Originally Published: February 26, 2010
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesPurdue will need more from the likes of JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore without Robbie Hummel.

No. 14 Michigan State at No. 3 Purdue

By Jay Bilas

When and where: Sunday at 4 p.m. ET (CBS), Mackey Arena

Worst news: Robbie Hummel's season-ending injury. I was sick to my stomach when I saw Hummel go down against Minnesota on Wednesday night. When I saw him on crutches, I felt even worse. Hummel is a great college player and a great kid. He overcame a painful back injury last year and played through pain, spending his summer playing for USA Basketball and Bo Ryan at the World University Games. He was leading his team toward a Big Ten title and a promising NCAA tournament.

He works his tail off, plays the right way and keeps his mouth shut. I don't like seeing any kid injured, but along with the injuries to Texas A&M's Derrick Roland, Indiana's Maurice Creek, and Texas' Varez Ward and Dogus Balbay, this one was really tough. Purdue is losing almost 16 points per game, plus the versatility and heart of one of the nation's best and most valuable players. One thing I know, though, is that Matt Painter and the Boilermakers will not feel sorry for themselves. They will continue to play and play hard. However, my fear is that the Boilermakers will not have enough to compensate for Hummel's absence in the long run.

Purdue's best players: E'Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson. Moore is one of the most underrated stars in the country. He scores, hits big shots and does it all with a great demeanor. He leads the Boilermakers in assists and is second on the team in steals to the Big Ten's best defender, Chris Kramer. Despite all that, he's not the first guy you think about when Purdue is discussed. My guess is, he doesn't really care as long as his team wins.

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AP Photo/Michael ConroyE'Twaun Moore is often overlooked despite being one of Purdue's most capable and consistent performers.

Johnson is a marvel. He was not on the A team for his AAU program and was not considered to be among the blue-chip recruits. Yet he is like a queen on a chessboard and can move opposing big men all over the floor. He may not have a strong low base to bully defenders in the post, but he can out-run and out-quick them, leaving them in his dust running the floor.

Michigan State's best players: Kalin Lucas and Draymond Green. Lucas is a great college player and is tougher than he gets credit for. He plays hurt and plays hard all the time. While he has not been the perfect player this season, he has had a lot of responsibility on his shoulders and Michigan State goes as he goes. When there is a big shot to be taken, Lucas is the guy to take it and make it.

Green is among the most versatile players in the Big Ten and can handle, pass and score with any big man out there. As he becomes more assertive, he will be a great college player. Green needs to start taking over games more, because he is capable of doing it.

Purdue's underrated attribute: Offensive movement. Purdue is credited with being a great defensive team, and that is certainly fair. But few teams move the ball and themselves as well or as efficiently as Purdue's players. Matt Painter likes to joke that his motion offense looks like "commotion" sometimes, but he is being self-deprecating. Purdue is an outstanding passing team, and when the Boilermakers are making reads, moving the ball and cutting hard, it is beautiful to watch. Except from the vantage point of the opposing defense, which gets cut up.

Michigan State's underrated attribute: Offensive execution after a timeout. Michigan State is an outstanding offensive team and Tom Izzo gets his team great shots. The Spartans do not have low-post scoring, but if you need a shot, Izzo will get you a good one. After a timeout, Izzo is among the best in the game -- college or pro. Watch how often Michigan State scores or gets a great look after a timeout.

Purdue's unsung hero: Keaton Grant. Grant has come in and given Purdue some big moments on the defensive end. In the past month, Grant has stepped forward and hit some really big shots. Against Illinois and Minnesota, Grant was the difference.

Michigan State's unsung hero: Chris Allen. A fine shooter, Allen has hit 50 3s on the season and can be a difference-maker for the Spartans. He is an underrated passer, but his job is to come in and work for open shots and stretch the defense.

Purdue wins if … The Boilermakers get great performances from Moore and Johnson and increased production from Grant, Kelsey Barlow and Kramer. Everyone has to raise his level to compensate for the loss of Hummel.

Michigan State wins if … The Spartans get off to a better start and play a full 40 minutes. Michigan State did not play well in the first half against Ohio State, and if they don't come out and play at a high level from the opening tap, it will get beat by Purdue.

No. 8 Villanova at No. 4 Syracuse

By Jay Bilas

When and where: Saturday at 9 p.m. ET (ESPN), Carrier Dome

Villanova's best players: Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher. Reynolds is having a spectacular season. When I asked Jim Boeheim which player has been the toughest challenge for his defense over the years, he replied without hesitation, "Scottie Reynolds." When I followed up asking about players all-time who had given him problems, he replied again, "Scottie Reynolds." The senior from Herndon, Va., has matured into one of the most efficient scoring guards in the country, averaging 19 points and shooting close to 50 percent from the floor, 40 percent from 3-point range, and more than 82 percent from the line. When there is a big shot to take, Reynolds is the one who steps forward to make the play.

Fisher is one of the most courageous drivers in the nation, and he is like a heat-seeking missile searching for body contact and fouls, yet he still is able to finish the play. There is not a more dynamic backcourt in the country.

