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January 29, 2008
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Tuesday's Games to Watch

by Caleb Peiffer

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Matchup: Virginia Commonwealth (15-4, 8-1 Colonial) at George Mason (14-6, 6-3), 7:00 p.m. EST
Rankings: Virginia Commonwealth, #70 in Pomeroy Ratings (1st of 12 in Colonial); George Mason, #74 (2nd)
Pomeroy Prediction: George Mason, 65-62 in 62 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 36%
Prospectus: These two teams are the class of the Colonial Athletic Association by a remarkably wide margin--the dropoff from George Mason to the next best CAA team, UNC-Wilmington, is more than 100 spots in the Pomeroy Ratings. This is the only meeting between the two this year, making it a must-win game for the Patriots if they hope to take the regular season league crown. The entire CAA plays at an extremely slow tempo--eight of the 12 teams are in the 200s in raw possessions/40 minutes, including these two squads. VCU's excellent defense (ninth in raw efficiency, best in the nation in three point FG% defense) will be tested by a strong Patriots offense--no, they don't have a good passing game, but they're good at not turning it over.

Matchup: Miami (15-4, 2-3 Atlantic Coast) at Wake Forest (12-6, 2-3), 7:00
Rankings: Miami, #45 in Pomeroy Ratings (5th of 12 in ACC); Wake Forest, #81 (11th)
Pomeroy Prediction: Wake Forest, 73-72 in 71 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 50%
Prospectus: A true pick 'em game, which emphasizes the level of parity in the ACC, considering that the second-worst team in the conference is favored by a hair over the fifth-best squad. Granted, the Demon Deacons are 11-0 at home this year, with wins over Florida State and Virginia Tech in conference play. The Hurricanes are coming off arguably their best win of the year, over Clemson at home, while Wake Forest took Clemson to overtime on the road before bowing in its last game. The Demon Deacons have been undone this year by their three-point shooting percentage: at 28.5, it's the worst of any BCS school.

Matchup: Ohio St. (14-6, 5-2 Big 10) at Penn St. (10-9, 2-5), 7:00
Rankings: Ohio St., #20 in Pomeroy Ratings (3rd of 11 in Big 10); Penn St., #101 (8th)
Pomeroy Prediction: Ohio St., 69-61 in 66 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 22%
Prospectus: Since the team's best player, Geary Claxton, was lost for the year with a torn ACL in his left knee against Wisconsin, the Nittany Lions have lost three straight games to conference foes by at least 15 points each time. If Penn St. wants to prevent a free-fall to the bottom of the Big 10, now is the time to make a stand. It will have to do so by fighting an uphill battle against a much larger Buckeyes squad. The Nittany Lions have no one taller than 6'6" who plays more than 40% of the team's minutes, while Ohio St. has 7'0" freshman center Kosta Koufos and 6'8" senior forward Othello Hunter. Penn St. will likely need a big game from little-used 6'11" senior center Brandon Hassell if it hopes to have a shot.

Matchup: Florida St. (13-8, 2-4 Atlantic Coast) at Virginia Tech (12-8, 3-3), 9:00
Rankings: Florida St., #64 in Pomeroy Ratings (8th of 12 in ACC); Virginia Tech, #54 (6th)
Pomeroy Prediction: Virginia Tech, 66-61 in 67 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 29%
Prospectus: The Hokies have an excellent defense and play at a slow tempo, resulting in some very low scores--nine Virginia Tech opponents have been held below 60 points. The Seminoles' main strength lies in their free-throw shooting ability, as they are second in the nation with a 79.1 percentage from the stripe. Florida State runs a very balanced attack, with its five starters all taking between 19.7 and 23.7 percent of the shots when they're in the game. Returning to the Hokies rotation will be freshman forward Jeff Allen, who was suspended two games for bumping an official. Allen ranks in the top 50 nationally in both defensive rebounding and steals, while also being Virginia Tech's top possession-user on offense.

Matchup: Tennessee (17-2, 4-1 Southeastern) at Alabama (12-8, 1-4), 9:00
Rankings: Tennessee, #13 in Pomeroy Ratings (1st of 12 in SEC); Alabama, #87 (9th)
Pomeroy Prediction: Tennessee, 84-76 in 73 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 22%
Prospectus: The Crimson Tide isn't even the best team in the state of Alabama this year--that distinction belongs to the southern squad from the Sun Belt. Alabama has gotten off to a rough start in SEC play, but did take Arkansas into overtime on the road. The Volunteers, meanwhile, are a good team that have been aided by some luck, as they have around two more wins than would be expected. Tennessee relies on generating steals on defense while taking excellent care of the ball on offense. Alabama is sure-handed with the ball as well, but it's doubtful that their leaky defense will be able to generate enough turnovers to get the Volunteers' offense, ranked 10th in adjusted efficiency, out of rhythm.

Caleb Peiffer is a contributor to Basketball Prospectus. He can be reached here.

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