Thursday, December 31, 2009
Previewing Thursday's biggest games
By Andy Katz
New Year’s Eve day and night will provide plenty of pop with games that merit interest. Here’s what you have to look forward to today:
Michigan at Indiana, Noon ET, ESPN2: No Maurice Creek means the Hoosiers aren’t close to the same team that beat Pitt in Madison Square Garden. And that means if Michigan wants to be taken seriously, it must win this game.
Ohio State at Wisconsin, 2 p.m. ESPN2: The Badgers should win this game against the Evan Turner-less Buckeyes. I repeat … if the Badgers are a serious contender in the Big Ten, then they should win this game at home.
Tennessee at Memphis, 4 p.m., ESPN2: When last we saw the Vols, they were putting forth a woeful effort at USC, losing by 22. Memphis’ Elliot Williams has been an instant hit, a player Josh Pastner can count on for 20-plus nearly every game. This rivalry game is a much bigger deal for the Tigers since the opportunities for quality wins will be fewer in C-USA. This is also the first of three major nonconference games remaining for Memphis (the other two are at Syracuse and home against Gonzaga).
Arizona State at UCLA, 4:30 p.m., FSN: The Sun Devils are considering themselves a Pac-10 contender, but fear that the Bruins have been suddenly cast aside because of a sub-.500 nonconference record. This will be an interesting test to see just how seriously we should take the Sun Devils.
Oregon at Washington State, 6:30 p.m.: I’m holding onto Wazzu as a sleeper to be a top three team in the Pac-10. But to do that, the Cougs need to win games like this at home. The Ducks are playing better now that they’re healthy, but they may not be able to stop Klay Thompson long enough to win in Pullman.
Richmond at Wake Forest, 7 p.m., ESPNU: The Spiders have already beaten Florida, Missouri and Mississippi State. This is a team that is quietly putting together a solid resume. The Demon Deacons have already been burned, like Richmond was, from another undervalued team out of Virginia (William & Mary). This is a game between two solid clubs that could both hear their names called out on Selection Sunday.
Arizona at USC, 7 p.m., FSN Prime Ticket: On Monday, the Wildcats got torched by Jimmer Fredette (49 points) in a 30-point loss to BYU, while the Trojans are one of the hotter teams outside of the top 25 with four straight wins, including a 22-point victory over Tennessee and a Diamond Head Classic title. If the Trojans are to be considered a serious contender to win the Pac-10, they win their home games against the Arizona schools this weekend.
Mississippi State at San Diego, 7 p.m.: The Toreros have been all over the map this season and get a rare shot at a power six team in the Slim Gym (Jenny Craig Pavilion). The Bulldogs make their second trip to California in three weeks after crushing UCLA at the Wooden Classic in Anaheim. This will be an interesting test to see if Mississippi State can win a game that they should so far from home.
St. John’s at Georgetown, 8 p.m., ESPN2: The Red Storm won’t be expected to win this game, but a competitive effort could be telling for a team that wants to be taken seriously as a Big East/NCAA at-large contender.
Oregon State at Washington, 10 p.m., FSN NW: The Pac-10 begins with the Huskies out to prove they are the class of the league. If they are, then they don’t stumble at home in the opener. Especially against a team that already has losses to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Sacramento State and Illinois-Chicago.
Oklahoma at Gonzaga (Spokane Arena), 10 p.m., ESPN2: The Sooners don’t have a marquee win (winning at Utah doesn’t qualify this season). That means they need to nab this one for a resume-builder. Meanwhile, the Zags were awful offensively against Duke in Madison Square Garden two weeks ago. A better effort is needed against an OU team that still has plenty of talent.