Editor's note: Myron Medcalf and Eamonn Brennan met Thursday to look ahead to the weekend's college basketball action including Kansas-Missouri, Ohio State-Wisconsin, Virginia-Florida State and Vanderbilt-Florida.
Eamonn Brennan: Myron, we're back again for another stop at the proverbial watercooler. Huzzah! Only this time, we're not recapping what was -- we're discussing what soon will be. That makes us sound a little like the three ghosts from "A Christmas Carol," but hey, so be it.
Myron Medcalf: True. They loved our pilot episode so much that they moved us to prime time. I'll take it.
EB: As will I. So let's dispense with the pleasantries and get down to brass tacks: Kansas. Missouri. Who ya got?
MM: I'm going with Missouri and not just because of the venue. I thought Iowa State did a great job of spreading the floor and forcing Withey/Robinson to guard the perimeter, where they weren't comfortable. Deja vu Saturday. Tigers in a tight game. You?
EB: Yeah, we discussed this on the ol' ESPNU College Basketball Podcast Thursday, and your point is valid: For as much as we've talked about Missouri having matchup issues with bigger, taller frontcourts, Missouri's four-out-one-in style gives teams like that just as many problems on the defensive end. You can't zone the Tigers; they'll carve you up. So who guards Kim English, Power Forward in Name Only? Thomas Robinson? And if so, doesn't that take Robinson too far away from the basket to be of use as a help defender and rebounder? And how does Kansas deal with that?
I'm not sure they can. So I'll go with Missouri, too, in a slightly less than close game. Let's say seven or eight for the final margin.
Here I am, always whining when our editors make us predict games, soliciting predictions of my own. Alas.
MM: I think you have to take sides on a weekend like this.
That said, Ohio State and Wisconsin collide in the Big Ten. What do you expect to see in that one?
Other than two teams playing basketball.
EB: That was totally going to be my answer. Thank you for preempting my smart-aleck tendencies.
MM: Haha. Glad I beat you to it.
EB: I expect to see a mostly slow-paced game. That's Wisconsin's deal, and while Ohio State likes to get out and run a bit more than the average Big Ten team -- they're at about 67 possessions per game per Pomeroy's adjusted tempo -- I don't think they'll have a problem in a grind-it-out half court style either. If they acquiesce to the Badger tempo in Madison, Wisconsin will have a much better chance of keeping things close and sneaking off with a win at the end. But I'm leaning heavily toward Ohio State here. You?
MM: Yep, I have to go with Ohio State, too. I don't count the Kansas loss because Jared Sullinger was out. But in their two Big Ten losses, their opponents had to play their best games of the season to beat them. Illinois hit 61 pct of its 3s and Brandon Paul scored 43. All five Indiana starters recorded double figures and the Hoosiers forced 17 TOs. Wisconsin has that kind of defense to disrupt the Buckeyes. But I don't believe the Badgers have that next-level offense to beat Ohio State. I pick Ohio State in a close game. Let's say three points.
So many placed I'd love to be this week. Things might get interesting in Tallahassee in Virginia-FSU's matchup. That's going to be a scrappy game.
So many places, places, Eamonn. Can't believe my typing woes have already started.
Who's your pick in that game?
EB: I think you have to give the nod to Florida State. The Seminoles have played lights-out for three weeks now. Their offense is better than we've seen it in, what, three years? More? And defensively, they have one of the few combinations of players in the country (Bernard James, particularly, but Okaro White and co. as well) that can make Virginia forward Mike Scott's life particularly difficult around the rim. I like FSU.
MM: I agree. We talked about this on the podcast. The major question mark about Florida State tends to involve its offense. But the Seminoles have averaged 78.6 points in their last five games. And they have the bodies inside to neutralize Mike Scott. And they're at home. Looks like another good win for FSU. Do you expect FSU's success to continue? Is the ACC going to be a three- or four-team race in mid-Feb.?
This is how good Saturday's games are: We're knee deep in our back-and-forth and haven't once mentioned Vanderbilt at Florida.
Too. Many. Good. Games.
Not that I'm complaining, of course.
MM: Exactly. I was just looking at that game. That could be the best of the bunch. Kentucky is clearly on top, but both teams are playing like they believe the SEC is a true race. Both squads get two shots at the Wildcats. So I expect a real war between Kentucky's biggest threats. But which Vanderbilt will show up? The one that lost at Arkansas really struggled. That version of the Commodores can't beat Florida, right?
EB: No, it cannot. For the first time in SEC play, Vandy's defense betrayed it. Or went back to normal. In fact, the latter may be true: Vanderbilt played really, really good -- and also really out of character -- defense for the first six conference games. Only Kentucky was better on a per-possession basis in portions of that stretch. But the Commodores gave up 1.24 points per trip to Arkansas and, well, if that happens at Florida on Saturday, look out. The Gators are too good on offense, particularly at home. They can bury you with the quickness.
MM: True. Florida's backcourt is a matchup nightmare. But a month from now, I feel like we'll be talking about Florida's regular-season success in relation to Patric Young's performance. When he get touches, he excels. And I think the Gators benefit. But he hasn't been 100 percent lately. And his aggressiveness comes and goes. But Vandy has to worry about him, too, right?
EB: It's actually a really good matchup for Vandy in this regard, though, I think. Florida has long-range guards (Kenny Boynton, Erving Walker, Mike Rosario, etc.), a tweener wing (Bradley Beal) and one true post presence (Patric Young). Vandy has long-range guards (John Jenkins), a tweener wing (Jeffrey Taylor) and one true post presence (Festus Ezeli). Sometimes I think Florida is just a more talented, less experienced version of this Vanderbilt team we've come to know over the past three years. So it's a decent matchup everywhere, and a winnable one for Vanderbilt, but their defense has to be at its highest level. They can score on Florida, hardly a great defensive team in its own right. No question. But can they get stops on the road? I have my doubts.
EB: I knew I shouldn't have taken us down this road. Hmmm -- I'll say Florida by five.
MM: Too late to turn back now. I think Vandy pulls off the upset. 6 points.
EB: Finally, we disagree. That was getting eerie for a second there.
MM: I agree.
EB: Well played.
So here's the next big question: When confronted with a Saturday of basketball like the one to come, what's your go-to midday delivery food choice? I tend to go with bagel sandwiches from a shop by my house, which was actually my No. 2 most-Googled search term in 2011. But sesame chicken is always close at hand, too.
By the way, my No. 1 search term was "ESPN RPI." Love you, Bubble Watch!
MM: Bubble Watch is back! Great stuff, by the way. I think you have to go with Asian. New spot opened up about five minutes from my house. They're in that "let's give it away now" so that they'll become permanent customers mode. $7 and you get great stuff.
And lots of coffee.
EB: "Coffee and Kung Pao." If we ever want to rename this little chat of ours, I think we just struck title gold.