By Trot Nixon’s Hat
Well, here we are – the first big weekend of the season in college basketball. Teams are two months into their seasons and are starting to play as a unit. We as fans are starting to figure out who are legitimately ranked teams, and who the pretenders might be for the upcoming season. This weekend we have three matchups between top 25 teams, two of those matchups pitting top ten teams against one another. Follow me after the jump for your holiday weekend preview!
Memphis v. Georgetown
12 PM EST (ESPN)
Well, we’re apparently opening the biggest and best present first this weekend. The Hoyas (8-0, No. 4) travel to Tennessee to face the Tigers (9-0, No. 2) in what should be a great contest. If I was still out on the West Coast, this game would make me mad, as I’d have to be up and coherent to watch a 9 AM game. Thank goodness for time changes and holiday travel! Memphis has managed to see off all challengers this season, but has had some trouble in some very odd games (see the close game against UConn that took 38 minutes to decide, or the 4 point home win against USC who I find to be tremendously overrated this year). Is Memphis really the No. 4 team in the nation, or has the master recruiter that is John Calipari fooled everyone into believing in his team yet again? Will this Tiger team cruise through conference play and then drop a bomb in the tourney once more? I would lean towards no, especially with their tough non-conference schedule yet to come (games against Arizona, Gonzaga, and Tennessee). But will any of this be enough to stop the Hoyas today? This Georgetown team comes complete with its own set of preseason hype to match the Tigers with. The big question mark thus far has been Georgetown’s inability to score points against inferior teams – yes, I choose to ignore the 110 point showing last weekend against Radford, because scoring only 61 on Fairfield is just not a good sign.
Trot’s Prediction: This one is going to go back and forth, with each team taking 10 point leads. Georgetown’s bruising defense might be enough to push them past Memphis, but look for the athletic Tigers to put this one out of reach with free throws late.
Xavier v. Tennessee
2 PM EST (ESPN)
This game puts a pair of teams with question-marks against each other. Tennessee (10-1, No.12) has played a total of two games (maybe three) that we can use to actually judge them. Their two point win over West Virginia isn’t looking too badly, as West Virginia has played well since then. Two months ago, their game against Western Kentucky could have been counted as a game to judge the Vols by, but the giant Red Gumdrop has not lived up to the preseason success that was predicted for them (I admit, I’m one of those that was ready to see them make the leap this year). Their loss to Texas, however, was the game that exposed Tennessee for what they are, in my mind. This is a talented team, but I don’t think they’re ready to be ranked where they are. Xavier (8-2, No. 24) will be playing at home for this one, which might give them the advantage in this contest. However, Xavier is also coming off an horrendous loss to Arizona State. Who knows which Musketeers team will show up for the home fans? The team that put Indiana down, or the one that rolled over for the Sun Devils?
Trot’s Prediction: A close fought game throughout with the Volunteers pulling off the road win and keeping themselves in the top 15 (at least until the SEC schedule begins).
Michigan State v. Texas
6:30 PM EST (ESPN2)
This could be one of the biggest mismatches of the day, or it could produce one of the more exciting contests. This game will display a great contrast in styles: Michigan State likes a slower game (see UCLA loss), while Texas likes to hurry the game along (See Tennessee win). Michigan State (10-1, No. 10) is a team that still has a ton of question marks in my mind. I know that they took UCLA to the wire, I know that they’ve rattled off a semi-impressive streak of wins. However, this is a team that has been “tested” twice by NC State (a blowout win) and BYU (a close win), and possibly a third time, if we include Bradley (I wouldn’t, but it was a close game). Like every Izzo team, however, this is a strong, tough team that has talent. I’m not a Drew Neitzel fan in general, but he is capable of putting up a big game every now and again. Texas (11-0, No.5), on the other hand, has motored through their schedule, which has included big wins over Tennessee and UCLA in Pauley Pavillion. Don’t overlook their last victory, either, where Texas saw off a strong challenge from Oral Roberts (My favorite university named after a late 20th century evangelical preacher).
Trot’s Prediction: Texas should run away with this one in the second half. Look for the Izzone crowd to help power the Spartans through much of the game, but the contrasting styles and the skill with which the Longhorns have played thus far should be more than enough to allow them to power away from MSU.