By Jon Rothstein
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MARQUETTE AT SYRACUSE
It's going to take an extremely special team to beat Jim Boeheim's Orange at the Carrier Dome and Marquette will be more than desperate after letting an opportunity slip away Wednesday night at Georgetown. The Golden Eagles have their deepest team in the Buzz Williams era but you're going to need more than depth to win at Syracuse. The Orange are relishing a system where anyone can be the assassin and their collective balance should be enough to stay perfect at home against a very good Marquette team.
PREDICTION: SYRACUSE 78, MARQUETTE 70
MISSOURI AT KANSAS STATE
I'm not sure it's possible to play a more cohesive brand of basketball than Missouri has to start the season. The Tigers are getting All Big-12 type seasons from senior guards Marcus Denmon and Kim English and a monster year from starting center Ricardo Ratliffe. Kansas State didn't play its best game in their conference opener to Kansas but has the depth to give the Tigers problems. It's going to take a team with a plethora of versatile perimeter pieces to beat Missouri --- and the Wildcats have just that. Look for sophomore Will Spradling to have a huge game at home as Frank Haith's team suffers its first loss of the season
PREDICTION: KANSAS STATE 76, MISSOURI 71
XAVIER AT FORDHAM
What is going on with the Musketeers? After their vicious brawl with Cincinnati on December 10th, Xavier has dropped five of six and lost much of the chemistry and swagger that made this team a sexy Final Four pick early in the season. Tom Pecora meanwhile has rallied Fordham to wins over Georgia Tech and Harvard --- both at Rose Hill Gym. Could another upset be in the cards? We don't see it.
PREDICTION: XAVIER 72, FORDHAM 67
OHIO STATE AT IOWA
Of all the potential great atmospheres this weekend, the scene on Saturday for the Hawkeyes in their home arena has a chance to be the best. Fran McCaffery's team is coming off back to back road wins in the Big Ten against Wisconsin and Minnesota and didn't get a single point from star sophomore Melsahn Basabe in the victory against the Golden Gophers. The last time the Buckeyes were on the road, they suffered a bitter defeat at Indiana. Despite the fact they went to the wire with Iowa last year in Iowa City, Ohio State seems like they're reading to break out --- it says here that'll start against the Hawkeyes.
PREDICTION: OHIO STATE 83, IOWA 71
UCONN AT RUTGERS
Tuesday night's loss at Seton Hall was the worst ball handling performance by a UCONN team in maybe five seasons. Is help on the way? You betcha. Jim Calhoun returns from his three-game Big East suspension and takes the Huskies to the RAC, where Rutgers lost by 21 to West Virginia on Wednesday night. The Scarlet Knights have the potential to be a solid team down the road as we saw by their win last week over Florida but beating UCONN may be too tall of a task. Still, the Huskies are loaded with more youth than most people care to acknowledge and are going to get tested in this game --- just not enough to be beaten.
PREDICTION: UCONN 74, RUTGERS 65
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