I've had a week's break but it's back to the J-O, and back to making picks after my last 3-2 showing (18-12 overall this season). If you haven't read this column before, I'll let you know that I grew up a Jayhawks fan and came of age as a passionate Long Beach State student. Tonight, my two basketball passions meet on the hardwood and I've already made peace with my grandfather because I will be rooting for the 49ers (hey, the victory would mean a lot more to them in a year when they have a legitimate shot at making noise in March).
The last time the 49ers made the NCAA Tournament, myself and six other writers at the Long Beach Union Weekly drove for 40 hours one way to watch them get blown out by 35 at the hands of Tennessee in the first round. On the way back, we stopped in Wichita at 4:00am and my grandparents had about 30 ham and cheese sandwiches waiting. Grandparents are the freaking best. Personally, I feel blessed that tonight I'll be able to witness these two teams together when KU is ranked and LBSU has their best squad in five seasons. I just hope that the 49ers come out with a win, and if not, that they stay within 11 points. Amen.
As an aside, over the weekend I lost a good friend and the man who took an incredible chance on me. RIP, Shaun.
9:00pm ESPNU: Long Beach State (+12) @ No. 14 Kansas
The big secret about these two teams is that neither of them is playing very well. Kansas crawled through two wins last week while Long Beach absolutely slept through the first half of Friday's game against BYU-Hawaii. Who shows up? Both teams, and that means a close game. Long Beach State can't do much against Thomas Robinson and the size and talent of Kansas' post game, but they can definitely defend on the perimeter and force turnovers. In 1994, the 49ers' biggest win ever came at No. 1 Kansas. I'm not saying, but I'm just saying...
7:00pm ESPN: No. 10 Missouri @ Villanova (+7)
The Tigers' best win this season came against then-No. 20 Cal in late November, but beating the best team in the PAC-12 is like me beating the crap out of the tallest kid in a preschool. Villanova is tough to play at MSG and I'm not ashamed to say that I'm taking the Wildcats because in this same post I'm going against my Jayhawks and it will make my inner-KU fan feel better.
7:00pm ESPN3: George Mason (+9.5) @ Virginia
Virginia surprised a lot of people (especially me) with their 12-point win over No. 15 Michigan, but both of George Mason's losses have come in overtime and they've also won one in OT. That tells me they know how to fight, especially since all of their other wins have been defensive clinics. This is the last game in the Cavaliers' four-game homestand and they'll try to make a statement, but I like Ryan Pearson and the Patriots inside.
9:00pm ESPN2: No. 20 Memphis @ Miami (FL) (-1)
The Hurricanes haven't lost a preseason home game since 2008, and the Tigers come into this game playing almost exactly into their hands. Miami is real stingy against the three-point shot while Memphis is relying on it quite a bit. My instinct is to go with Memphis but the line-setters' confidence in Miami is inspiring me to side with the winning streak and take the 'Canes here.
7:00pm: Marshall @ No. 3 Syracuse (-15)
Marshall has never lost a game to Syracuse, ever. Of course, the two teams have only played once, and that was in 1947. The Thundering Herd will be motivated coming off their first loss of the season to Ohio - DeAndre Kane and Dennis Tinnon make quite the combination - but Syracuse is clearly on a mission and this isn't the game to trip them up. Ten Orange are playing more than 10 minutes per and no one is playing 30. You don't see that kind of balance very often. Another big win for Boeheim's boys.
Ryan ZumMallen writes about basketball and senior swim hour at the YMCA in Long Beach, CA. Follow him on Twitter at @ryanzummallen.