Roundtable: Four burning questions

January, 27, 2012
1/27/12
10:30
AM ET
Editor’s note: ESPN.com writers Eamonn Brennan and Myron Medcalf are joined by ESPN Insider John Gasaway to discuss several burning questions in college basketball.

The weekends that don’t look great on paper are usually the ones filled with wackiness. Who should be on upset alert?

[+] EnlargeRoyce White
Peter G. Aiken/US PresswireIowa State's Royce White, left, and Kansas' Thomas Robinson meet Saturday in Ames, Iowa, in a rematch of their Jan. 14 showdown at Allen Fieldhouse.
Eamonn Brennan: "Upset alert" flows a little bit better than "'top-10 team playing a solid conference opponent on the road' alert," but whatever we want to call it, I'm leaning toward Kansas. The Jayhawks travel to Ames, Iowa, for a Big 12 battle with a solid Iowa State team, and one that just so happens to have its best player -- forward Royce White -- matching up with Kansas's frontcourt beast, forward Thomas Robinson. Robinson and Jeff Withey could make life very difficult for White in the paint, but White's versatility could cause the Jayhawks some issues. A re-energized Hilton Coliseum crowd should be in full voice, and if the Cyclones can keep it close down the stretch, they might be able to pull off what Texas couldn't the previous Saturday.

John Gasaway: Sound the alarm and batten down the hatches because the upset alert's on full blast for Syracuse. They're welcoming West Virginia to the Carrier Dome on Saturday, and I just can't imagine the Mountaineers playing two consecutive terrible games. (Oh, yeah, they were terrible against St. John's, trust me.) I'm guessing that by now Bob Huggins has spoken to his team and pointed out the flaws in its performance in a calm, nonjudgmental and supportive manner. I also think Jim Boeheim's players are a little more freaked about Fab Melo's absence than they need to be -- or at least they're playing like it. I say the Mountaineers win a tight one.

Myron Medcalf: Kansas could fall Saturday in Ames. The last time Iowa State and Kansas faced off, the Cyclones took an early double-digit lead but couldn’t maintain it in the Jayhawks’ 82-73 win Jan. 14. But Hilton Coliseum will be rocking for an Iowa State team that’s due for an upset. Royce White is the key.

It’s a little early to be talking about the bubble, but what team has a particularly important game this weekend?

Brennan: BYU. The Artist Formerly Known as Joey Brackets placed the Cougars among his first four out in Monday's bracket update, and that's about right: At 18-5, the Cougars don't have much in the way of quality wins, and they were shellacked at home by Loyola Marymount last week. On Saturday, they'll host Saint Mary's, which beat them soundly (98-82) in the teams' first matchup in Moraga, Calif., on Dec. 29. A victory here would be huge for conference competition, obviously, but it also would go a long way toward improving a résumé that needs improvement amid a schedule that simply doesn't offer many marquee matchups the rest of the way.

Gasaway: It's never too early for bubble talk, particularly in Tuscaloosa, where Alabama is improbably playing its way into this conversation for a second consecutive season. The Crimson Tide were supposed to be a shoo-in for this year's NCAA tournament, but at 13-7 overall and riding a four-game losing streak in conference, Anthony Grant's team is suddenly looking very bubbly. The Tide would be well advised to win that home game against Arkansas on Saturday.

Medcalf: Middle Tennessee might not need the Sun Belt tourney title to reach the NCAA tournament this year. The Blue Raiders have won 12 in a row, and they have a Top 60 RPI. A win against Vandy this weekend puts this underrated team in at-large contention and the Top 25 discussion.

What player or individual matchup are you most looking forward to this weekend?

Brennan: I'm extremely excited to see West Virginia's Kevin Jones go head to head with Syracuse's vaunted 2-3 zone. If you had to design a player to play against said zone, and that player wasn't a lightning-quick point guard with unimpeachable handles, you'd do pretty well with Jones. Long, active and versatile, WVU's star forward can attack the rim, drain 3s from the perimeter, rough it up on the offensive boards and, perhaps most important, provide a go-to option at the elbow -- the 2-3's most vulnerable spot.

Gasaway: It is so on: Michigan's Trey Burke vs. Ohio State's Aaron Craft, in Columbus on Sunday. As if Wolverines and Buckeyes needed a reason to get up for a game against each other, these two point guards were made to be rivals. This was supposed to be the year we all hailed the sophomore-year development of Craft, who's still a lockdown defender but has added new dimensions to his game on offense. Oops. In the "Big Ten point guard" category, a lot of the ink's been going to a flashy freshman instead (go figure). Burke's been fantastic as the floor general for a Michigan team that thinks it can get the program its first Sweet 16 since 1994. I’ll be by my TV for this one, with popcorn.

Medcalf: Thomas Robinson vs. Royce White. Robinson might be the best the player in the country right now. But he rarely picks on someone his own size. Enter 6-8, 270-pound White, who put up 18 points and 17 rebounds the last time Iowa State played Kansas. Should be a war between these two giants.

What’s a slightly off-the-radar game that we should be keeping an eye on?

Brennan: I'm not sure you can call a 3 p.m. ESPN game between two high-profile Big East foes "off the radar," but, given Pittsburgh's struggles in Big East play this season, we (rightfully) haven't heard much about Georgetown's trip to the Peterson Events Center this weekend. But if I were a Georgetown fan, I'd be a little bit nervous. It's not that Pittsburgh has suddenly turned a corner; this week's win against Providence was nice, but it wasn't a season-changer. Still, Travon Woodall appears to be getting healthy, which frees Ashton Gibbs to play his more natural off-ball shooting guard spot, and the Hoyas have found themselves in close games pretty frequently this past month or so. Georgetown should win. But I'd be wary.

Gasaway: Virginia Commonwealth at Georgia State on Saturday. You remember VCU, of course, from a little thing called last year's Final Four. This season, Shaka Smart has the Rams in the thick of the CAA race at 8-2, right behind 9-1 George Mason. Meanwhile, GSU started out strong, but the Panthers have lost three of their past four. Ron Hunter's team has to defend its home floor if it's going to stay in the conference chase. Georgia State has the league's top defense but will be hard pressed to stop Bradford Burgess & Co. This one's off-radar but on my agenda.

Medcalf: Arkansas at Alabama, on the surface, means nothing. Neither team is in SEC contention right now. But I’m convinced that, if Bama loses this game -- it would be its fifth consecutive loss -- it will never recover, and it will go from Top 25 team to NIT or worse by the end of the season. A third consecutive win for Arkansas could push the Razorbacks, who beat Michigan last weekend, in the opposite direction … toward an NCAA tourney slot.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Comments

You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?