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Big East-SEC Challenge: Weekend Previews And Predictions

The Big East and the SEC are dead locked at two wins apiece after one night of play. Here's a look at what the challenge has in store for Friday and Saturday.

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Hollis Thompson felled my run at perfection before it ever really got started by burying a game-winning three and punishing me for having an abundance of faith in Alabama. I'll be better tonight...I have to be better tonight (Tebow voice).

FRIDAY

No. 10 Florida (5-1) at No. 4 Syracuse (7-0) (7:00, ESPN)

The highest-profile game of the event features Billy Donovan's lethal four-guard attack against Jim Boeheim and Syracuse's vaunted 2-3 zone.

Obviously the primary concern for 'Cuse is keeping Erving Walker, Kenny Boynton, Bradley Beal, and Mike Rosario (or at least a couple of them) from taking full advantage of facing a zone for 40 minutes. The Orange certainly have an advantage in terms of size, but it's going to be extremely difficult for them cover this many shooters. If they fail to produce cheap points off turnovers or allow more than a handful of second chance baskets, it's going to be very difficult for the No. 4 team in the country to remain perfect.

The Orange have sort of been skirting by during this entire Bernie Fine situation, but I think tonight is a bad set-up for them. Unless Brandon Triche and Scoop Jardine play out-of-their minds and Kris Joseph is even better than usual, the Gators are going to take a big one for the SEC.

THE PICK: Florida by 9

Cincinnati (4-2) at Georgia (4-3) ( 7:00, ESPNU)

The Bearcats have been one of the more disappointing teams in college basketball, starting the season in everyone's top 25 and promptly losing to Presbyterian and Marshall at home. Georgia has already beaten a Big East team in Notre Dame, and all their losses have been to teams they were supposed to lose to. Cincinnati unquestionably has more talent, but the Bulldogs are the team that has played up to their potential and they are the hosts tonight.

I'll take the talent. It's the modern man in me.

THE PICK: Cincinnati by 5

No. 20 Vanderbilt (5-2) at No. 6 Louisville (6-0) (9:00, ESPN)

These two began the season right next to one another in the preseason top ten, but have both been forced to deal with injuries to key players. The Cardinals have lost nearly every player on their roster for some period of time, while Vanderbilt has been without center Festus Ezeli for the entire season. But while U of L managed to avoid a loss in November, the Commodores were knocked off at home by both Cleveland State and Xavier.

Vandy has more to play for, but Louisville is the better team right now.

THE PICK: Louisville by 5

Auburn (4-0) at Seton Hall (5-1) (9:00, ESPNU)

They can't all be dimes.

The Hall has a couple of semi-impressive wins and a good loss to unbeaten Northwestern, while Auburn is unbeaten but has four wins over teams that the casual college basketball fan might think were high schools. Kevin Willard's not going to be able to get away with playing only six guys forever, but Herb Pope (20.5 ppg, 11.7 rpg) alone should be enough to get the job done tonight.

THE PICK: Seton Hall by 10

SATURDAY

Arkansas (4-1) at No. 8 Connecticut (6-1)  (3:15, ESPN)

The Huskies disappointed in the Bahamas by not winning the Battle 4 Atlantis, but they still have Jeremy Lamb and Shbazz Napier. Arkansas does not have Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier. That is your game preview.

THE PICK: Connecticut by 12

No. 17 Pittsburgh (5-1) at Tennessee (3-3)  (5:15, ESPN)

This appeared to be a toss-up until news broke today that Pitt would be without point guard Travon Woodall for the next month because of a groin strain and an abdominal tear. Even when Woodall was healthy, Tennessee had actually looked like the better team of the two in the early part of the season (sans a Maui-hangover loss to Oakland earlier this week). It's hard to see the Panthers making up for last year's embarrassing loss to the Vols without Woodall.

THE PICK: Tennessee by 7

LSU (4-3) at Rutgers (4-3) (7:00, ESPNU)

Both teams are very young and moderately talented, which, as everyone knows, is the ultimate recipe for success. What's that? It's not the ultimate recipe for success? Jimmy Dykes totally said that the other day. That still doesn't make it true? OK, don't watch this game.

THE PICK: Rutgers by 2

West Virginia (4-1) at Mississippi State (7-1) (9:00, ESPNU)

The Bulldogs have been stellar since an early home loss to Akron thanks in large part to the play of Dee Bost. West Virginia's lone loss also came at home and by the same margin (ten) to another MAC team (Kent State). The Mountaineers are going to get better as the season goes along, but MSU is the superior team and should win failrly handily if they want to show they're a legitimate top 20 club.

THE PICK: Mississippi State by 8