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Monday, December 31, 2012

New Years Eve Preview

Cincinnati at Pittsburgh 12pm ESPN2

Finally, a chance for Pittsburgh to prove they are a better team than they are getting credit for. Pittsburgh has flown under the radar all season, but looks like a top 15 team to me. The are actually favored in this game against the Bearcats, who are coming off a close loss at home to New Mexico. The Bearcats will have trouble with Pittsburgh physical and deep interior - led by the much improved Talib Zanna. Joining Zanna down low are JJ Moore (their second best inside player), Steven Adams (Cincinnati may play too fast for him to play a lot of minutes), and Dante Taylor (despised by Pitt fans, but isn't too shabby as a backup big). Its a deep frontline even with Khem Birch transferring last year and Malcolm Gilbert leaving this week.

Zanna is one of the most underrated players in the country and his play so far should've been enough for analysis to consider him for one of the 3 All-American teams. But without a lot of big games yet, nobody is biting on Zanna's breakout year yet. He's had hot starts before, but this year is different. His game has evolved greatly on the offensive end.

Pittsburgh is back to its ways of tough defense and rebounding. The addition of James Robinson can't be understated either. He is replacing Ashton Gibbs who was a great scorer, but a terrible defender in his senior year. Robinson is a Dematha product and a winner at heart. He has excellent poise and suffocating defense. His impact has not only been felt at Pitt, but at Dematha as well - as Dematha is off to a 4-3 start to their season. That is more loses than Robinson had his entire career.

Michigan State at Minnesota 2pm ESPN2

Ahhh, Big Ten play. This is the best part of New Year's Eve. Its the sign of matchups like this happening almost every day. Two tough defensive teams going at it. The most intriguing battle here is Brandon Dawson against Rodney Williams, both of whom will get a lot of run at the 4 position. Neither are particularly skilled, but both stick to their strengths. For Dawson, it is being a terror on the offensive glass. For Williams, it is all about his defense and delivering timely highlight dunks. How will Dawson fare against a better athlete than him? And how will Williams match Dawson's energy and strength? The senior SHOULD have the advantage, but we will see. Also, the Andre Hollins watch is on. He is in Big Ten play now - can he keep up his impressive play?

St. Joseph's at Drexel 4pm

Classic Philly battle. Not full of any big prospects, but should be a close and intense matchup to entertain you between 4pm-6pm.

Gonzaga at Oklahoma State 6pm ESPN2

Gonzaga has had well documented problems this year keeping explosive guards in front of them. Marcus Smart is a explosive guard who knows how to score. He has cooled off a bit after a lightning hot start to the season and this is a chance for him to keep his name on the forefront of scouts minds. Another big matchup here is how LeBryan Nash handles Elias Harris' defense. Actually, this is a REALLY interesting battle. Nash isn't going to be able to bully Harris or blow by him easily. How will Nash adjust? Nash won't be expected to score all over him, but will he at least recognize this and play smart? Last year he struggled with forcing things. This year he has been better, but that is because he hasn't faced anyone like Harris. Harris, by the way, has played himself back into NBA Draft conversations. Oklahoma State is the favorite in this game - but I'll take the underdogs in a close one.

Nevada at Oregon 7pm Pac-12 Network

The Washington Huskies are the reason Deonte Burton and Nate Wolters both originally got put on the map. Last year Burton dropped 31 points on them and followed it up with a 29 point performance this season. Beating up on the likes of Tony Wroten and Abdul Gaddy on the defensive end isn't as impressive as the name makes it seem. Regardless, Burton is an intriguing player despite being prematurely thrust into draft conversations.  I think he has made strides since last season.

Oregon also has some prospects I want to get added looks at - Damyean Dotson, Tony Woods, Arsalan Kazemi, and Dominic Artis. Dotson has the greatest potential of the bunch.

North Texas at Middle Tennessee State 8pm ESPNU

I've written about Tony Mitchell quite a few times, including the other day. 

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