By Jon Rothstein
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TENNESSEE AT GEORGETOWN
We’ve been drinking the Volunteers Kool-Aid for a long time, and we still think they’re going to be capable of winning the SEC once Jeronne Maymon comes back from a knee injury. Georgetown has been incredibly impressive early and that really shouldn’t be a surprise. Hoyas coach John Thompson III is as good as anyone in the country at annually replenishing the talent on his roster. The key matchup in this game will be Georgetown big man Mikael Hopkins against Tennessee’s inside tandem of Kenny Hall and Jarnell Stokes. Hopkins has flourished early on in the Hoyas’ offense, and we expect that trend to continue again on Friday night.
PREDICTION: GEORGETOWN 69, TENNESSEE 61
SYRACUSE AT ARKANSAS
Bud Walton Arena is one of the more electric venues in all of college basketball, and that’s what makes this game so enticing. Arkansas is still finding their identity in year two under Mike Anderson, and it needs to get more ancillary help around star guard B.J. Young. The Orange? We think that they’re the best team in the country. Yes, better than Indiana and better than Duke. Crazy? Not if you watch sophomore point guard Michael Carter-Williams. Trust us, you won’t be disappointed.
PREDICTION: SYRACUSE 86, ARKANSAS 77
RUTGERS AT OLE MISS
Why is this game on the list? Both teams can make a move in their respective conferences and each squad has yet to face a quality BCS team up to this point in the season. Rebels coach Andy Kennedy has been knocking at the door of the NCAA Tournament during his entire tenure in Oxford, and the depth he’s added this year should give his team a chance to finally reach the field of 68. Ole Miss’ power forward-center combo of Murphy Holloway and Reginald Buckner can match up with any frontcourt in America, and JUCO transfer Marshall Henderson is a sharpshooter that can stretch the defense. Rutgers right now is a mystery. The Scarlet Knights have the ability to be a factor in the Big East, but until they prove that they’re mature enough to handle expectations, we can’t pick them in a game like this.
PREDICTION: OLE MISS 76, RUTGERS 66
ARIZONA AT TEXAS TECH
A Saturday night in Lubbock? It might not be that bad. We know Arizona is the clear favorite in the PAC-12, but the reason why we’re intrigued with this game is the fact that the Red Raiders are undefeated. Texas Tech interim coach Chris Walker is going to have to show tangible progress if he hopes to become the school’s full-time coach, and putting up a good showing against the Wildcats would go a long way. Walker watched Louisville practice early in the season and has implemented the Cardinals’ style with his own team. It says here that the Red Raiders will be competitive, but will ultimately lose to an Arizona team that could very well reach the Final Four during the first weekend in April.
PREDICTION: ARIZONA 82, TEXAS TECH 73
UCLA VS. SAN DIEGO STATE
Bruins coach Ben Howland went to a zone defense and changed his starting lineup in Wednesday night’s win over Cal State Northridge, and it will be interesting to see if UCLA’s new approach will work against the Aztecs. Pushing the pace and getting more possessions should open up more opportunities for the Bruins’ talented freshmen perimeter trio of Shabazz Muhammad, Jordan Adams and Kyle Anderson — but will that be enough to beat the Aztecs? We’re not so sure. San Diego State has veterans, depth and an underrated glue guy in JJ O’Brien. It says here that UCLA will play well, but not well enough to win.
PREDICTION: SAN DIEGO STATE 77, UCLA 73
Do you agree that ‘Cuse is the best team in the nation — better than both Indiana and Duke? Get the debate started in the comments section below…