Greg Mengelt previews and predicts three of Sunday's top games.
VIRIGINIA (8-1) AT OREGON (6-2)
Time/TV: 5:30 p.m., Fox Sports Regional
Line: Virginia -2.5
Storylines: Virginia expected to be improved this season, but the Cavs have played above expectations. After an early loss to Texas Christian, they have won six straight, including double-digit wins over Michigan and George Mason. They haven’t been road tested yet, so going out West to Oregon and Seattle (Dec. 21) will be a challenge. The Ducks are 6-2, but their best win was at Nebraska.
Key Matchup: Oregon’s offense vs. Virginia’s defense. Oregon can put the ball in the basket, scoring nearly 74 points per contest. And the Cavs have proven they can defense against good teams, holding Michigan to 58, George Mason to 48, Green Bay to 42 and Drexel to 35. Teams are shooting 36.6 percent from the floor against Virginia.
The Bottom Line: Virginia seems to have turned a corner under Tony Bennett. A road win would enhance that perception, but going on the road for the first time isn’t easy and Eugene is a tough place to play.
The Pick: Virginia 62, Oregon 59.
LOYOLA MARYMOUNT (6-4) AT FLORIDA STATE (7-3)
Time/TV: 3 p.m., ESPNU
Line: Florida St -16
Storylines: Since early wins over St. Louis and UCLA, LMU has gone .500, including a home loss to Columbia and at North Texas. The losses were surprising, considering Drew Vinney – the Lions leading scorer a year ago – returned from a stress fracture in his foot. Florida State is 7-3 but a good 7-3. The Seminoles losses have come against Harvard, Connecticut and Michigan State – all of which have spent time in the top-25. FSU remains one of the top defensive teams in the nation, allowing opponents to shoot 34 percent from the field.
Key Matchup: FSU’s Bernard James and Xavier Gibson vs. LMU’s front line. James is a load inside. He’s nearly averaging a double-double at 9.9 points and nine rebounds per contest while shooting 58 percent from the field. On the other side, the Lions have been out-rebounded this season.
The Bottom Line: James, Gibson and the Seminole defense should be way too much for the Lions to handle.
The Pick: Florida State 66, Loyola Marymount 51.
LOYOLA, MD. (8-1) AT ST. BONAVENTURE (4-4)
Time/TV: 2:30 p.m., None
Line: St. Bonaventure -6.5
Storylines: Loyola has been the surprise of the MAAC. The Greyhounds have won eight straight, including a 2-0 start in league play. Road trips to St. Bonaventure and Kentucky this week will indicate whether they can compete with Iona and Fairfield for the MAAC title. The Bonnies are 4-4 against what has been a tough schedule. They figure to contend in the Atlantic 10, but Andrew Nicholson is among the most entertaining players in college basketball.
Key Matchup: Nicholson vs. Erik Etherly. Etherly can’t compete with Nicholson’s size, but he’s solid and efficient inside for the Greyhounds. If he can neutralize Nicholson, Loyola has a shot at improving to 9-1.
The Bottom Line: A win Sunday would put Loyola in the MAAC conversation, but that’s an unlikely proposition in Rochester.
The Pick: St. Bonaventure 69, Loyola 59.