Friday, February 8, 2013

The Alley-Oop

College basketball is a sport that doesn't always get the attention and respect it should. Sure in March, every Joe schmoe starts caring becauase they want to win their bracket pool, but only real diehards tend to follow the regular season. Us diehards have been rewarded this year with one of the most topsy turvy seasons in history. Last night made it the fifth straight week the number one team in the country lost, as Indiana blew a late late at Illinois. The man pictured to the right, Cody Zeller, got caught napping on an inbound pass, and the Illini converted a layup as time expired. For those of you that are new to the site, each Friday I will pick my alma mater George Mason's game, my other favorite North Carolina's game, and the Top 10 action for the weekend. Let's get to it.

Saturday, February 9

Delaware (11-12, 6-4) at George Mason (14-9, 7-4)

It has been a frustrating season for George Mason fans. With VCU moving on to the Atlantic-10 and preseason conference favorites Drexel and Delaware struggling, Mason fans assumed that the team would shoot to the top of the standings. Instead, they currently sit in fourth place, behind teams like James Madison and Towson. Mason is a team with just one senior, and he never plays, so it is expected that there will be some inconsistency. That is why at points, Mason looks tremendous, like they did for 39 minutes against New Mexico early in the season, and other times, where they will look awful, like when they blew a 20 point lead at home to Drexel. A major problem has been trying to find a consistent scoring threat besides G Sherrod Wright.  However, in the last three games, F Jonathan Arledge has begun to emerge. If he can continue his growth, then Mason has a chance to make a run against a depleted CAA Tournament field. It is almost ridiculous how much the team relies on Wright, who as a guard is also the team's leading rebounder.

Delaware has been up and down all season. Early in the season they lost five straight, then recently won five straight, followed that up with a three game losing streak, then won three in a row, and were then soundly defeated by Towson in their last game. Where they have found consistency is in the play of G Devon Saddler and F Jamelle Hagins. Mason has struggled defensively against electric guards this season, so Saddler could be in for a huge game. Hagins also could potentially dominate on the boards, as he averaged over 10 rebounds per game. It will be Arledge's job to try to not let Hagins give the Blue Hens multiple shot opportunities.

The Patriot Center hasn't been the house of horrors for opposing teams this season as it normally is. The last home game for Mason was the aforementioned loss to Drexel. Although Mason is in fourth place, they would have the three seed right now as Towson is ineligible for this season's conference tournament. A win would put them ahead of James Madison based on tiebreaker and into the second seed. The question is, can Mason play a consistent brand of basketball for 40 minutes? You never know what team will show up, so predicting their games is very difficult. I will choose to be optimistic and believe that Mason will defeat Delaware, but make it nail biting as usual.

Prediction: George Mason 71, Delaware 67

Top 10

Saturday, February 9

Mississippi State (7-14, 2-7) at #2 Florida (18-3, 8-1)

The Gators had been steamrolling the SEC but then were steamrolled themselves by Arkansas on Tuesday night. That's bad news for Mississippi State, who is completely dreadful, and already lost earlier this year to Florida by 35 points. Expect seniors Kenny Boynton and Erik Murphy (no, not the guy from Entourage) to have big games.

Prediction: Florida 85, Mississippi State 59

#3 Michigan (21-2, 8-2) at Wisconsin (16-7, 7-3)

With both Indiana and Florida losing this week, the Wolverines could find themselves right back at number one with a victory at Wisconsin. Winning in Madison is no easy task but I feel that the Wolverines have too many offensive weapons for the offensively challenged Badgers to match their scoring. Guard Trey Burke is one of the best players in the country and along with Tim Hardaway Jr. makes up the best backcourt in the nation.
Prediction: Michigan 71, Wisconsin 64

#5 Kansas (19-3, 7-2) at Oklahoma (14-7, 5-4) 

The Jayhawks are desperate for a win following an embarrassing loss at TCU on Wednesday night. You have to think that Bill Self is kicking their ass in practice these last few days, and I would be stunned if the Jayhawks don't come out and play inspired ball.

Prediction: Kansas 74, Oklahoma 63

Loyola Marymount (8-15, 1-9) at #6 Gonzaga (22-2, 9-0)

Waiting for the day that the Zags will join a real conference. People are hyping up Gonzaga but hard to believe that this season will be any different than the others. They will beat up on the WCC, then flame out early on in the NCAA Tournament when matched with legit competition.

