By Jon Rothstein
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LOUISVILLE AT KENTUCKY:
The annual showdown between these two hated rivals comes at high noon on New Year’s Eve on the heels of the Cardinals’ Big East opening game loss at home to Georgetown. Many including myself still don’t believe this is a great Louisville team but Rick Pitino’s squad will get better once they get healthier. Assuming the Cardinals get back Wayne Blackshear, Stephen Van Treese, and Kevin Ware, this could be a much more dangerous team in March than they are now. The problem is these three players likely won’t play against Kentucky.
PREDICTION: KENTUCKY 77, LOUISVILLE 66
WEST VIRGINIA AT SETON HALL:
Wednesday night’s loss to Syracuse at the Carrier Dome confirmed the belief that there are questions about Seton Hall’s supporting cast around Herb Pope, Jordan Theodore, and Fuquan Edwin. Coming home to play the Mountaineers should improve the Pirates’ confidence — and give them a huge opportunity to earn a conference win before they host UConn early next week. Still, West Virginia has the ammo with Kevin Jones and Deniz Kilicli to get Pope into foul trouble — and that’s bad news for Seton Hall.
PREDICTION: WEST VIRGINIA 69, SETON HALL 57
OHIO STATE AT INDIANA:
Michigan State and Ohio State in the same week? What a start to the Big Ten for Tom Crean and the Hoosiers. Despite an admirable second half comeback against the Spartans in East Lansing, Indiana suffered its first loss of the season. In order to beat the Buckeyes, Crean’s squad will need a huge defensive performance from Victor Oladipo against Ohio State shooting guard William Buford, who is looking more and more like the best player in college basketball no one is talking about. After another big performance in Bloomington, look for more people to take notice.
PREDICTION: OHIO STATE 74, INDIANA 69
GONZAGA AT XAVIER:
Is this the game the Musketeers get their swagger back? It better be. Since their fight with Cincinnati on December 10th, Chris Mack’s team has lost multiple starters to suspension and has lost three games in the process. Beating Gonzaga will be no easy task but Xavier is more than capable. Look for a terrific match up between Musketeers floor general Tu Holloway and Bulldogs lead guard Kevin Pangos but keep an eye on Gonzaga reserve forward Sam Dower. If he continues to score off the bench, Mark Few’s team may be too much to handle — it says here they will be.
PREDICTION: GONZAGA 83, XAVIER 76
ST. JOHN’S AT UCONN:
Moe Harkless made his Big East debut a memorable one with 32 points and 13 rebounds in a 91-67 win over Providence on Tuesday. Can he replicate the same efforts against the Huskies? Not likely. UConn’s massive front line should have its ways with the Red Storm’s lack of size. Also look for Huskies sophomore Tyler Olander to play a major role offensively at the high post for UConn, who should have the pieces to solve St. John’s feisty matchup zone.
PREDICTION: UCONN 84, ST. JOHN’S 66
Which game will you be glued to this weekend? Let us know in the comments below…