By Jon Rothstein
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CHARLOTTE AT MIAMI
The 49ers have been one of the season’s early surprises (9-0) while the Hurricanes have looked like the team many thought they’d be once Durand Scott returned to action after missing the first few games due to a suspension. Alan Major has rebuilt Charlotte’s program on the heels on tenacious defense, rebounding, and toughness. The question is, will they have enough offense to hang with Miami? We don’t believe so.
PREDICTION: MIAMI 69, CHARLOTTE 62
INDIANA VS. BUTLER
Brad Stevens told me this week that the Hoosiers are the fastest team in college basketball and after watching them early in the season it’s hard to argue. Indiana has killed opponents in transition early on but the Bulldogs are as good as any team around at dragging their adversaries into the mud. Butler point guard Rotnei Clarke will have to do a solid job limiting his turnovers and using the shot clock to the Bulldogs’ advantage. Still, Indiana is a team of balance and now depth with the additions of Hanner Mosquera-Perea and Peter Jurkin, who will play their first games of the season on Saturday. We like the Hoosiers comfortably.
PREDICTION: INDIANA 81, BUTLER 69
CINCINNATI AT MARSHALL
The Bearcats have been one of the more impressive teams in the first month of the season and they’ll face another stern test in the Thundering Herd. Marshall won’t have the services of guard Deandre Kane, who is out with a hand injury but the pieces are still in place for an upset. Elijah Pittman and Dennis Tinnon are two talented front court players who can dominate a game and have their way inside with Cincinnati’s big men. Nevertheless, college basketball is a guards game and the Bearcats’ perimeter triumvirate of Cashmere Wright, Sean Kilpatrick, and JaQuon Parker is as good a trio as you’re going to find.
PREDICTION: CINCINNATI 76, MARSHALL 72
LOUISVILLE AT MEMPHIS
Two former Conference-USA rivals square off in what should be a terrific battle of talent and athleticism. The Cardinals are the elite defensive team in the country while Memphis seems like they’re finally starting to find themselves. The Tigers have gotten great play recently from Geron Johnson and Joe Jackson seems to be in a nice rhythm playing off the ball. Josh Pastner’s team will have enough to hang with the Cardinals for a little more than a half, but Louisville’s relentless defensive pressure will be too much for Memphis.
PREDICTION: LOUISVILLE 77, MEMPHIS 68
FLORIDA AT ARIZONA
This game feels like a regional final in December. Florida has been the most impressive team in the country other than Duke while Arizona has all the requisites to win the PAC-12 and go deep into the NCAA Tournament. In order to beat the Gators, you have to do handle their relentless ball screens on offense and that presents a tall task for the Wildcats’ freshmen front court of Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley, and Grant Jerrett. Arizona will be good enough at some point this season to beat the best teams in the country — they’re just not ready yet to beat a team like Florida.
PREDICTION: FLORIDA 78, ARIZONA 71
What’s your can’t-miss game? Let us know in the comments…