Thursday, December 6, 2012

College Basketball - What to Watch For This Weekend

We're just into the second month of college basketball and already we've seen some huge games with plenty more on the way.  Some big upsets have shaken up the Top 25 scene, most notably tossing John Calipari's Kentucky from the nation's elite for this first time in his tenure at UK.  This weekend promises to be another great weekend for the sport, and here are a few games Three If By Strike will be keeping their eyes on.

On Friday night, UConn takes on Harvard.  UConn's had a solid year so far, considering their ineligibility for and tournaments and a Jim Calhoun-less coaching staff.  Head coach Kevin Ollie has kept the Huskies heads in the game, and won his first game at the helm over no. 16 Michigan State team.  Since then, the team's two losses have come against a very tough New Mexico team -- who went on to be ranked following the win -- and no. 25 NC State.

Tommy Amaker's Crimson squad has handled losing their two captains to a cheating scandal well, but they won't be able to keep up with UConn's guards, Shabazz Napier and Ryan BoatrightUConn wins by 14.

Also on Friday, an interstate battle takes place at the Hawkeye Arena as Iowa State travels to Iowa.  Iowa is 6-0 at home so far this season, but usually have it pretty good until they get into their Big Ten schedule.  Iowa State has been impressive so far this year as well, with their losses coming after they put up 70 points against both ranked Cincinnati and UNLV teams.

They boast the nation's third best rebounds per game average with 45.6 and score just over 82 points a game.  Iowa is one of those teams that can be really streaky at times, and although they're coming off two blowout wins, I'm going to give this one to Iowa State in the nest of the Hawkeyes.  State by 7.

Saturday is going to be a huge day for college hoops, with 20 of the Top 25 teams taking the court.  Being from Connecticut, I want to watch the Indiana-Central Conn game, but that's just ridiculous.  The 3:15 p.m. game between Duke and Temple really intrigues me.  Duke has already beaten three of the top five teams in the country, and yes, even though their competition has been much better comparatively, they have allowed more points per game than the Temple Owls.

Duke is a team that seems to get ahead of themselves at times, but luckily always seem to have the right shooters to make that game plan work.  They always seem due for that game where it just all goes wrong -- right, Lehigh?  This one will be way closer than Coach K would like, but the Blue Devils will be okay in the end.  I mean, they have Mason PlumleeDuke by 6.

Most of the Top 25 should have an easy time with games like Syracuse-Monmouth, Michigan-Arkansas (who just played one hell of a game against Oklahoma...) and Georgetown-Towson.  But things get dicey when no. 10 takes on no. 13 in Gonzaga-Illinois.  Both teams are undefeated at 9-0, but Gonzaga is 9th in points per game and second in field goal percentage.  Four Bulldogs average over 10 points a game, then Mike Hart comes off the bench and shoots 71 percent from behind the arc.

The Fighting Illini will have this month to get up to fighting weight before their Big Ten schedule kicks in, and to this point, have already been tested twice by Garnder-Webb and Hawaii.  However, they handily beat Butler from the sneaky good A-10.  Senior guard Brandon Paul will have to have himself a game and a half if they want to keep pace in this one.  Gonzaga takes it by 11.

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