Tag Archives: Weekend Games to Watch

Weekend Games to Watch 1/30/09

Notre Dame @ Pitt (Noon Saturday-ESPN)

Luke Harangody vs. DeJuan Blair. That’s the story line that will be jammed down your throat all game. I think Harangody is one of the few guys in the country that can limit DeJuan on the glass, and I’m a little worried that Luke can extend his game a bit, and Blair struggles more than 5 feet from the hoop (better make that .5 foot). If DeJuan holds his own (and maybe even if he doesn’t), I think Pitt has a much better supporting cast. I think Jermaine Dixon shadows Kyle McAlarney all day and that’s a significant contribution even if he doesn’t score a single point. I look for Pitt to wear down Notre Dame. The Irish don’t have much depth at all. I think the most interesting stat to watch will be rebounds. Both teams are excellent at rebounding (especially through physical play), and are used to winning the battle on the glass.

Player to watch: Luke Harangody-Notre Dame

If anyone is going to single-handedly win this thing, it’s Harangody. I’m not putting him in here thinking he’ll have a great game. I’m putting him in here thinking he needs to have a great game for the Irish to win.

Prediction: I think Notre Dame is capable of catching fire from beyond the arc. If Pitt is mindful of that, and competes for rebounds, they’ll win.

Penguins @ Maple Leafs (7pm Sunday-FSN Pittsburgh)

So Pittsburgh just lost a heart breaker in Jersey (did you see that goal at the end of regulation? The hockey gods are definitely angry at the Pens). Luckily, they have a very winnable game up in Toronto to bounce back with the very next day. The Leafs aren’t exactly a physical force, so that will help. Especially on the tail end of back to back road trip games. I think you should look for the Pens to try to hold the puck in the offensive zone and win some of those battles along the boards. If they can’t do it against Toronto, they have some issues to address.

Player to watch: Matt Cooke-Pittsburgh

The cookie monster returns to the lineup after serving a two game suspension for a dirty hit. I liked how he looked giving some grit to the top line right before the all star break. Will he jump right back into form?

Prediction: These are the games the Pens have to come away with. Hockey is a funny game of funny bounces, but you’ve got to find a way to come away with 2 points in games like this.

Steelers @ Cardinals (6:28pm Sunday-NBC)

Of course I’ve gotta make a prediction on the big game. I think the Steelers will be able to move the ball on offense, but they have to take care of the football. Arizona is +9 in turnovers in the playoffs (mostly thanks to the Panthers). On defense, I think the Steelers blitz will force the Cardinals into some timing routes which will be much easier for the secondary to defend. I think Arizona will get at least one long touchdown pass, and we have to be mentally ready to respond. I think if we play a good game, the score will be tight at the end, and Arizona is very capable of making some big plays down the stretch. So, we need to be ready to put the game away when the time comes. Overall, it’s a good recipe for a lot of heart attacks in Pittsburgh.

P.S.: if you’re a truly sick betting man, the over/under on the amount of time it will take for Jennifer Hudson to sing the national anthem is 1 minute 57 seconds. Out of curiousity, and after some You-tube lookups, she averages a little over 2 minutes. I say she milks the Super Bowl spotlight and I’m going with the over.

Player to watch: Larry Fitzgerald-Arizona

Gatta go with Larry. He can really hurt the Steelers by punishing the few mistakes they may make. He’ll be the focal point. If he has a big day through the double teams the Steelers will put on him, it’s a long night for Steeler fans.

Prediction: Drum roll please……….I have to go with Pittsburgh. Great defense usually pays off on any day in any sport. It always gives you a chance to win. But that’s only a chance. I’m not nearly as confident with this pick as some fans seem to be.

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Weekend Games to Watch 1/24/09

Maryland @ Duke (Noon Saturday-ESPN)

Pretty lame slate of games this weekend.  But there are a few interesting matchups.  Maryland/Duke is always a good rivalry (or not depending on who you ask) game.  It’s always entertaining to say the least.  Both teams can play awfully fast when they want to.  Coach K is famous for his matchup zone defense which always limits Maryland’s  penetration.  But Maryland has nipped the Dukies before through the transition game.  If this game turns into a track meet, Duke’s in trouble.  If Duke can slow the tempo down to about 100 miles/hour (down from the speed of light that the Terps usually prefer), then they win.  Either way, this should be a high scoring game with a lot of pretty transition layups that make the majority of people say ‘ooooh’ and make people that know the game of basketball say ‘why didn’t the defense get back in transition?’

