Saturday, February 2nd Highlighted Match-ups

Saturday, February 2nd Highlighted Match-ups
Feb 02, 2008, 03:06 am

-ARIZONA AT UCLA (Pac Ten). Arizona has been up and down this season, but they’re currently playing very well. Considering a number of their losses came when they weren’t at full strength, they can play their way in position to earn a spot in the pod system, which is potentially huge because there are first/second round games in Anaheim and a regional in Phoenix. That is easier said than done, though, because they’ll have to contend with the likes of Washington State and UCLA to do it, but if you look at the standings they’ll be right in the mix if they could pull off this win. They’re coming off a big win against a very good USC team on the road, who beat UCLA earlier this year, so an upset is not out of the question. As for the Bruins, they want a top seed in the NCAA Tournament as well, and are coming off one of their more impressive wins of the season, which was an absolute blowout of Arizona State. They have just one loss in the conference, and a win today would put some separation between themselves and Arizona. A loss means that Arizona is just one game back, and since UCLA has to play at Arizona later this year, their spot at the top of the standings wouldn’t be quite as safe.

-STANFORD AT WASHINGTON STATE (Pac Ten). Stanford is on a roll, and has a great shot at getting into the pod system as well. They’re 17-3 on the year, and have won six of their last seven, many of which were on the road. If they can take down a tough Wazzu team today they’re going to be in great shape headed down the stretch. Washington State was surprised the other night with an upset loss at home to California, and doesn’t want to make it two losses in a row. They’re still not completely out of the race, and can make up some ground on Stanford with a win, but a loss in this game would drop them down to 5-4, and most likely place them lower on the S curve than both Stanford and UCLA. Neither team is in any danger of missing the tournament, but as far as two teams trying to earn a good seed I get the feeling that this is a somewhat pivotal game with quite a bit at stake.


-EASTERN MICHIGAN AT AKRON (Mid American). I still believe the Zips are a long shot for a bid, but they may have a chance if they can win the division outright and avoid any losses to poor RPI opponents down the stretch. That would probably require them to win out. A loss to a team like Eastern Michigan between now and the end will all but eliminate them from any at-large consideration.

-FLORIDA AT ARKANSAS (SEC). Arkansas looks like a bubble team, but they’re coming off a big win against Mississippi State and have another quality opponent today. The Gators absolutely smashed Vanderbilt in their last game and have been improving more and more as the season has gone on. They still have quite a bit of room for improvement, though, and haven’t played nearly as well on the road this year. A road win like this would really help them out.

-RICHMOND AT CHARLOTTE (Atlantic Ten). Charlotte continues to impress, and are actually in a tie for first place in the Atlantic Ten. They haven’t been getting into the projections because they really had some poor losses out of conference and have still not made up for them, but they still have a chance to make the NCAAs if they can finish high in the conference standings.

-MARQUETTE AT CINCINNATI (Big East). Every time I think Cincinnati is just about dead, they pull off an impressive win. They’re coming off a convincing win on the road against West Virginia, which snapped a two game losing streak. Both of those losses were winnable for the Bearcats, and had they won just one of them it would have made a huge difference. They can still play their way into the picture with a strong (albeit VERY strong) finish. They need to take care of business today, but one has to like their chances. Marquette has struggled on the road this year, and could use a few wins away from home between now and the end to improve their seeding. Otherwise their lack of road production could end up hurting their seed.

-BOSTON COLLEGE AT CLEMSON (ACC). Both of these teams really need this win, especially Boston College, who’s lost three in a row and five of their last seven. They’re still 3-3 in the league standings, but they’re falling fast. Clemson is also 3-3, but faired much better out of conference, which is why they’re currently in better shape. Clemson must string together some conference wins, though, because if they fall too far back in the standings they may miss the NCAA Tournament once again.

-KANSAS AT COLORADO (Big Twelve). Kansas just suffered their first loss of the season when they fell to rival Kansas State, but appears to be way undermatched in this one despite being on the road. Colorado has lost their last four, the most recent being a decisive loss to Iowa State. Kansas should be able to take care of business in this one and keep themselves in the Big Twelve race.

-PITTSBURGH AT CONNECTICUT (Big East). Connecticut has been playing great ball despite two of their contributing players being suspended. It will be interesting to see if they can keep that momentum going against Pitt. As of now, both teams look to be solidly in the tournament, so this is just a game between two teams competing for leverage in the conference standings, and trying to add another quality win to their resume to help boost their seed.

