By Jon Rothstein
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SYRACUSE VS. TEMPLE
Jim Boeheim earned his 900th win earlier in the week and it says here that 901 won’t be far behind. Temple is still a team that lacks an identity at point guard and the Owls’ top two perimeter scorers, Khalif Wyatt and Scootie Randall struggled mightily in Wednesday night’s loss to Canisius. The Orange are simply too talented, too good, and too long for Temple to handle in front of a huge Syracuse crowd at Madison Square Garden.
PREDICTION: SYRACUSE 84, TEMPLE 66
MURRAY STATE AT DAYTON
The Flyers’ hopes in this one took a big hit when it was announced that starting point guard Kevin Dillard will be out indefinitely with back spasms. This was supposed to be a highly anticipated floor general match up between Dillard and Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan, but now Dayton will be seriously short handed against one of the best at his position in college basketball. Archie Miller’s team is in the middle of a brutal stretch. After the game on Saturday, Dayton will be at USC before they begin A 10 play at VCU. There could be a long road ahead if the Flyers are moving forward without Dillard.
PREDICTION: MURRAY STATE 72, DAYTON 65
ILLINOIS AT MISSOURI
John Groce’s brilliance has made the Illini the nation’s early season surprise — but this is as far as their undefeated record will go. Illinois has great guards in Brandon Paul, Tracy Abrams, and D.J. Richardson but Missouri’s front court is relentless on the boards. The Tigers’ baseline trio of Earnest Ross, Laurence Bowers, and Alex Oriakhi eat everything that comes off the glass and it says here that Missouri will be too big and too physical for the Illini.
PREDICTION: MISSOURI 72, ILLINOIS 64
KANSAS AT OHIO STATE
The Jayhawks’ trip to Columbus couldn’t come at a better time. Bill Self’s team has been playing brilliant basketball of late and red shirt freshman Ben McLemore looks like a first-team All-Big 12 player — he’s that good. The Buckeyes are still a team that looks like they’re missing a piece or two. Aaron Craft, Deshaun Thomas, and Lenzelle Smith give Thad Matta a strong veteran core but we’re not sure this team has a presence inside that can match up with Jeff Withey, who seems to get better and better each time he takes the floor. We like Kansas — and we like them convincingly.
PREDICTION: KANSAS 73, OHIO STATE 62
FLORIDA AT KANSAS STATE
This is the second stern road test for the Gators in seven days after Billy Donovan’s team suffered a narrow defeat last Saturday at Arizona. Florida has the ability to score from every position on the floor while Kansas State is still resembling a team that will regularly go through long droughts. Bruce Weber’s team will need a big offensive night from Rodney McGruder to stay close. McGruder, the Wildcats’ top scoring threat had only four points when Kansas State lost at Gonzaga last Saturday and his team can not afford for him to have another game in single digits. Still, even with McGruder’s perimeter punch, we can’t see the Gators losing twice in seven days.
PREDICTION: FLORIDA 75, KANSAS STATE 66
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