Player to watch: Gerald Henderson-Duke

I like the heady senior with the quick hands on defense to make some plays.  I think he could cause some turnovers and get in the way of Maryland’s run and gun a little bit.  Expect him to score a few points, but make a huge impact in the steals column.

Prediction: This isn’t Maryland’s greatest team in recent memory, and I don’t think they can handle Duke.  Duke wins by about 15-20: 80 something to 60 something.

UConn @ Notre Dame (7pm Saturday-ESPN)

The Leprechaun Legion will be in full voice as college gameday is in the house (and being stupid for a chance to be on TV is a vital part of the college experience).   I think a lot will be made of the Hasheem Thabeet vs. Luke Harangody matchup, and rightfully so.  When two of the best players in the conference match up against each other, its a big deal.  I’m going to give the edge to Harangody on this one.  I think Thabeet is an excellent shot blocker, but he’s not the best at altering shots.  Harangody has some of the best post moves in the big east and I’m ready to pencil him in for 15 points right now.  However, the frontcourt matchup is a huge strength for UConn.  I think UConn’s guards drive all day on the Domer defense, and run away with this one.

Player to watch: Jerome Dyson-UConn

If Dyson plays his game and goes right at the ND defense, he will get some points and may even get some fouls on Harangody as a bonus.  That’s when you know it’ll be a really long day for the Irish.

Prediction: As long as Thabeet can hang with Harangody on the boards, I like the Huskies a lot in this one.

Pitt @ West Virginia (4pm Sunday-ESPN Regional)

This one’s going to be another game where the gym’ll be rocking.  Not only is the hated Pitt coming to town, but they’re bringing a top 5 ranking with them.  WVU’s been looking for respect, and they got some from Georgetown, but a win against Pitt would really put them on the map.  I was very impressed by the way WVU played against the Hoyas.  They rebounded extremely well.  They drove the lane hard and often.  That’s a good formula for beating Pitt if they can keep it up.  Defensively, they like to try to deny the inside.  So the game plan for Pitt might be to launch 3’s and let Blair go for rebounds to try and get the Mountaineers to extend a little bit defensively.  I think the good thing in this game is that WVU has struggled to score against physical defenses, and that is Pitt in a nutshell.

Player to watch: Sam Young-Pitt

I mentioned before that Pitt may launch 3’s and go after the rebound.  However, if Young can start driving the lane and drawing fouls (maybe look for Jermaine Dixon to do this too), it could be another way to score.  That would make things a lot easier for Pitt.

Prediction: I don’t like this matchup for Pitt at all.  Especially with the hostile crowd.  But I’m a homer who can’t pick against his teams.  Especially when they play WVU.

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Weekend Games to Watch 1/16/09

Pitt @ Louisville (6pm Saturday-ESPN)

Pitt’s second big test of the season comes against a very different style of play.  Louisville loves to put pressure on you defensively.  They’ll put on a full court press and really pressure you in the half-court to try to generate a lot of turnovers.  The heat will really be on the guards to make quick decisions and handle the ball well.  The Cardinals do a really good job at denying the post, so every time Blair or Biggs can get a touch down low, it’s a win.  On the other end of the court, Louisville’s offense relies heavily on the transition game.  They’re a very athletic team like South Florida where most of the guys on the court won’t hesitate to put the ball on the floor and take you to the tin.  That could spell trouble for Pitt if they haven’t figured some things out.  I think a big bright spot for Pitt, though, is that Louisville is not really the most physical team in the conference.  I think Pitt can rack up a huge advantage on the glass if they want to.  Overall, keep an eye on turnovers and rebounds.  That will tell you how the game is going.

Player to watch: Levance Fields-Pitt

Teams like this are why Levance isn’t paying for college.  He’s not the most athletic guy on the floor, but no one has a better handle and no one makes better decisions with the ball than Levance.  I think if he does a good job breaking the Cardinal press (and there’s no reason to believe he can’t), Pitt will be in a very good position to win.

Prediction: I’m going with the Panthers but I’m not going to make a score projection because that depends on how many turnovers Louisville can create.  Fields can handle the press.  Can Wannamaker?

