Experience paying off big

Dec 25, 2006 6:55 AM

As if you needed proof that there is no substitute for experience, Duke, Florida and UCLA gave a convincing demonstration.

Duke beat Gonzaga at Madison Square Garden with defense, timely rebounding and excellent shot selection. Florida and UCLA used its experience in the NCAA championship game last year to easily polish off Ohio State and Michigan respectively.

No debate now on whether the Buckeyes and Wolverines should be No. 1 or 2 in the country. Glen Oden may be the real deal at center, but he’s a freshman and Joakim Noah took him to school.

As for the Bruins, they blew Michigan back to Ann Arbor in a performance most worthy of their current standing as the nation’s No. 1 team.

The storyline this week occurs Thursday when Bob Knight should pass Dean Smith and become the all-time winning college basketball coach. The victim, UNLV, could provide some thrills as a live dog. The Rebels have played extremely well in the past month and you can bet those Red Raiders kids will be tight as a drum to give the General that victory on national TV.

That’s a good lead-in to this week’s picks.

WEDNESDAY

Northeastern at Louisville: With all the difficult games Pitino has lined up for the Cardinals, you can’t blame him for inserting a few cupcakes. He knows Northeastern from his days coaching UMass. Familiarity usually breeds rout. LOUISVILLE.

Bradley at N. Iowa: Two of the better Midwest teams you won’t see much written about. Figuring four points for the home court, we’ll hope there’s enough points to ride the underdog Braves. BRADLEY.

THURSDAY

Georgia at Clemson: Both teams like to run and gun. Georgia looked sensational against Gonzaga, then were rocked out of the house against Georgia Tech. The ACC is brutal and going into Littlejohn Coliseum is a real problem for the Dawgs. CLEMSON.

California at Arizona: It’s great to see some Pac 10 conference play. We don’t think Cal has the firepower to stay with the Wildcats for 40 minutes. ARIZONA.

UNLV at Texas Tech: This is all about tempo, much like we figured would occur in the Gonzaga-Duke matchup. Look for the Rebels to keep the game in a half-court mode, otherwise they’ll be blown out of the gym. I think the Rebs will hold their own on the boards and hang within 10. That should make all of us happy. UNLV.

Washington at UCLA: The Bruins have been untouchable at home this year, but it’s about time somebody steps up to at least give them a battle. The tall, physical Huskies are certainly capable. WASHINGTON.

FRIDAY

Illinois vs Xavier: The Musketeers will go all out to pull off the upset, but they couldn’t get it done against Cincy. Illinois is even tougher. ILLINOIS.

Samford vs LSU: An early exit for Samford at the Maravich Center in something called the Hispanic College Fund Classic. LSU.

SATURDAY

Washington St at USC: Another great matchup in the Pac 10. It’s possible the Trojans could pull off the win at home. Up in Pullman, it would be another story. USC.

Temple at Villanova: Big Five basketball at its best. The Owls could give Nova a fight, but in the end the Wildcats just have too much talent. VILLANOVA.

UNLV at Houston: The Rebels continue their Texas swing. The road starts catching up with the Rebels here. Look for a flat spot. HOUSTON.

Seton Hall at BYU: The altitude catches up to the boys from South Jersey. BYU is not up to past Cougar teams, but should have enough to cover. BYU.

Princeton at Iona: That’s Iona, not Iowa. Princeton will put the sleeper hold on the Gaels with their pick and rolls. PRINCETON.