Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Six Pack For Wednesday

A look at the six most notable games on Wednesday's schedule:

Clemson at North Carolina
Most stats can be twisted to say anything you want them to say. This one...not so much: The Tigers, fresh off their battle-of-the-unbeatens loss at home to Wake Forest, are 0-53 all-time at North Carolina. That streak alone seems to guarantee a Tar Heels win, but a closer look shows that Carolina won't need to rely on history to get a victory. The Heels trounced Virginia and Miami (FL) last week and seem to have returned to pre-Wake and BC-loss form. Wayne Ellington notched his first 20-point game of the season against the Hurricanes and Ty Lawson chipped in with his second straight game of at least eight assists. UNC even played well on the defensive end in both games last week, something they weren't able to do against Wake and BC. Clemson has the shooters to make this one interesting - especially if UNC gets into one of its defensive lapses - but in the end, expect the Heels to hand Clemson its second straight loss.

Villanova at Connecticut
The Huskies were the biggest beneficiaries of Pitt's loss to Louisville over the weekend, as they got bumped up to the one line for the first time since their home loss to Georgetown. If UConn wants to stay there, they'll need to beat a 'Nova team that has given it fits over the last three years - the Wildcats have won three of the last four meetings between the two. This Villanova team, though, might not give the Huskies as many problems as its predecessors. The Wildcats have yet to beat a quality Big East opponent, and aside from dominating a handful of mediocre to poor A-10 teams, they haven't won much out of conference either. Losing at the XL Center won't hurt 'Nova too much seed-wise, but if they can't win at South Florida this weekend, they might be on the wrong side of the bubble come Monday.

Florida State at Miami (FL)
Our friends at the Florida State Rivals board have to be pretty pumped about the way their 'Noles have played of late - and especially how they played against Maryland on Saturday. FSU has made it a habit over the last few years of losing key home games, but against the Terps, they found a way to pull through in OT. Their next challenge is to do something else they haven't done well in recent years - and that's win conference road games. This game, against an inconsistent but dangerous Miami team, certainly won't be easy, and FSU's struggles on the road this season (N.C. State aside) are a little troublesome. Many of those struggles came early on in the season, though, when the young 'Noles were still learning to play together. They've grown up a lot since, and given their improved defense and height advantage vs. the undersized 'Canes, we really like their chances to knock off their in-state rival.

Missouri at Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State has been the last team out of our bracket each of the past two weeks. If they had any kind of OOC resume, they definitely would have made it into the bracket this week, ahead of Missouri, since they host the 12th-seeded Tigers tonight. This is essentially a win-and-in game for the Cowboys and a win-to-stay-in game for Missouri, which needs to play a lot better than it did in its first conference road game (at Nebraska). Oklahoma State's defense ranks among the worst in the conference (they allow over 72 points per game), so the Tigers should have chances. Anything close to a repeat performance of their Colorado win last week - where six players scored in double figures and Missouri shot 63 percent from the field - will keep the Cowboys on the outside looking in again.

Arizona State at Arizona
Arizona's four game homestand couldn't have come at a better time. They look at get back on track after dropping 4 of 6 on the road. The Sun Devils are coming off a comeback OT win at UCLA and are trying to establish themselves as the team to beat in the wide open Pac-10. The Sun Devils broke their 12 game losing streak against the Wildcats last season when they swept the season series. The season sweep and finishing one game ahead in conference play still wasn't enough to earn them a bid over UofA to the Big Dance. This is surely fresh in the minds of ASU players and fans who would enjoy nothing more then helping to end the Wildcats' long run of tourney bids with two more losses this season.

The preseason MWC favorites face off in a matchup that may go a long way to determine the regular season conference title, which will likely mean an at-large bid come Selection Sunday. BYU has a solid RPI and most bracketologists put them anywhere from a 7-10 seed, but we just don't see them being worthy of that kind of seed. Their best wins are against the WAC frontrunners (Utah State and Boise State) and they just got blown out down at the Pit. The Rebels have struggled mightily in early conference play, dropping games at TCU and lowly Colorado State after putting together a solid OOC resume. It's tough to imagine the Rebels getting back on track tonight since they've only won once in Provo in the past decade. With a home matchup with Utah looming this weekend it's not unthinkable for the Rebels dropping to 2-4 in conference play and out of the bracket in exchange for one of the many MWC contenders.

Also receiving votes: Florida at South Carolina, Mississippi State at LSU, Auburn at Kentucky, Nebraska at Oklahoma, Baylor at Kansas State, Northwestern at Michigan State, Wisconsin at Iowa, Virginia Tech at Wake Forest, Louisville at Rutgers, George Mason at Northeastern, Bryant (3-15) at N.J.I.T (0-18....does the streak end tonight??)

1 comment:

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