Eagles @ Cardinals (3pm Sunday-Fox)

I think the best matchup of the weekend is the Arizona offense vs. the Philly defense.  The Cardinals love to throw the ball around the field, and the Eagles defense loves to blitz.  So it’s going to be on Kurt Warner and the Cardinals offensive line to get time and get the ball out as soon as possible.  I think the Eagles secondary is vulnerable, so if Arizona starts getting off some passes, it could be a long day for the Eagles.  On the other side of the ball, I think the Cardinals defense has been much improved towards the tail end of the season.  However, I think they may be a bit slow to the outsides, which plays right into the hands of a versatile back like Brian Westbrook.

Player to watch: Kurt Warner-Arizona

As I said, he needs to deal well with the pressure that’s going to come, and get the balls out quickly.  If he can get the Eagles to respect the pass, it sets up to be a good game for Arizona.

Prediction: I think this will be the antithesis to the AFC Championship, and filled with scoring.  I’d say both teams in the high 20’s at least.  Probably 30’s.  I think it’s a game of stops, and the Eagles get one or two more.

Ravens @ Steelers (6:30pm Sunday-CBS)

I’ve already covered this extensively in previous posts, but to reiterate: I think it’s a low scoring affair.  That means it’s anyone’s game.  This comes down to one key play or two that could go to anyone.  I think turnovers will have a huge impact on the game.  There’s a lot of talk about Raven injuries, but I think most of them will gut it out, and it won’t have a huge impact on the game.

Player to watch: Willie Parker-Pittsburgh

I think the Steelers need to keep it on the ground, because throwing against this Ravens secondary is dangerous.  Really, it’s on the offensive line, but since I can only pick one player I’ll put it on Parker to need a big game.

Prediction: Way to close to call.  Neither team gets to 20 points.  I think Pittsburgh puts themselves in a bit better situations to get a big play.  Baltimore’s been relying on some big passing plays that may not be there on Sunday.

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Weekend Games to Watch 1/9/09

Ravens @ Titans (4:30pm Saturday-CBS)

We’ve got a really good matchups going on here: the Titans surprising offensive versus the stifling Ravens defense.  Slash and dash (I think that’s the stupid name they gave themselves), or just LenDale White and Chris Johnson should be contained by the Ravens D on paper.  But they did gain 117 yards against a stellar Steelers defense.  I think they key to the game will be getting them going, because that’s what drives their offense.  The two of them have been held to a combined less than 100 yards in both of their losses so far (I’m not counting Indy in the last week since nobody of consequence had any meaningful minutes).  Everyone likes to say that Collins will screw up if he’s forced to pass.  I don’t see it.  He has 1 interception while completing at least 45% of his passes in both losses.  They weren’t his fault.

Player to watch: Chris Johnson-Tennessee

He’s having a terrific season so far.  Since this is a battle of two great defenses, time of possession and field position will be key.  Johnson coming up with a big game helps with both.  Oh, and I’ll go ahead and jinx him.  He’s only had one fumble so far this year.  That’ll help the field position by not giving Baltimore any short fields.

Prediction: I’m going against the grain here and picking the Titans.

St. John’s @ Pitt (Noon Sunday-FSN Pittsburgh)

The Panthers get to put their #1 ranking on the line for the first time ever.  Not the best team to play, though.  The Johnnies are very long and athletic and have upset the Pitt in the past.  Plus, we get to hear all about D.J. Kennedy’s return to Pittsburgh.  Hey, did you know that he and DeJuan were on the same high school team?  Wow!  But, in the game I see a good matchup overall.  Dele Coker will get eaten up by Blair inside.  He doesn’t use his size very well at all.  The Red Storm love to push the tempo off turnovers, but Pitt’s been taking extremely good care of the ball this year.  I think SJU has two things going for it, though.  First is Anthony Mason Jr.  He’s a slasher guard with an outside shot and St. John’s main scoring threat.  If he has a big game, Pitt’s in trouble.  Also, SJU plays a really aggressive extending man to man defense that Pitt usually struggles a little bit against.  But I think it will take a tremendously good game by the Red Storm to win.

Player to watch: DeJuan Blair-Pitt

St. John’s has no one to match up with him on the boards.  I think Blair blows by a double double and threatens 15 points and 15 boards.

Prediction: St. John’s pushes the tempo a bit with inflates the score a bit, but Pitt still prevails.  High seventies for Pitt.  Sixties for St. John’s.

