Now that football season is over, and a worthy, if not unanimous (in public opinion) champion has been crowned, it's time to totally focus on hoops. While league play is already underway in most conferences, the SEC and most of the Big 12 gets started this weekend. Just a reminder, my viewing picks primarily focus on matchups I focus on for bracket purposes. That's why several conference matchups aren't going to show up in this preview (especially this long weekend preview) early in the season. As always, TV information is from Matt's College Sports on TV website. And, yes, I do include ESPNU games on the weekend, since I tend to make it out to a bar at some point.
Louisville-Villanova (noon EST, ESPN) - Yet another big name matchup in the Big East, featuring two teams who still have a lot to prove. The Cardinals are off to their typical inconsistent start, while the Wildcats are back home, fresh off their first true road win. Should be a good one, with Nova having the advantage in guard play and Louisville featuring the stronger frontcourt.
Tennessee-Georgia (noon EST, Raycom/Full Court) and Georgia Tech-Maryland (noon EST, Raycom/Full Court) - The Vols and Terps are both coming off non-conference losses midweek and need to recover. Tennessee should have an easier time against a Bulldog team that's been unable to build off their amazing SEC title last March. The Yellow Jackets look like they're a good bet for the bottom three in the ACC, but, as the past has shown, that doesn't make it an automatic win for the Terps.
West Virginia-Marquette (noon EST, CST/MASN/SNY/Full Court) - Golden Eagles are looking to start 4-0 in the Big East, while the Mountaineers are trying to get above .500 after a close loss to UConn in Morgantown Tuesday.
Kansas-Michigan State (1 EST, CBS) - The young Jayhawks' last chance at a big road win out of the league.
Providence-Georgetown (1 EST, ESPNU) - The good news: Friars are 3-0 in the Big East. The bad: The Hoyas are a major step up in class from Cincy, DePaul, and St. John's.
Dayton-UMass (1 EST, local TV only) - Add the A-10 to the list of leagues that need a better TV deal. Flyers look to be more consistent in the conference than they were this year. Minutemen know the only way to the Dance is to put together a strong A-10 mark.
Oklahoma-Kansas State (1:30 EST, Altitude/YES/Full Court) - How will the Beasley and Walker-less Wildcats handle the Griffins and their Sooner cohorts. Not well, I imagine.
Duke-Florida State (2 EST, ESPN) - This one is in Tallahassee, where the Noles are good for at least one big time win a year. Usually though, there isn't enough other good stuff in the resume to get them into the NCAAs. FSU certainly has the size to give the Blue Devils major problems.
Old Dominion-George Mason (2 EST, CSN-Mid Atl/CSN-NE/CSS) - Not the vintage Monarch-Patriot matchup, as ODU has struggled so far this season. The Monarchs are 2-2 in the league with losses to Madison at home and away to Georgia State (gulp). GMU and Northeastern are currently tied for the CAA lead at 4-0.
Austin Peay-Murray State (3 EST, ESPNU) - The Ohio Valley's traditional powers get together, with the Govs sharing the top spot in the standings with Morehead State. Racers are currently a game and a half off the pace. Both teams have losing records as a result of playing a ton of road games early. The Racers have the best win on both schedules, over Western Kentucky.
Utah-San Diego State (4 EST, Versus) - Both the Utes and Aztecs are 1-0 in the Mountain West. Aztecs don't have anything close to what the Utes have in the out-of-league win department, however.
Bucknell-Navy (5 EST, ESPNU) - Bison are down big time this year at 3-11, while the Middies are American's main competition in the Patriot League. But with the way this conference is, all bets are off on this one. Just think back to those quarterfinal results.
Ole Miss-Florida (6 EST, FS South/SUN Sports/Full Court) - Another chance for David Huertas to cause his former school problems. This is exactly the type of game the Gators cannot afford to lose. They had better be thankful it's at the O'Dome.
California-Washington (6 EST, FS Northwest/CSN-CA/Fox College Sports Pacific) - Two teams that are, surprisingly, unbeaten in the Pac-10. These two teams also really need to keep on winning in the Pac-10 to have any legitimate claim to a spot in March, even if I do have the Bears in at the moment.
While I'm at Syracuse-Rutgers (7:30 EST, SNY/Full Court), you may want to pay attention to...
Miami-Boston College (7 EST, ESPNU) - Eagles try to rebound from the Harvard loss, while the Canes look for their first ACC win.
Mississippi State-Arkansas (8 EST, FS South/SUN Sports/Full Court) - The Hogs try to keep their momentum going, while the Bulldogs have rebounded well from their loss to San Diego on December 30, handling Houston and Western Kentucky handily in Starkville.
Oakland-Oral Roberts (8 EST, KGEB/Fox College Sports Central) - The Eagles are tied with Western Illinois for the league lead at the moment, with the Golden Grizzlies just behind them.
Texas A&M-Oklahoma State (9 EST, ESPNU) - The Aggies 13-1 mark includes some nice wins (Arizona and LSU, both in College Station), while the best wins for the 11-3 Cowboys are Tulsa at home and Rhode Island at the Ford Center. Both teams need to pull some surprises in the Big 12 to make it to March.
Utah State-New Mexico State (9 EST, KJZZ/Full Court) - Of course, the Aggies will win this. (I'll stop now. Of course, you could've made the same joke about the matchup above decades ago.) USU looks to be the class of the league, but NMSU is always tough at the Pan-American Center.
Stanford-Washington State (10 EST, FS Northwest/Fox College Sports Central) - Cardinal are coming off a tough loss at Washington, while the Cougars have dropped three straight to difficult opponents (LSU, Washington, Cal) and are looking to avoid a three-game home losing streak.
Wisconsin-Purdue (1:30 EST, CBS) - Boilers are shorthanded and struggling. Badgers are up to their usual tricks, winning games while flying below the radar. Purdue could fall to 0-3 in the Big Ten if they don't get a win here.
LSU-Alabama (1:30 EST, Raycom/Full Court) - Preseason, the Bayou Bengals were many prognosticators pick for first in the SEC West. It looks like Arkansas has maybe taken over that role. Will it hurt LSU to fly under the radar? In a word, no. Bama is another one of those teams that will require a good run in their conference to get into the Dance. Potential statement game for them.
Penn State-Minnesota (3:30 EST, Big Ten) - Two of the biggest surprises in the country meet up on the raised floor at Williams Arena. The Lonely Lions have done a great job winning in front of 10 people at the Jordan Center. Now, they need to prove they can win somewhat consistently with hostile butts in the seats.
North Carolina-Wake Forest (8 EST, Fox Sports Net) - I don't think I really need to say anything about this one. From Hansbrough to Aminu, Ty Lawson to Ishmael Smith, Jeff Teague to Wayne Ellington and beyond there's just a massive amount of talent in this game. Will the Deacons be betrayed by their youth?
UCLA-USC (10:30 EST, Fox Sports Net) - For the first time in recent memory, the Battle of Los Angeles doesn't really have a clear favorite this year.
I'm sure I'll be tweeting at some point during the weekend (besides during SU-Rutgers, that is). New bracket should be out sometime on Sunday evening.