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CBB Top 25 Weekend Preview

Top 25 Matchups for Saturday, January 16, 2010

Matt Fargo

Matt Fargo

Syracuse Orange (5) at West Virginia Mountaineers (9) 12:00 PM ET

Easily the marquee matchup of the day, we get started early with a great matchup. Syracuse is 16-1 on the season including a perfect 5-0 away from home. It has played only two true road games on the season however and those came at Seton Hall and Rutgers so this will easily be the biggest road test thus far and mark the first road game against a ranked opponent.


Many are considering this to be one of Syracuse’s best and most complete teams and it shows on both ends of the floor. The Orange are ranked first in the nation in shooting offense at 53.2 percent from the floor and 10th in the country in shooting defense, allowing just 37.3 percent. Syracuse is one of only three teams nationally with Kansas and Texas being the others that are ranked in the top 10 in both.

The Mountaineers started the season 11-0 but are just 2-2 in their four games with losses coming against Purdue and Notre Dame, both taking place on the road. West Virginia is 7-0 at home and this is being hailed one of the biggest games in program history and it is the first time in the 40-year existence of the WVU Coliseum that there will be a matchup of two Top 10 teams. Interestingly, the only other time a West Virginia game was played in Morgantown with two teams ranked in the Top 10 was 50 years ago to the day when the Mountaineers hosted Villanova on January 16, 1960. Syracuse has won nine of the last 10 meetings in this series and it is 15-5 against the Mountaineers since West Virginia joined the Big East in 1995.

This will be a tough matchup for the Orange who are extremely strong down low but will be facing a similar frontcourt as Da’Sean Butler, Devin Ebanks and Kevin Jones will present a formidable challenge. Whichever team ends up shooting better will be likely be victorious as West Virginia is 51-1 under head coach Bob Huggins when posting a higher shooting percentage than its opponent but just 11-24 when it doesn’t.

Mississippi Rebels (23) at Tennessee Volunteers (10) 1:30 PM ET

Mississippi is quietly off to a solid start this season at 13-3 and was ranked as high as 14th before its most recent loss against rival Mississippi St. The Rebels other two losses came against top teams from the Big East at West Virginia and against Villanova in Puerto Rico. Besides those three games, the only other quality game came against Kansas St. and that resulted in a win prior to that Villanova game in Puerto Rico. The rest of the schedule has been relatively soft with blowouts over cupcakes as well as narrow two-point wins over Southern Mississippi and UTEP. At 83.4 ppg, Mississippi leads the SEC and ranks 12th in the nation in scoring offense.

The loss of four players was thought to have completely shattered Tennessee’s season but instead, it is playing its basketball right now. The Volunteers are employing only six scholarship players along with three walk-ons and the three games with this roster has resulted in three wins including a victory over then top-ranked Kansas. Tennessee has won these three games by a combined 51 points and looks to remain undefeated at home where it is 9-0 to start the season. The Volunteers are at a slight disadvantage here as it has one less day to prepare as it will be taking the floor less than 43 hours after the win over Auburn. The good news is that there is no travel involved.

Mississippi plays a similar style to that of Auburn but shoots the ball much better and possesses better athletes. The backcourt matchup will be a challenge as the Rebels are shooting 37.5 percent from long range. Tennessee has won 14 of the last 20 meetings in this series and it is 37-10 all-time at home against the Rebels as they are the only SEC opponent against which the Volunteers have a winning record on its home court.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (18) at North Carolina Tar Heels (13) 2:00 PM ET

Georgia Tech will be facing its second straight ranked opponent on a Saturday following its win over Duke at home a week ago. That was obviously a huge win for the Yellow Jackets but it provided little momentum as they fell flat four days later in a loss at Virginia. That was the second straight road loss for Georgia Tech who also lost at rival Georgia back on January 5th. Three of the four losses on the season have come by exactly seven points while the other defeat against Dayton was by four points on a neutral floor in Puerto Rico. Defense is the strength of the Yellow Jackets as they held Duke to 19 points below its season average and have allowed 70 points in a game only twice in the last 11 games.

North Carolina should be hungry on Saturday as it is coming off a dreadful performance at Clemson on Wednesday as it went down by 19 points. That dropped the Tar Heels to 0-3 in true road games but they are a perfect 11-0 at the Dean Smith Center. Offensively, North Carolina seems to be fine as it is averaging 83.6 ppg but it is very misleading. The Tar Heels have scored more than 80 points on 11 different occasions but only twice against major conference teams and only once in a game it won. Inexperience at guard in a fast-paced offense is a bad combination and that has showed as they are averaging 16.9 turnovers per game which is second most in the country for teams from major conferences. Georgia Tech forces 16.1 tpg on defense.

North Carolina needs a win to get back on track while the Yellow Jackets want to prove that win over Duke was not a fluke and the loss to Virginia was. A loss here will drop Georgia Tech to 1-3 in the ACC and with its next two games after this against ranked opponents followed by Wake Forest and a rematch at Duke, this is a pretty vital stretch to save its season. It is big for North Carolina as well, who has not lost back-to-back games since March 2007, both road games, and has not lost back-to-back games that included a home game since January 2006.

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