<
>

Weekday predictions: Close games becoming UNLV standard

Stephen Zimmerman and UNLV are 2-2 this season in games decided by two possessions. Marc Sanchez/Icon Sportswire

Many people spend the weekdays at their jobs just waiting to get to the weekend. This week's college basketball schedule will have fans following that same pattern. The best games will take place on a Saturday that will feature ranked teams such as No. 9 Villanova at No. 10 Virginia; No. 18 Butler versus No. 11 Purdue in Indianapolis; No. 25 Utah versus No. 8 Duke in New York; UCLA versus No. 3 North Carolina in Brooklyn. Until then, the following games will get us through the week:

VCU at Georgia Tech (Atlanta), 9 p.m., ESPN2, Tuesday: Both teams need a signature win, and this game will be it for whoever prevails. Georgia Tech was not in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, so although it has beaten Tennessee and Arkansas, VCU is arguably its toughest opponent to date. The key for the Yellow Jackets will be handling VCU's pressure. The Rams' defense ranks sixth in turnover percentage, according to Ken Pomeroy. All of VCU's losses have been near-misses against Power 5 schools. The Rams led Duke early, led Wisconsin in the second half and watched its rally fall short against Florida State.

Prediction: VCU 74, Georgia Tech 73.

Louisiana Tech at Mississippi (Oxford, Mississippi), 7 p.m., SEC, Tuesday: Ole Miss guard Stefan Moody leads the SEC in scoring with 23.6 points per game. La. Tech junior guard Alex Hamilton has generally had his best scoring games against Power 5 competitions. His career-high of 31 came against Oklahoma as a freshman. He scored 24 this season in their win at Ohio State. The Rebels have played just three home games -- the fewest among major conference teams -- and have just two more left in the old Tad Smith Coliseum, their home since 1966. They will begin play in the newly constructed Pavilion at Ole Miss on Jan. 7 against Alabama. The Bulldogs have been a bit of a second-half team, with their latest comeback from down 10 against Louisiana-Lafayette moving their record to 3-1 this season when trailing at halftime.

Prediction: Ole Miss 80, La. Tech 77.

Mississippi State at Florida State (Tallahassee, Fla.), 9 p.m., ESPN2, Wednesday: Get a glimpse of three of the nation's most talented freshmen in this ACC-SEC clash. The Seminoles' Malik Beasley and Dwayne Bacon are no longer both averaging 20 points, but they're still a threat to do so. Beasley leads the team with an 18.3 scoring average and Bacon is second at 15.8 points per game. Mississippi State's ballyhooed signing of guard Malik Newman hasn't transformed the team as many hoped he could. Newman's start was slowed by a turf toe injury and he's shooting just 38.5 percent from the floor. He did notch a season-high 18 points in the Bulldogs' loss Saturday to UMKC.

Prediction: Florida State 79, Mississippi State 64.

Arizona State at UNLV (Las Vegas), 10 p.m., CBSSN, Wednesday: This should easily be the best game pitting unranked teams during the week. A potential matchup of Patrick McGaw, the Runnin' Rebels leading scorer, and Savon Goodman, ASU's co-leading scorer, could end up determining the game. And it should be a close one. UNLV is 2-2 in games decided by two possessions, and those two losses were by a combined eight points. The Sun Devils have started to embody coach Bobby Hurley's gritty style. Although they don't shoot it particularly well, their offensive rebounding percentage ranks 38th nationally, according to Ken Pomeroy. UNLV just lost its game at Wichita State because it allowed 14 offensive rebounds.

Prediction: Arizona State 70, UNLV 68.

Marshall vs. No. 14 West Virginia (Charleston, W.V.), 7 p.m., ESPNU, Thursday: This game is less about the competition on the court and more about the smack talking off of it. Marshall coach Dan D'Antoni spiced things up last season when he said if West Virginia did not renew the Capital Classic series, it was because the Mountaineers were "afraid." Mind you, that came after a 69-66 loss to the Mountaineers. Of course WVU coach Bob Huggins, not one to back down, took to his statewide radio show to fire back that he didn't even consider the annual game a rivalry. The Thundering Herd, in their second year under D'Antoni, don't have the talent to match up with West Virginia. But D'Antoni is a showman in a green jacket who will try to get into their heads. At the very least, the postgame press conferences should be fun to watch.

Prediction: West Virginia 86, Marshall 65.

Last week's record: 5-3 (.600)

Season record: 28-12 (.700)