-WICHITA STATE AT CREIGHTON (Missouri Valley). Creighton is having a decent year, but doesn’t have any quality wins on their resume. Right now I’d have to say they’re outside looking in and will have to virtually win out, plus pick up a quality win in the Bracket Buster, to get any serious consideration for an at-large bid.

-MIAMI, FL AT DUKE (ACC). Duke is coming off an amazing second half against NC State where they overcame a halftime deficit and then completely took control. They appear to be one of the best teams in the country right now, and are in prime contention along with North Carolina to earn a #1 seed. The reason all the conference games are important is because only one of them can be placed in the Charlotte region. Miami is a quality opponent who has a good shot at making the NCAA Tournament. If they could pull off an upset like this it would really strengthen their case. A loss won’t really hurt the Canes, but a win would certainly help.

-JAMES MADISON AT GEORGE MASON (Colonial Athletic). Early wins against Kansas State and Dayton should get George Mason some consideration if they can hang on to first place in the conference, pick up a nice win in the Bracket Buster, and avoid any more losses to poor RPI teams. They’re coming off a nice win against VCU, but still have a very small margin for error considering some of the poor losses they have on their profile.

-SETON HALL AT GEORGETOWN (Big East). Seton Hall has won their last five games and is looking like they’ll be a force in the Big East. None of those wins were as impressive as winning at Georgetown would be, though. The Hoyas are 17-2 on the season and should be a lock for the pod system barring some sort of collapse. They’re also currently in sole possession of first place in the Big East, but some of their wins have been struggles, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Seton Hall give them a game.

-MARYLAND AT GEORGIA TECH (ACC). Maryland has made up quite a bit of ground, but doesn’t appear to be all the way back into the picture yet. It’s never easy to win on the road, but the Terps really are on a roll and this is a winnable road game. As of now, only one game separates 3rd place from 10th place in the ACC, so Maryland has a chance to really move up in a hurry in the standings, which would help their resume out. Having said that, there is also the chance that they’ll fall behind in a hurry.

-PURDUE AT ILLINOIS (Big Ten). Illinois is probably better than their record indicates, so this won’t be a cakewalk for the Boilermakers, but the Illini are still way out of contention for an NCAA bid. Purdue is 8-1 in their last nine games with the only loss being a close one to Michigan State, so they’re playing very good basketball right now with a chance to add another conference road win to their resume.

-DRAKE AT INDIANA STATE (Missouri Valley). Indiana State is unbeaten at home, but winless on the road, so even though they aren’t a strong NCAA contender this could still be a tougher game for Drake than many expect. Drake is nationally ranked, and with just one loss on the season they appear to be safe for an NCAA bid so long as they don’t stub their toes too many times between now and the end.

-OHIO STATE AT IOWA (Big Ten). Ohio State has won their last three games, and I wouldn’t expect them to have too much trouble in this one. They have stepped up and played well on the road this year, and this is another winnable conference road game for the Buckeyes.

-RUTGERS AT LOUISVILLE (Big East). Louisville won at Rutgers when the two met earlier this year, but Rutgers has some momentum going now. After losing their first six conference games, Rutgers upset both Villanova and Pittsburgh. The win against Pitt on the road was particularly surprising. In their last game they took Seton Hall into overtime, but couldn’t get over the top. The Cardinals have been playing well and look to have a solid resume, but they need to take advantage of winnable games at home such as this one if they want to sustain, and hopefully improve, their credentials to get a good seed.

-UTEP AT MEMPHIS (Conference USA). Memphis is coming off a somewhat decisive win against Houston on the road, which is probably the toughest test they’ll have in conference play. UTEP is decent, but is very young and isn’t likely to beat Memphis on their home floor. The Tigers are in strong contention to end up with a #1 seed by the end of the year.

-SOUTH CAROLINA AT MISSISSIPPI (SEC). Ole Miss followed up their blowout loss to rival Mississippi State with a nice win against Vandy in their last game. They have a winnable home game against South Carolina in this one, and need to take advantage because they have three conference losses already. South Carolina is outside the RPI top 100, so there is a chance that this loss would look kind of bad on Ole Miss’s resume if they happen to stumble.

