NCAA ‘Judgement Week’ Saturday Previews

Steve O Speak

By Guest Blogger Brian Murphy:

As ESPN loves to call this pivotal week in college hoops, Judgment Week is upon us.  This Saturday is absolutely stacked with great matchups around the country and I will preview some of them here.  Saturday will definitely have a feel of March and it should not disappoint.

12:00 EST: #20 Syracuse @ #11 Georgetown: Syracuse will look to stay hot on the road in the Big East as they travel to Georgetown.  The Orange won a huge game against Villanova this week in Philly and were really never down in the game.  Georgetown won the first matchup in Syracuse 64-56 behind stellar defense and evenly-distributed point scoring.  Both teams are 10-6 in the Big East this year, and this will be a huge win for either team in the standings heading closer and closer to the Big East Tournament.  There have been times this year when both teams have showed inconsistency and I really don’t know which team will show up.  I was impressed with Syracuse’s victory at Nova and look for them to pull another upset on the road if the three J’s (Jardine, Jackson, and Joseph) play within themselves and as a team.

2:00 EST: #7 BYU @ #4 San Diego St.: The highest ranked matchup of the weekend is between the two powerhouses from the Mountain West Conference.  This is a must-watch game for college fans as the West Coast gets a chance to represent their basketball.  BYU handily beat the then-undefeated Aztecs earlier this year in the Marriott Center 71-58.  Player of the Year finalist Jimmer Fredette showed the nation how great he really is by scoring 43 points in that game.  That was SDSU’s first and only loss of the season, and they have reeled off seven straight MWC wins since.  I look for this game to be closer than the first contest and coming down to the last minute.  Overall, I don’t think SDSU has an answer for Jimmer and the Cougars will get another win and take the #1 spot in the MWC standings.

2:00 EST #25 St. John’s @ #14 Villanova: St. John’s return to glory this year has really been a treat to watch.  Head coach Steve Lavin has turned around the once-prestigious program in his first year, and has made Madison Square Garden a snakepit for opponents to play in.  However, much to the chagrin of the Red Storm, this game will be in Philadelphia.  Since Villanova beat Maryland, their last out-of-conference opponent, on January 15th (capping an 11-game win streak), they have lost 6 out of the last 11 Big East games.  Five of those games were losses by 5 points or less.  After a tough loss to Syracuse on Big Monday, I look for Corey Fisher to help the Wildcats get back on track at home and hold off St. John’s in the second half.

4:00 EST: #13 Florida @ #22 Kentucky: Finally a top 25 matchup in the SEC!  The Gators (as of mid-day Thursday before their Georgia game) have won five SEC games in a row, including a two-point win over Kentucky in Gainesville.  The struggling Wildcats will be looking for revenge as the Gators come chompin’ into Rupp Arena.  Kentucky has lost five of their last ten games (all on the road and by less than four points).  As much as I want to pick the Gators again, I will have to say that Kentucky has the edge as they are 16-1 at home this season.  Their only loss was early in the season to UCONN and they have had no trouble with SEC teams at home.

9:00 EST #1 Duke @ Virginia Tech: Blacksburg, VA will be in prime “football season” form this weekend as ESPN’s College Gameday will be in town and broadcasting live inside Cassell Coliseum Saturday morning.  This will be the first and only meeting of the regular season between the Blue Devils and Hokies.  Duke has only lost one ACC game this season and has won ten straight ACC games.  Virginia Tech, yet again, finds itself in the latest bubble discussions and need a huge, quality win like this in front of the nation to solidify its spot in the NCAA Tournament.  In order for VT to pull off the upset, they need Jeff Allen to not get into foul trouble early and be a force in the paint.  Duke will pressure 1st team All-American PG Malcolm Delaney all game, so he needs to find open shots and not hesitate to bang ‘em down.  Duke’s Seth Curry has not been playing too well the last couple of games and it will be interesting to see if he steps it up in the arena where his father, Dell, excelled as an All-American for VT and drafted into the NBA.  The atmosphere will be hard to match and if Virginia Tech makes the most of their opportunities and doesn’t make stupid mistakes/turnovers, they will be in it to the end.  I’ve seen many big games come down to the wire in Cassell, and it seems as though VT hasn’t come up as the winners in many of late.  I will leave this up to everyone to predict an upset or not, as I can not pick against my Hokies!

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