GAMES IíM LOOKING FORWARD TO THIS WEEKEND: Itís a semi-rivalry weekend and some of those games are between teams that used to be in the same conference but arenít anymore. Realignment canít eradicate rivalry, as much as it tries.
Iowa at Iowa State: This is class warfare any time these two teams meet and both are nationally ranked. Canít see the Cyclones losing at Hilton Coliseum, one of the most difficult arenas to play.
Arizona at Michigan: A noon tip-off hopefully wonít affect play. This game can also be classified as part of the new trend of top-level teams playing true road games. Arizona is No. 1 and playing very well; Michiganís home-court advantage has never been great going back to Cazzie Russell. I expect a Zona win.
Saint Peterís at Seton Hall: More Jersey state tournament action, which I always like. The Hall lost to FDU and canít afford a repeat. A victory practically makes Saint Peteís season.
Louisiana Tech vs. Oklahoma State: Tech is one of the most overlooked teams in the country. Theyíre good and they play fast, full-court basketball which should make this one entertaining. Okie State averages 90.4 points per game, LaTech averages 86.2. It would be a landmark win for LaTech and the Bulldogs could use it if they slip in the Conference USA Tournament (like they did in the WAC tournament last season). This game is being played in Oklahoma City as part of the All-College Classic. The All-College was once one of the great eight-team Christmas tournaments that now has been reduced to a doubleheader.
Princeton at Penn State: I want to see if Princeton is any possible threat to Harvard; Penn State is much improved with some good guards so this should be something.
Tennessee at Wichita State: The Wheat Shockers could run the table and they should win this home game, but itís an interesting test.
Northern Illinois at UMass: Iíve got to check up on my nationally ranked Minutemen. This will be an easy victory.
Indiana vs. Notre Dame at Indianapolis: The Irish lost a home game to North Dakota State the other night Ė I guess they were looking ahead. At least Irish fans have to think that. Me? I like Indiana in this one. Should be a great atmosphere in the beautiful Bankers Life Fieldhouse, one great arena.
Tulsa at Oklahoma: The second game of the All-College Classic in Oklahoma City. The Sooners will win the game, maybe easily but I need to check them out for the first time. I know theyíre well coached because Lon Kruger is on the bench.
Middle Tennessee at Mississippi: My main motivation is a chance to see Ole Missí Marshall Henderson, but this will be a close game and an upset is possible.
Kentucky at North Carolina: The Lexington, Ky. AAU Playaz go to Chapel Hill and confront a team very much like themselves, one thatís still trying to figure it out. That makes this a toss-up that I canít predict.
Purdue vs. Butler: The second game at Banker Life in Indianapolis; both these teams were in the Disney World tournament over Thanksgiving and based on that, Butler looked like the better team.
Saint Maryís at Boise State: This is a critical matchup with NCAA at-large implications between two teams that most likely will be on the bubble in March. Boise canít afford to lose the home game. A road victory would be huge for the Gaels.
New Mexico at Kansas: Kansas started five freshmen the other night in a loss at Florida; plus theyíve lost three of their last four. They looked good in the second half and Andrew Wiggins was courageous and tough in a comeback attempt. None of the recent three losses were in Allen Fieldhouse. A loss at home, even to a tough team like New Mexico, would signal that it might be a long season for the Jayhawks no matter how talented the freshmen are.
West Virginia vs. Marshall in Charleston, W.Va.: This rivalry is so heated they have to take away everyoneís shotguns entering the arena. OK, bad joke, but the rivalry is serious. Marshallís season is made with a victory and I think that will happen.
Cincinnati vs. Xavier: This isnít played on either campus since the big fight; both schools have tried to calm feelings. You can only do so much of that because this is another overheated rivalry. X has been disappointing and Cincy should take the opportunity to rub it in.
Illinois vs. Oregon: This got past me, did you know the Rose Garden in Portland has been renamed the Moda Center? Thatís where this game is being played and itís another interesting intersectional game. Oregon is 8-0; Illinois is 9-1. I must admit I have my doubts about Oregon. Prove me wrong, Ducks.
BYU at Utah: I canít really see this one since itís on the Pac 12 Network, but Iím listing it anyway so I can complain that this tremendous rivalry may end soon. Itís Utahís fault Ė too many other demands to fit your arch-rival into a 30-game schedule. This is why I hate realignment. Give me a break. That makes me say Go BYU!
Syracuse at St. Johnís: Not sure how much longer this rivalry will be played, but it used to be a great one. St. Johnís canít keep up anymore and no doubt will fall here too. Noon tip at the Garden on an NFL Sunday, Iím guessing an attendance of 10,000.
LaSalle at Villanova: Philly Big Five game. LaSalle was supposed to be the best team in Philly this season and thatís proven to be false. Villanova looks tremendous Ė the Wildcats play unselfishly on offense and tenaciously on defense, a great combination. Novaís JayVaughn Pinkston is an absolute beast in the paint who could lead the nation in traditional three-point plays.
UC Santa Barbara at San Diego: No traditional rivalry here, but I donít get much of chance to see these two, got to take advantage
- Michael Vega
- Mark Blaudschun
- Nancy Marrapese-Burrell