-TENNESSEE AT MISSISSIPPI STATE (SEC). These are the two division leaders in the SEC. Mississippi State had been on a roll, but was beaten handily by Arkansas in their last game. Since there isn’t much in the way of quality wins on their out of conference portion of the schedule, they really need to step up and beat some good teams in conference. Tennessee has been on fire with the exception of their loss to Kentucky about a week or so ago. They’ve followed that up with two impressive wins and are now 17-2 on the year. They’ve shown they can play on the road this season, and have another chance to pick up a quality road win today. Mississippi State probably needs this more because they’re looking to solidify their spot in the field, whereas Tennessee is looking to earn a #1 seed.

-KANSAS STATE AT MISSOURI (Big Twelve). Missouri has lost four out of their last five, and has been disappointing since showing some promise early on in the year. Kansas State is red hot right now, and just won a huge game against rival Kansas. They need to come down from that, though, and focus on keeping the streak going. They’ve yet to lose a conference game and are in a position to really boost their profile if they can keep on winning. Sometimes after such an emotional win, the next game is kind of hard, though.

-ILLINOIS STATE AT MISSOURI STATE (Missouri Valley). It’s still possible for Illinois State to play their way into contention for an at-large bid, but they’ve stumbled some recently and I think they’ll have to win out or come very close to it if they want to feel safe.

-DE PAUL AT NOTRE DAME (Big East). De Paul has played better since conference play began, but they’ve lost their last two games and will have another very tough test against Notre Dame, who has a very long home winning streak going. The Irish are coming off an overtime scare against Providence, but I don’t expect that they’ll get as big of a fight from De Paul today.

-OREGON STATE AT OREGON (Pac Ten). Oregon has lost four in a row, and needs to string together some wins if they want to play their way back into the NCAA Tourney picture. They should be able to pick up a win today, but their next two games are on the road against the Bay Area teams (Stanford, Cal).

-MICHIGAN STATE AT PENN STATE (Big Ten). Penn State was off to a decent start, but has lost six in a row and the prognosis isn’t too good for them tonight. Michigan State should be able to win this one rather easily.

-WEST VIRGINIA AT PROVIDENCE (Big East). West Virginia suffered a somewhat surprising blowout loss at home to Cincinnati in their last game, and has now lost two in a row. Their next two games are on the road, so they could be headed for a bit of a slump. Providence is on the bubble and desperately needs some big wins. The middle of the Big East race is tight, and Providence has lost three straight games, so they’ve certainly been on the decline and needs to turn things around.

-DAYTON AT RHODE ISLAND (Atlantic Ten). Dayton snapped a three game losing streak where they played like crap in all three games with a win against Saint Louis. That’s not a win that’ll impress the committee, but it’s good for the mental health of a team that was really going down the tubes. Dayton beat Rhode Island earlier this season, but that was at home and at full strength. Rhode Island has won their last three games, has a solid NCAA profile, and should be able to take care of business at home. After this URI’s next three games are on the road.

-FORDHAM AT SAINT JOSEPH’S (Atlantic Ten). Saint Joseph’s has won nine of their last ten, and the only loss was a close one to Charlotte. Having said that, some of their wins have been close calls to teams you’d expect them to beat more easily. They’re in the tourney projections, but close to the bubble and a loss like this could knock them out. They also have a big rivalry game coming up against Villanova, and don’t want to get caught looking ahead.

-MASSACHUSETTS AT SAINT LOUIS (Atlantic Ten). Saint Louis has been pretty consistent this season, but other than a few surprises they’ve been consistently bad, and were just blown out by Dayton. UMass just snapped a two game losing streak with a road win at Duquesne, but I believe they need to take care of business in this game as well. They’re too close to the bubble to drop a game to a team as poor as SLU.

-GONZAGA AT SANTA CLARA (West Coast). Santa Clara has won three of their last four with the only loss being a close one to San Diego, and their team and fans should be up for this one, but Gonzaga has played exceptionally well in all their conference games and should be able to take care of business in this one. Just one conference loss could make a big difference in the league standings because it doesn’t look as if Saint Mary’s or Gonzaga will lose too many league games that aren’t against each other.

-PORTLAND AT SAINT MARY’S (West Coast). Saint Mary’s was shocked in their last game when San Diego stepped up and pulled the upset, but with two games still remaining against Gonzaga they still control their own destiny as far as the league standings are concerned. This appears to be a pretty big mismatch and they should be able to rebound from their loss and pick up a win in this one.

