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January 30, 2008
Prospectus Preview
Wednesday's Games to Watch

by Caleb Peiffer

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Matchup: Massachusetts (13-6, 2-3 Atlantic 10) at Duquesne (13-5, 3-2), 7:00 p.m. EST
Rankings: Massachusetts, #74 in Pomeroy Ratings (5th of 14 in A-10); Duquesne, #52 (2nd)
Pomeroy Prediction: Duquesne, 97-88 in 91 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 26%
Prospectus: This one should be a whirlwind affair, as the Minutemen and Dukes rank three/four, respectively, in adjusted tempo, and both sport good offenses. Duquesne and Massachusetts also rank four/five in block percentage, making this game an even more fun one to watch. Each squad is tall, but while the Dukes utilize that height to shoot an extremely efficient 56.2% on twos, the Minutemen run an offense based more upon a somewhat-curious mix of three-pointers and drawing fouls. Duquesne is one of the most balanced squads in the nation, with no one who has played more than 61% of the team's minutes, and eight players receiving 40% or more of the playing time, while Massachusetts relies heavily upon its two scorers, sophomore guard Ricky Harris and senior forward Gary Forbes.

Matchup: Rider (15-6, 8-2 Metro Atlantic) at Marist (14-7, 8-2), 7:30
Rankings: Rider, #124 in Pomeroy Ratings (2nd of 10 in MAAC); Marist, #127 (3rd)
Pomeroy Prediction: Marist, 76-72 in 69 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 36%
Prospectus: These two squads are tied along with Siena atop the MAAC with just eight games left to play, making this game critical. In addition, Rider plays next on the road against Siena, while Marist plays the next two against Siena in a home-and-home, meaning the conference champion should emerge in the next three games. The Red Foxes of Marist are led by Spongy Benjamin, a 6'7" senior who is the team's best rebounder, shot blocker and scorer. Spongy is especially strong on the offensive glass, but he'll be hard-pressed to wipe the boards clean with the Broncs' 6'11" center Jason Thompson in the picture. Thompson clears 25% of defensive rebounds, in addition to leading Rider on offense.

Matchup: Texas Arlington (14-4, 4-2 Southland) at Sam Houston St. (15-3, 3-2), 8:00
Rankings: Texas Arlington, #154 in Pomeroy Ratings (3rd of 12 in Southland); Sam Houston St., #117 (2nd)
Pomeroy Prediction: Sam Houston St., 67-61 in 73 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 24%
Prospectus: Points should be at a premium in this crucial conference game, as both teams boast strong defenses and inefficient attacks. The Bearkats of Sam Houston St.--yes, with a "k"--are holding opponents to just 0.86 points per possession, the fourth-lowest figure in D-I, thanks to ferocious defensive rebounding. The leader on the glass is senior forward Ryan Bright, who ranks sixth in defensive rebounding percentage despite standing 6'6". The Mavericks have their own defensive stopper in 6'9" senior center Jermaine Griffin, who also has an outstanding eFG% of 64.

Matchup: Memphis (19-0, 5-0 Conference USA) at Houston (15-3, 4-0), 8:00
Rankings: Memphis, #2 in Pomeroy Ratings (1st of 12 in CUSA); Houston, #84 (3rd)
Pomeroy Prediction: Memphis, 81-66 in 75 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 8%
Prospectus: Currently, the Pomeroy system gives the Tigers a 68% chance of going a perfect 16-0 in CUSA, and a 59% chance of having a perfect regular season overall (Memphis still has one non-conference game remaining, against Tennessee). This game is the third most likely to result in a Tigers loss, after the home game against the Volunteers (14% chance of an upset) and a road affair versus UAB (11%). You know all about the Tigers, but what about their feline relatives? The Cougars succeed by making sure their possessions end in shots, while causing their opponents to fail in that regard. Houston is also excellent at the free-throw line, knocking down three out of every four, so Memphis should make sure to watch their shooters' form carefully.

