass. Mouph Yarou and Antonio Pena have to rebound the ball.

Sat. 9:00 pm: New Mexico @ Colorado State: Believe it or not, this has become one of the more important games in the MWC schedule this season. Right now, it appears as if the league will be getting two bids, not the four that we all expected coming into the season. These two teams, however, are right their on the bubble. Its almost to the point that, for both of these teams, every game is a must-win. To top it off, Colorado State’s terrific front line of Travis Franklin and Andy Ogide will be going against Drew Gordon, Philip McDonald, and company.

Sun. 1:00 pm: Marquette @ No. 11 Georgetown: This should be a very entertaining game. Both of these teams are (very) guard heavy, utilize bigger small forwards to play four, sometimes five, perimeter players at the same time, and both have no problem pushing the ball in transition. Darius Johnson-Odom and Austin Freeman are two of my favorite players to watch in the conference. The x-factor in this game will be Jae Crowder. He’s not putting up the numbers that Lazar Hayward did, but he has more than filled Hayward’s role.

Sun. 2:00 pm: Xavier @ Duquesne: The biggest game of the year to date in the Atlantic 10. The Dukes and the Muskies are both tied for first place in the standings, a game in front of Temple and Richmond. But not only are they fighting for a regular season title and seeding in the A-10 tournament, they are both still fighting for a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Xavier took a big step in that direction by winning at Georgia, but they would probably feel more comfortable about their chances if they took over first in the league. Of note — Duquesne beat Temple soundly in Pittsburgh back in January.

BEST STORYLINES

Friday

  • 7:00 pm: Yale @ Harvard: Harvard is a game behind Princeton in the Ivy standings, but Yale is sitting in third at 4-2 in the league.
  • 7:00 pm: Jacksonville @ East Tennessee State: Belmont has a comfortable lead in first place of the Atlantic Sun standings, but these two teams will be scrapping it out for second.

Saturday

  • 12:00 pm: No. 7 Notre Dame @ South Florida: South Florida nearly knocked off Marquette on Wednesday, and Notre Dame has struggled at times on the road.
  • 12:00 pm: St. Louis @ Richmond: The Spiders still have a chance to win the A-10, but they need to win games like this.
  • 12:00 pm: IPFW @ Oakland: The Grizzlies are no longer undefeated in the Summit League, but they are still the overwhelming favorite to win the league.
  • 1:00 pm: Maryland @ Boston College: All kinds of bubble implications in this one. Right now, these two teams are probably competing for fourth in the ACC.
  • 1:30 pm: Oklahoma @ No. 20 Missouri: Missouri needs a bounce back win as bad as anyone in the country. After that, they can work on winning on the road.
  • 1:30 pm: No. 22 Texas A&M @ Texas Tech: The Aggies have been trending the wrong way of late, especially on the road. They aren’t in danger of losing a bid to the tournament, but they are hurting their seeding.
  • 2:00 pm: Hofstra @ Delaware: Charles Jenkins is the one of the best guards in the country, but Jawan Carter of Delaware is pretty good himself.
  • 3:00 pm: Florida State @ Virginia: The Seminoles looked impressive early against Georgia Tech, but they had trouble closing out the game. Typical FSU, right?
  • 4:00 pm: Iowa State @ No. 2 Kansas: The Jayhawks have been absolutely running over their opponents since Thomas Robinson rejoined the team.
  • 4:00 pm: Ole Miss @ Alabama: After losing to Vanderbilt, the Crimson Tide cannot afford a loss here.
  • 4:00 pm: Georgia @ South Carolina: The Bulldogs need to start padding their resume if they why to feel comfortable about their at-large chances. Road wins in the SEC East are a good way to start.
  • 5:00 pm: James Madison @ George Mason: The Dukes are as talented as any team in the CAA, but GMU is currently in first place in the conference and playing as well as any team in the country right now.
  • 6:00 pm: Southern Miss @ Memphis: This is an incredibly important game at the top of Conference USA. The Tigers beat the Golden Eagles in their first meeting this season.
  • 6:30 pm: Texas Southern @ Jackson State: First place in the SWAC is on the line.
  • 7:00 pm: Rutgers @ Seton Hall: The battle of the Dirty Jerz.
  • 8:00 pm: Detroit @ Butler: Ignoring the implications in the Horizon League standings, the matchup between Ray McCallum and Shelvin Mack should be a fun one to watch.
  • 8:05 pm: Wright State @ Valpo: We can talk about the Horizon League implications in this game — first place is on the line.
  • 9:00 pm: Fresno State @ No. 17 Utah State: The Aggies cannot afford another loss before the conference tournament if they want a shot at earning an at-large bid.
  • 9:00 pm: Kansas State @ Colorado: Its tough to say whether which side either of these teams are still on the bubble, but a win in this game will help start getting them onto right side.
  • 9:00 pm: Northern Colorado @ Montana: First place in the Big Sky is on the line.
  • 10:00 pm: Wichita State @ Northern Iowa: This matchup would have been a lot more intriguing had these two teams not lost the past three games they played.
  • 10:30 pm: No. 23 St. Mary’s @ San Francisco: The Dons are always tough at home. Road games in conference are always tough.

Sunday

  • 12:00 pm: St. John’s @ Cincinnati: Like so many games this weekend, all kinds of bubble implications in this one.
  • 6:00 pm: No. 25 Minnesota @ Iowa: The Gophers have had a disastrous finish to their season after a terrific start.
  • 6:45 pm: No. 5 Duke @ Miami: How will the Blue Devils respond after knocking off UNC?
  • 7:00 pm: Providence @ No. 9 UConn: UConn has been in a tailspin of late. Last year, they were in a tailspin and Providence sent them crashing to the ground. Can UConn bounce back against the Friars?
  • 9:00 pm: No. 16 Arizona @ Arizona State: Rivalry games on the road are always tough to win. That said, the Sun Devils are 1-10 in a bad Pac-10.