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Top 25 Matchups
by Matt Fargo - 02/11/2010
Top 25 Matchups for Friday and Saturday, February 12 and 13, 2010
West Virginia Mountaineers (4) at Pittsburgh Panthers (23) Friday 9:00 PM ET
A rare top 25 matchup takes place on Friday night in the rematch of the Backyard Brawl. The first meeting in West Virginia saw the Mountaineers win by 19 points, sending Pittsburgh to its fourth loss in five games but it was the extracurricular activities that made the headlines. There were a couple small scuffles as well as fans throwing objects onto the floor at one point. Even after they were told to refrain from throwing things, Pittsburgh assistant Tom Herrion was tagged with a coin under his right eye. “We knew they had a rowdy crowd,” Pittsburgh’s Jermaine Dixon said. “But the best part is that we get to play them up at our place in a couple days.”
Pittsburgh recovered and blew out Seton Hall in its next game by 25 points and then it picked up a non-conference win over Robert Morris by 24 points, the 28th consecutive win against the Colonials. Those wins should provide some confidence to a team that was 5-0 and leading the Big East at one point but is now 7-4 and in need of a big win. This looks to be a great revenge spot for the Panthers who are 13-1 at home including 4-0 in the Big East although this will be the biggest home test yet. Let’s not forget that the Panthers are the only team to hand Syracuse a loss this season.
West Virginia knows it will be coming into a hostile environment but it has been solid this season, going 7-2 in true road games. The losses came at Purdue by 15 points and then by just a bucket at Notre Dame and it will no doubt be ready on Friday. The Mountaineers know what they are going to run into but they are coming off a home loss against Villanova on Big Monday and they will want their own sort of bounce back as well. West Virginia has followed up all of its losses with a win the next time out and has not lost back-to-back games since early February of last season.
Tennessee Volunteers (12) at Kentucky Wildcats (2) Saturday 9:00 PM
After suffering back-to-back losses against Georgia and Vanderbilt, the Volunteers looked to have righted the ship with three straight wins to pull back within a game of Kentucky in the SEC East. Tennessee then went to Vanderbilt for the rematch in trying to avenge that nine-point home loss against the Commodores but instead of revenge it got pounded yet again. The Volunteers never led and that is a loss that is not a good segue into facing the number one team in the nation on the road again no less. The matchup on paper does not look good for Tennessee but we all know what can happen in rivalries.
Kentucky did not last very long as the number one team in the country last month. The Wildcats were 19-0 after defeating Arkansas by 31 points but then proceeded to lose their first game as the top team in the nation as they were defeated by South Carolina in Columbia. Kentucky has bounced back to win its last four games, all by double-digits, two of which came against ranked teams Vanderbilt and Mississippi at home. This is the first of two meetings against the Volunteers, a team the Wildcats swept last season by 18 and 19 points.
The best way for Tennessee to walk away with an upset is to not get into a track meet with the Wildcats. Tennessee hopes to keep it a low-scoring game, as their offense has struggled of late, unable to reach 80 points in the past eight games after scoring 80 points or more in eight of its first 15 games. The loss of Tyler Smith for the season has no doubt hurt. Playing solid perimeter defense is also important as Kentucky has been involved in close games against a solid zone defense that defends the long-rang shot well. Tennessee is 34th in the nation in three-point defense, allowing just 30.1 percent so there may be hope after all.