Chargers @ Steelers (4:45pm Sunday-CBS)

The game everyone cares about this week.  A lot of chicken littles out there are using the fact that this game was close last time to justify why San Diego is scary.  Well, there were some extreme factors (penalty disparity, some wasted opportunities in the red zone, a touchdown taken away at the end, etc) that made the score a lot closer than the game.  But, the fact remains that the Chargers stopped the Steelers run cold.  That’s to be expected.  Their weakness is the secondary.  So I think the Steelers will do thing backwards from what Pittsburgers are used to seeing.  They’ll use the pass to open up the running game.  They’ll come out throwing and force San Diego to drop back 6 or 7 on most plays.  Then they’ll see if that opens up the run game a bit.  I think we have a mobile quarterback that buys time for his receivers, and as long as he still doesn’t have tweedy birds still going around his head that extra couple of seconds he can buy will really expose an already mediocre secondary unit.  Also, don’t forget that even if Ben is still woozy, Byron isn’t exactly a pure pocket passer, either.  He’s not fast by any means, but he can still buy a second or two scrambling.  A lot has been made of Darren Sproles and his cut back style.  I don’t see it.  The Steeler’s linebackers are so fast and can get to the corners so quickly that as long as the front four can plug their gaps as they have all season, Sproles won’t be much of a factor.

Player to watch: Ben Roethlisberger-Pittsburgh

As I said before, I think Big Ben’s feet will expose the Charger secondary.  Expect Ben to put up some decent numbers if the Steeler’s win.  But I’ll still watch and make sure that he’s not tentative when he’s scrambling and avoiding getting hit.

Prediction: Steelers win and the offense may even put up 20 points.

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Weekend Games to Watch 1/2/08

Pitt @ Georgetown (Noon Saturday-ESPN)

Two evenly matched teams with similar styles here. Should be a terrific match up. The way both these teams play defense, you can guarantee a close game throughout. One that’s sure to give me a heart attack. All the hype is going to be on Greg Monroe vs. Dejuan Blair inside and rightfully so. For those Pitt fans out there who don’t follow other teams, Monroe is the real deal as a freshman. He’s long, very athletic, and is a terrific passer for a big man. I think the name of the game here is going to be rebounding and second chance points. I don’t think there will be many possessions, so maximizing your own possessions and limiting your opponent to one shot will be key. Right now, Pitt has a little bit of an edge in rebounding, but Pitt’s rebounding is more focused around one person (Blair). If Dejuan gets in some foul trouble, Pitt will find it very difficult to win.

Player to watch: Jessie Sapp-Georgetown

Monroe and DaJuan Summers are the easy pick for this, but I’ll go a little obscure. Sapp made himself a 3 point shooting threat last year shooting 40% from beyond the arc. He started this year strong but has struggled the past 4 or 5 games. Pitt’s perimeter defense has some holes. This may be a slump breaking game for him.

Prediction: Assuming Blair stays out of foul trouble, Pitt eeks out a game in the 60’s.

Tennessee @ Kansas (2pm Saturday-ESPN)

Good early conference season match up on a slow day. Should be a battle of tempos here. Tennessee will try to push the tempo to warp speed and Kansas, though athletic enough to run the floor, will most likely try to slow things down to take the Vols out of their comfort zone. Kansas favors a 2-3 zone which is an excellent choice against a team that loves to drive the lane like Tennessee. The downfall for Kansas could be their youth. They have little experience after graduating most of the national championship team from last year. They have a lot of talent, but if they get down early it could get ugly.

Player to watch: Cole Aldrich-Kansas

Cole is a huge physical center for the Jayhawks and a terrific rebounder. He’s a bit slow which may come back to bite him against Tennessee’s very long and fast front line. But in a half court game, he’ll eat up Brian Williams.

Prediction: Kansas has the talent if they can stay in front of the Vols in transition.

Ravens @ Dolphins (1pm Sunday-CBS)

Should be an interesting game. Miami was one of the leaders of the pack with taking the wildcat offense to the NFL. But the Ravens defense, especially against the run, is solid. I think they totally take the wildcat away from the dolphins. I think the pressure will be on Chad Pennington’s arm, and that’s very scary for fins fans.

Player to watch: Lousaka Polite-Miami

He should only be used sparingly, but I couldn’t resist being a homer for a Pitt grad. If you want someone who will have a huge game, look for the obvious choice of Ray Lewis. The Dolphins are a tricky team, but Ray’s been around for awhile. I don’t think he’ll get fooled much.

Prediction: Ravens by however many points Joe Flacco can put up.

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