Syracuse's best players: Wesley Johnson and Andy Rautins. Although his numbers were affected by the fall he took against Providence a couple of weeks ago, Johnson is one of the very best players in the country. He is an outstanding athlete, rebounder and shot blocker and he can do almost anything he wants on the offensive end, save put the ball on the deck and attack off the dribble. He does not require a high volume of shots to be productive.

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Frank Victores/US PresswireAndy Rautins does a little bit of everything for Syracuse.

Rautins is a rock. He is a great shooter and an underrated passer and ball handler and is one of the best defenders in the country, man or zone. Rautins is not only skilled but also smart. When others look, Rautins sees. Without him, Syracuse would be a middle of the pack team in the Big East.

Villanova's underrated attribute: Rebounding. The Wildcats are small, but they are really tough on the glass. They go after the ball, usually making first contact, and they have real grit to gang rebound because they lack size. Villanova will find seams and creases to get the ball on both ends. In a zone, they present a difficult challenge, and it will be hard to keep them off of the offensive glass.

Syracuse's underrated attribute: Transition. Because of the way the Orange are configured in the 2-3 matchup zone, Syracuse is set up to run. The Orange will run off of a make, a miss or a turnover, and they run hard. Outlets are well positioned, the Orange guards pass ahead, and the bigs run hard to the rim and establish early position.

Villanova's unsung hero: Antonio Pena. The junior big man plays a big role for Villanova and will have his hands full against Arinze Onuaku and Rick Jackson. He is skilled and very good in the low post, and his footwork has gotten better. For Villanova to win, Pena has to play well and has to stay in the game.

Syracuse's unsung hero: Jackson. The big lefty can rebound, block shots and score around the basket. He finishes well and is the Orange's best offensive rebounder and shot-blocker, while shooting over 61 percent from the floor.

Villanova wins if … The Wildcats can defend without fouling. Syracuse does not put opponents on the free-throw line, but Villanova does. In each of the Wildcats' losses, the free-throw line was a major factor. It was a major factor in Villanova's game at West Virginia, one that the Wildcats should have lost. Villanova must defend without putting Syracuse into the one-and-one early and letting the Orange get to the free-throw line often. Otherwise, Syracuse will win.

Syracuse wins if … The Orange can stop dribble penetration. Villanova is the best team in the nation off the bounce and dribble penetration can be very debilitating to a zone defense. The challenge for Syracuse is to stay in front and not allow its defense to be broken down. It is a simple analysis … stop dribble penetration and win, or allow it and increase the chance of losing significantly.

No. 12 New Mexico at No. 11 Brigham Young

By Jay Bilas

When and where: Saturday at 4 p.m. ET (Versus), Marriott Center

BYU's best players: Jimmer Fredette and Jackson Emery. Fredette is the real thing and a future pro. He is strong and has a great crossover. (He prefers left to right but can go either direction.) He also has a great step-back move to create space and is very good off ball screens. Fredette is strong with the ball and can finish at the rim with contact, and if you foul him, he is automatic from the free-throw line. Fredette averages almost 22 points (tops in the Mountain West) and five assists (second in the league) and has canned 66 3s (second in the league), which is almost half the number he's attempted.

Emery is the fastest player in the Mountain West and has really good quickness. He is a strong right driver and loves to pull up going to his left. He plays hard and is a very good guard rebounder and defender that leads the Mountain West in steals. Emery is in the top 5 in the league in steals, 3-point percentage and 3s made.

New Mexico's best players: Darington Hobson and Roman Martinez. Hobson, a lefty, is one of the most versatile players in the MWC. He is 6-7 and long-armed and knows how to play. He's not a great shooter, but he can score (third in the league in scoring at 15.5 points per game). He also leads his team in assists with 4.6 per game, which is third in the league, just behind Fredette. Hobson is the best defensive rebounder in the MWC.

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Marc Sanchez/Icon SMIDarington Hobson will try to lead New Mexico to a sweep of BYU on Saturday.

Martinez is an outstanding shooter and guard rebounder who leads the MWC in 3-point field goals made and is second to Fredette in 3-point shooting percentage. He's also one of the top rebounders in the league -- an impressive feat for a wing guard -- averaging 6.3 rebounds per game.

BYU's underrated attribute: BYU leads the MWC in scoring, field goal percentage, 3-point percentage, free-throw percentage, assists and steals. But BYU's transition game is one of its most underappreciated attributes. The Cougars push the ball after a make or a miss and they score very efficiently in the open court. If you do not get back with a purpose, communicate, protect the paint and build out to shooters, BYU will wear you out in transition.

New Mexico's underrated attribute: New Mexico is a good offensive rebounding team, especially Hobson, Martinez and A.J. Hardeman. Those three Lobos average more than seven offensive rebounds per game, and if New Mexico can get second shots against BYU's defense, the Lobos will have a chance to win.