Matchup: Kansas (20-0, 5-0 Big 12) at Kansas State (14-4, 4-0), 8:00
Rankings: Kansas, #1 in Pomeroy Ratings (1st of 12 in Big 12); Kansas State, #11 (2nd)
Pomeroy Prediction: Kansas, 75-68 in 77 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 25%
Prospectus: How do you know if you're the best team in college basketball? Well, being favored by seven points on the road against the 11th-best team is a pretty good indication. The premium game of the day features the country's number-one defense (Kansas, holding opponents under 0.8 points per possession after adjustment) versus the number four. Of course, the Jayhawks also have the second-best raw offense in the land. Kansas is "weakest" on defense beyond the arc, but unfortunately for the Wildcats, they do not shoot three-pointers well. The matchup between freshman sensation Michael Beasley and Kansas' two outstanding forwards, Darnell Jackson and Darrell Arthur, will be extremely interesting to watch. This game also represents the single-greatest obstacle between Kansas and an undefeated record, although overall the Jayhawks' chances are much lower than those of Memphis because of the superior quality of the Big 12.

Matchup: Vanderbilt (17-3, 2-3 Southeastern) at Mississippi (15-3, 2-3), 8:00
Rankings: Vanderbilt, #71 in Pomeroy Ratings (7th of 12 in SEC); Mississippi, #40 (4th)
Pomeroy Prediction: Mississippi, 89-80 in 78 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 23%
Prospectus: The SEC has the most teams in the USA Today/ESPN Top 25 of any conference, with five, yet the Pomeroy Ratings have them as the worst of the six BCS conferences. It can be argued each of the five SEC squads in that Top 25 is overrated, but Vanderbilt stands out. The Commodores defense was exposed by Florida in a blowout loss on Sunday, and Vanderbilt will face another very good offense--the second-best in the conference by raw efficiency--in the Rebels. Mississippi's attack might be even better if 6'8" senior forward Dwayne Curtis, who ranks in the top five nationally in both offensive rating and eFG%, took more than 17.8% of his team's shots when on the floor. The Commodores' best hope for an upset might lie behind the arc, as Vanderbilt boasts the fourth-best three-point field goal percentage, and the Rebels are not adept at perimeter defense.

Matchup: Creighton (14-5, 5-4 Missouri Valley) at Drake (18-1, 9-0), 8:05
Rankings: Creighton, #57 in Pomeroy Ratings (3rd of 10 in MVC); Drake, #25 (1st)
Pomeroy Prediction: Drake, 69-60 in 65 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 17%
Prospectus: The Missouri Valley has been dominated by the Drake Bulldogs thanks to a balanced squad whose top six in percentage of minutes played all have offensive ratings of 112 or higher. If Drake is balanced, then the Blue Jays are in perfect equilibrium--the rotation for Creighton runs 12 deep, with bench players collecting 44.5% of the minutes, the fifth-highest total in the nation. The matchup to watch here will be between the 6'8" forwards--Dane Watts for the Blue Jays, and Jonathan Cox/Brent Heemskerk for the Bulldogs. Drake, which was expected to finish at the bottom of the Missouri Valley, cracked the top-15 in Joe Sheehan's inaugural 2008 rankings, and coach Keno Davis' charges are starting to receive national attention.

Matchup: Mississippi St. (14-5, 5-0 Southeastern) at Arkansas (14-5, 3-2), 8:05
Rankings: Mississippi St., #27 in Pomeroy Ratings (2nd of 12 in SEC); Arkansas, #47 (5th)
Pomeroy Prediction: Mississippi St., 66-65 in 70 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 49%
Prospectus: This battle between the teams in first and second place in the SEC West should be a defensive slugfest. The Bulldogs have one of the most impressive defensive profiles in the country--despite an effective height that rates 1.2 inches below average, Mississippi St. leads the nation in effective field goal percentage allowed (just 40.7) and block percentage, with 6'9" forward Jarvis Varnado sending back 18.7% of attempts. Arkansas is also an excellent shot-blocking team, but the Razorbacks' swatting success is more easily explained by the fact that they are 4.4 inches above average in effective height, thanks to seven-footer Steven Hill and 6'10" Darian Townes.

Matchup: Texas (16-3, 3-1 Big 12) at Texas A&M (16-4, 2-3), 9:00
Rankings: Texas, #19 in Pomeroy Ratings (3rd of 12 in ACC); Texas A&M, #21 (4th)
Pomeroy Prediction: Texas A&M, 69-66 in 62 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 37%
Prospectus: The Aggies recovered from three straight league losses--the last coming in five overtimes at home to Baylor--to beat Oklahoma St. on the road last Saturday, and now return home to play a Longhorns squad that is second-best in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency, thanks primarily to being tops in the land at not turning it over. Texas A&M doesn't generate turnovers, but does a great job on the defensive glass and uses its size to prevent teams from scoring inside. That means that 6'9" Connor Atchley, who leads the nation with a 70 eFG%, should find the going more difficult.

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

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