-BAYLOR AT TEXAS (Big Twelve). Baylor is having a great year, and has some decent wins away from home as it is, but this would certainly be among their better wins of the season if they’re able to pull it off. Texas was blown out earlier this week on the road against rival Texas A&M, so they’re looking to rebound from that with a quality conference road win. Unless both of these teams undergo a collapse, it looks as if both are locks for the NCAA Tournament, but both still have a lot of room to build their resumes and improve their seeds between now and the end of the year.

-OKLAHOMA AT TEXAS A&M (Big Twelve). Texas A&M appeared to be headed for a slump and their credentials were beginning to slide, but in their last two games they’ve picked up their first true road win and a blowout win against rival Texas, so they’re doing pretty well. Oklahoma is coming off a nice win against Baylor, so they also appear to be safely in the NCAA Tournament barring some sort of collapse. This would be a nice road win for the Sooners if they can pull it off. It would also be a nice conference win for TAMU as well. A win would boost the resume of either team.

-KENT STATE AT TOLEDO (Mid American). Kent State looks to be a bubble team, and should stay on the inside of it provided they finish the season strongly. It’s possible that they may be matched up with Saint Mary’s in the Bracket Buster, which would give them a shot at a quality opponent and potentially really help out their resume. They need to continue to take care of business in conference, though, and not let a team as poor as Toledo sneak up on them.

-NEW MEXICO AT UNLV (Mountain West). UNLV keeps playing better and better, and with an RPI in the 30s and just one loss in the conference I’m beginning to really like their chances of making the NCAA Tournament. They should be able to take care of business in this game, which would give their RPI another nice boost.

-ARIZONA STATE AT USC (Pac Ten). Arizona State has lost four in a row and is beginning to nosedive. UCLA absolutely blew them out the other night and all of their momentum from the ten game winning streak they had earlier this season is gone. USC just had a small winning streak snapped the other night when Arizona (another team that’s been playing well) stepped up and beat them. Prior to that, though, USC had done an excellent job of finishing games, which is something Arizona State has struggled with recently. In ASU’s last outing against UCLA they were never even in the game to begin with, so not being able to finish wasn’t an issue.

-AUBURN AT VANDERBILT (SEC). Vanderbilt has struggled since SEC play began, and even though they entered conference play undefeated, that isn’t too much of a surprise when you consider how close some of their calls were out of conference. So long as they take care of business in their winnable games, and don’t go into too much of a slump their spot in the NCAA Tournament should be safe. Having said that, I would definitely categorize this as a winnable game considering there at home against an Auburn team that’s had their own struggles.

-TOWSON AT VCU (Colonial Athletic). It isn’t impossible for VCU to get some consideration from the selection committee, but I believe they’ll pretty much need to win out to get it. They have two losses to sub 100 RPI teams and no real quality wins.

-SYRACUSE AT VILLANOVA (Big East). Villanova has lost three straight games and needs to turn things around in a hurry. Syracuse has actually won their last two, and has been playing much better these past couple of weeks. Villanova did win at Syracuse earlier this year, but they were playing much better at the time than they are right now. This is big for both teams. Nova is trying to get out of a slump, and Syracuse is trying to get further inside the bubble.

-CALIFORNIA AT WASHINGTON (Pac Ten). California had lost five out of six, but managed to pick up a huge win against a very good Washington State team in their last game. A win like that on the road is the kind of win that can turn a team’s season around. If they can win this and build up some momentum we could see them back in the projections before too long.

-BYU AT WYOMING (Mountain West). BYU is right on the bubble, and should be able to make it into the field so long as they finish strong. They’re currently tied in the standings with UNLV, who is also a bubble team. How each team fairs in the conference standings will be one of the deciding factors as to who gets placed higher on the S curve, and if both are on the bubble at the end it could decide who gets in and who doesn’t, so every league game is big.

-LA SALLE AT XAVIER (Atlantic Ten). La Salle has actually won four out of their last six, and although they don’t stand much of a chance against a Xavier team that’s among the hottest in the nation right now, they could give the Musketeers a bigger fight than some people are expecting. Xavier has a tendency to sleepwalk every now and then, and this is the kind of game they may come into after hitting the snooze button.


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