What a super Saturday we've got on tap! Twenty-one of the nations top 25 teams hit the hardwood and we're here to preview and pick the top six games to watch and tell you who you should put your money on and why. If you live in any of the eastern United States, delay as long as you can on the incumbent shoveling job hanging over your head, and treat yourself to a preview of this years top NCAA tournament contenders. Don't try to get anything productive done today in order to sit around all day tomorrow for the Super Bowl. Today's an opportunity to fully engage yourself in non-stop college hoops. After all, it's been a tough week. You deserve it.
#8 Georgetown (-1.5) over #2 Villanova- John Thompson III's Georgetown Hoyas were tripped up by an underrated South Florida in a matchup that was sandwiched between their big weekend tilts with Duke and Villanova. The Executive Branch won't be in attendance this Saturday, but D.C.'s Verizon Center will once again be rocking as top ten teams clash. There will be two keys to today's game for the Hoyas. First, they'll want to feed Greg Monroe all day down low where he'll be defeneded by the smaller Antonio Pena. Get Pena in foul trouble, and Monroe will go 30 and 15 like he did in the teams' first matchup in Philly. Secondly, shooting guard Jason Clark, averaging 10PPG, must assert himself today. Georgetown will need all the scoring they can get outside of Monroe, Austin Freeman, and Chris Wright. Georgetown defends the capitol and takes down Scottie Reynolds and the first place Wildcats.
#17 Temple (+1.5) over Richmond- Both teams have recorded impressive non-conference resumes. Both are vying for the top spot in the hotly-contested Atlantic Ten (sidenote- better than the Pac-10 and Conference USA). Only one will come away victorious today in Richmond, as the hometown Spiders will look to pull off the upset over the nationally ranked Owls. Home crowd energy won't be enough to spur on Richmond today however. Temple is a superior road team this year, their 8-2 record outside of Philly including victories at Seton Hall and Rhode Island. They're the only team to beat Villanova, they lost by one to Georgetown, and delivered the lone conference loss to Xavier to date. Guard combo Ryan Brooks and Juan Fernandez combine to average 27PPG, and they'll provide the offensive firepower in what otherwise will be a defensive minded game.
#21 Pittsburgh (-4) over Seton Hall- Two weeks ago, Herb Pope led Seton Hall to an upset victory over the then-11th ranked Pittsburgh Panthers. Tonight, the 6'8'' power forward returns to his hometown, where his mom will probably be waiting for him, and where the Oakland Zoo will definitely be waiting for him. Pitt has been in a free fall of late, dropping four of their last five, and they must buck the trend with a win at home tonight. They'll look to guard Ashton Gibbs to raise his game today. He's recorded points well below his average in three straight. The Panthers will score revenge and sink the Pirates.
#13 Gonzaga (+4.5) over Memphis- The Zags have lost four straight years in this blockbuster non-conference matchup. But, these aren't your John Calipari, Rodney Carney, Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans, Joey Dorsey Memphis Tigers. Mark Few has reloaded his west coast mid-major powerhouse once again, headlined by dynamic freshman Elias Harris averaging 16PPG and 8RPG. However, it will be the solid play of the improved Matt Bouldin that will be the difference today. Gonzaga has had it's ups and downs this season, but they're coming off one of their most impressive victories of the season on Thursday night and could be starting to peak at the right time. If we're fortunate, we'll have a Will Foster circus freak sighting. The Bill Walton look-a-like is a 7'5'' sparingly used center who recorded a career high six points last game. Memphis has a negligible inside presence this season, and it will be Gonzaga's best chance to steal a win during a rare down year for the Tigers.
#12 BYU (+1.5) over UNLV- Winners of six of their last seven, the Runnin' Rebels host the 22-2 BYU Cougars in Vegas tonight. For BYU, they have two real tests left that could stand in the way of another MWC championship. Tonight's game is one, and a late February tilt with New Mexico. Tre'Von Willis has been sensational for the Rebels of late, recording six 20+ point performance since the New Year. He'll go against a trio of scoring guards featuring Jimmer Fredette, Jackson Emery, and Tyler Haws. They combine for 44PPG. UNLV will put up a fight, but Cougars' superior talent will win the day.
Illinois (+1.5) over #5 Michigan State- As if this game couldn't get any bigger, ESPN Gameday is in Champagne for a huge nightcap to a big day in college hoops. With point guard Kalin Lucas a gametime decision due to a sprained ankle, the Spartans will have to look elsewhere for scoring, floor leadership, and clutch shooting. Illinois has four players averaging double figures this year, none more imporant than point guard Demetri McCamey. He's a frontrunner for Big Ten POY at 15PPG and 6APG. Today's biggest upset will come in one of the last games of the day in the Big Ten and it will be the Fighting Illini stunning the Spartans.