Prediction: Gonzaga 81, Loyola Marymount 60

North Carolina (16-6, 6-3) at #8 Miami (18-3, 9-0)

It was hard to know what to expect from the Tar Heels this season. They had a mass exodus of talent to the NBA, but Roy Williams strong recruiting meant they still had enough talent to compete this season. They have been unable to land a signature win this season, but they get their chance Saturday against the biggest surprise of the season, the Jim Larranaga led Miami Hurricanes.

F James Michael McAdoo has made the leap into the Tar Heels best player that many expected he would. He is terrible at the free thow line and turns the ball over a bit too much, but other than that is exceptional in every other phase of the game. Another player who has stepped his game up is Reggie Bullock. Bullock is shooting 47% and is a lethal 44% from three point range. He and McAdoo are also the team's leading rebounders. Freshman guard Marcus Paige hasn't made anyone forget Kendall Marshall, but also hasn't brought back nightmares of Larry Drew II. He is going through some growing pains, but the flashes are there. Dexter Strickland remains a tough, gritty defensive player, who can provide you some extra offense on occasion.

Paige will have his work cut out for him Saturday, when he tries to guard Shane Larkin. He did a nice job against Larkin the first time these teams played, holding him to just one assist. It was F-C Kenny Kadji who dominated the Heels in Chapel Hill, as he poured in 18 points. The Heels also let Julian Gamble go off on them for 14 points, and Gamble only averages 6 on the season. C Reggie Johnson will play in this game, which will make winning even more difficult for Carolina. Johnson missed the first game, and his presence makes the Hurricanes absolutely dominating on the glass.

I keep thinking the Hurricanes have to lose at some point, and the Heels have to get a signature win at some point, to restore balance to the ACC. I think that Carolina can complete and not have their doors blown off like they did at NC State earlier this season. I just think when it comes to crunch time, the veteran presence that the Canes have will overcome the youth of Carolina.

Prediction: Miami 75, North Carolina 72

Sunday, February 10

#1 Indiana (20-3, 8-2) at #10 Ohio State (17-5, 7-3)

No time to rest for shell shocked Indiana, who has to follow their stunning loss at Illinois, with a very difficult game at Columbus. Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo lead the Hoosiers in scoring, as they feature one of the best offensive attacks in the country. The Buckeyes are not as proficient on offense, but make up for it with stifling defense. Deshaun Thomas is their do everything player. A guy who can score, rebound, passes well, and plays great defense. He is also from Indiana, so his success probably burns Hoosiers fans a bit more than it normally would. I picked Indiana to win this game before their loss last night, and despite that, I am sticking with them. I believe this team is too good to drop back to back games. The atmosphere will be intimidating, but it comes down to matchups and talent, areas the Hoosiers have an advantage over the Buckeyes in.

Prediction: Indiana 78, Ohio State 73

#4 Duke (20-2, 7-2) at Boston College (10-12, 2-7)

At least this game isn't in Durham, so we won't have to hear any chants mocking a player's recently deceased grandmother. A typical Duke season of doing well in the regular season, but will likely end with them flaming out early on as a 1 or 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The biggest revelation this season has been how important Ryan Kelly is to the Blue Devils success. No one knew that he was the second coming of Rik Smits.

Prediction: Duke 68,  Boston College 58

California (13-9, 5-5) at #7 Arizona (20-2, 8-2)

The Wildcats haven't drawn a ton of national attention but they should be a team to be reckoned with in March. G Mark Lyons and F Solomon Hill give them a lethal inside out combination, and Lyons followed coach Sean Miller from Xavier to Arizona. There were questions about how well he would mesh with Arizona, but he has answered those resoundingly. He is coming off one of his best games of the season, a dominating performance against Stanford.

Prediction: Arizona 77, California 69

St. John's (15-8, 7-4) at #9 Syracuse (19-3, 7-2)

This could be the last time these two rivals play each other for a while, as Syracuse moves on to the ACC next season. St. John's is squarely on the bubble but has mostly feasted on the weak parts of the Big East. If they are to make the NCAA Tournament they will have to earn it, as five of their last seven games are against ranked teams. They have a tremendous, young nucleus in sophomore guard D'Angelo Harris and freshman forward Jakarr Sampson. Cuse coach Jim Boeheim continues to keep the Orange at the top of the rankings year after year, despite consistently losing talent early to the NBA. Brandon Triche and C.J. Fair have seen increased minutes this year and rose to the challenge by upping their contributions. This should be a good, old fashioned Big East slugfest, something that will be missed.

Prediction: Syracuse 63, St. John's 56

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