BYU's unsung hero: Jonathan Tavernari. The Brazilian senior is an outstanding shooter who is now coming off the bench to provide the Cougars scoring and rebounding punch. Tavernari is a talented shooter who hunts his shot and loves the corners. He can post and hit a fadeaway jumpshot and is a good passer who can play pick and pop. Tavernari is the type of player who can hit for 20 points or more, and he also works for steals and deflections.

New Mexico's unsung hero: Dairese Gary. Gary is an outstanding point guard who is strong and powerful. He was the first player Steve Alford signed at New Mexico after Alford had recruited the Indiana product when he was head coach of Iowa. Gary does the best job of any point guard in the league of getting to the free-throw line. He leads the Lobos in free throws attempted and made, and free throws account for almost a quarter of his points.

BYU wins if … The Cougars can rebound with New Mexico and limit the Lobos to one shot. If BYU allows extra possessions to New Mexico on the glass, then the Cougars will have a tough time.

New Mexico wins if … The Lobos can get to the free-throw line. BYU is the better free throw shooting team, but New Mexico gets to the line more often. BYU plays both man-to-man and 2-3 zone, but New Mexico has to attack off the bounce and get to the free throw line to win.

Ten to track: Why these games matter

By Andy Katz


Princeton at Cornell (7 p.m. ET): If Cornell wins, the Ivy League race is over, and the Big Red become the first team to get penciled into your NCAA tournament bracket. Cornell had a minor scare when it lost at Penn, but subsequent road wins over Princeton and Harvard -- coupled with Princeton's stunning loss to Brown -- have given the Big Red a clear path to the title.


Kentucky at Tennessee (CBS, noon ET): I spoke with Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl Thursday night, and he's well aware that the Vols have a shot to knock off a pair of top-2 teams this season. The Wildcats looked quite good against South Carolina on Thursday night. If the Vols are going to win in Knoxville, they'll need a Herculean effort from Wayne Chism inside, and someone like J.P. Prince or Scotty Hopson must have a stellar game.

Notre Dame at Georgetown (CBS, noon ET): The Irish kept their fleeting NCAA hopes alive with a win over Pitt on Wednesday night. Luke Harangody is still out with a knee injury, and it's unclear whether he'll play against the Hoyas. If he doesn't, it's hard to see the Irish winning in Washington, right? Well, that was also the thought when the Irish went to Louisville and pushed the Cardinals to two overtimes before falling.

Cincinnati at West Virginia (ESPN360, 2 p.m. ET): The Bearcats are on the fringe of the bubble and desperately need a marquee win. The Mountaineers are reeling a bit after losing at Pitt in triple overtime and then at Connecticut. It's hard to imagine the Mountaineers losing yet again, especially at home.

Texas at Texas A&M (ESPN, 2 p.m. ET): The Aggies nearly clipped Texas in Austin on Jan. 16, back when the Longhorns were actually playing well. The Aggies also missed out on a chance to knock off Kansas at home. I'm expecting the Aggies to have just as much of a raucous atmosphere at Reed Arena. The big difference is Dexter Pittman. The man in the middle is starting to play large. If that continues, the Aggies may not have an answer.

Maryland at Virginia Tech (ESPN360, 4 p.m. ET): Let's see how much the Hokies care. Virginia Tech played awful in spurts in a 20-point loss at Boston College on Wednesday. If you want to believe in Virginia Tech, let's see the Hokies match one of the hottest teams in the country. Maryland came back to beat Georgia Tech at home and then took care of Clemson in a similar fashion after being down. This game, though, will tell us a lot more about the Hokies. They need to win this game.

Kansas at Oklahoma State (CBS, 4 p.m. ET): Oklahoma State's James Anderson hit a bit of a wall at Texas on Wednesday, but his play during a three-game winning streak before that game might have put the Cowboys in the tournament. The issue here is whether can Kansas run the table in the Big 12. There are only a few chances left for the Jayhawks to lose. After Oklahoma State, the Jayhawks host Kansas State and go to Missouri.

Illinois State at Northern Iowa (ESPN360, 8:05 p.m. ET): Northern Iowa fell flat against Evansville in a 55-54 loss on Tuesday. The stunning loss put the Panthers' at-large hopes somewhat in danger, so can they build some momentum heading into the Missouri Valley Conference tournament? Illinois State has been on fire lately. This is also the return of UNI's Jordan Eglseder, who returns after serving a three-game suspension for a DUI.

Missouri at Kansas State (ESPNU, 8 p.m. ET): The last time these two teams played, Frank Martin was furious with the way the Wildcats finished the game in a classic frenetic affair with Missouri that the Tigers won, 74-68. Kansas State has been on a roll since that game, with only two losses since -- against Oklahoma State and Kansas. The Wildcats should still be in consideration for a No. 1 seed, or a No. 2 seed at the very least.


Richmond at Xavier (ESPN2, 1 p.m. ET): Temple may have an argument, but you can make a convincing case that Xavier and Richmond are the two best teams in the Atlantic 10. One thing is clear: The winner will likely have a shot to win the A-10 title, while the loser will be pushed back.


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