What I'm Watching this Weekend (and why)
UConn at Georgetown (College Basketball on ESPN, 12:00*) - Will a true Big East contender emerge from this matchup? UConn, without having any truly bad losses, has sort of limped out of the starting gate this year. A win at Georgetown may just be the tonic they desire to jump start their season. The Hoyas, for their part, have some nice wins over Butler, Temple, and Washington. The losses to Old Dominion and Marquette (on Wednesday), however, are less impressive. Something has to give between these two teams.
Florida at Vanderbilt (College Basketball on ESPN2, 12:00) - SEC conference games have yet to be played, but Kentucky already looks like a clear favorite in the East. With Tennessee experiencing some, um, internal issues, the winner of this game could give themselves some early leverage in the divisional race.
Manchester United at Birmingham in the EPL (English Soccer on FSC, 12:30) - Birmingham is in the middle of an historic unbeaten run while Man United is coming off of an embarrassing home defeat in the F.A. Cup to old rivals Leeds United. Hopefully my Red Devils can bounce back with a much needed away win to keep up the pressure on title rivals Arsenal and Chelsea. United has bounced back well from losses thus far this season. Will it continue tomorrow?
South Carolina at Auburn (College Basketball on SEC Network, 1:30) - There is no logical reason to watch this game as it features possibly the two worst teams in the SEC, but I love College Basketball, and I love my Auburn Tigers. Obviously, I am something of a self-masochist. So it goes. This showdown at the Beave will at least give Auburn a chance to get its probably doomed conference run off to a winning start. The game you really should be watching at this time, however, will be on ESPN360 and features rivals Mississippi State and Ole Miss in a showdown between the Western Division's two best teams.
Duke at Georgia Tech (College Basketball on ESPN, 2:00) - The Blue Devils have gotten off to a quiet (by their standards) start this year, yet they are 13-1 and fifth in the nation. Wins over Clemson, UConn, and the Zags give them some pretty solid legs to stand on, but an early conference visit to Georgia Tech will probably teach us a lot more about this team. With a loss earlier this week to rivals Georgia and little else on their resume (besides a mighty beat down of my hometown Chattanooga Mocs) to distinguish themselves as the seventeenth ranked team in the nation, the Georgia Tech may be nothing more than a paper tiger. This game should tell us.
Mallorca at Real Madrid in La Liga (Spanish Soccer on GolTV, 1:00) - High flying islanders Mallorca visit high spending Real Madrid in the matchup of the weekend in Spain. Mallorca, with only a fraction of the resources at the behest of Real, have ridden some good early season form to fourth place and a Champions League spot, but the reality of a visit to the Bernabéu and its expensively assorted squad may prove too harsh.
Milan at Juventus in Serie A (Italian Soccer on FSC, 2:45) - Probably the match of the weekend throughout Europe, this game features two Italian giants trying to consolidate their position as main title contenders to reigning champs Inter. After a stuttering start to the season, Milan have come on as of late, backed up by a five star performance against Genoa on Wednesday for Beckham's return to the club. Juve, meanwhile, have been adrift in a sea of mediocrity lately with only a fortuitous victory at Parma on Wednesday to show for it.
Barcelona at Tenerife in La Liga (Spanish Soccer on ESPN, 3:00) - There shouldn't be much to this match as a hungry Barca look to bounce back from a couple of indifferent performances with a thrashing of a heretofore weak Tenerife team. The hope in watching this game is that ESPN decides to broadcast the match in HD. Barca in HD will make any soccer fan happy.
Kansas at Tennessee (College Basketball on CBS, 4:00) - Both these ranked teams put their conference seasons on hold for one more high profile non-conference game. Top ranked Kansas comes into Knoxville on the back of a surprisingly difficult home win over mighty Cornell. I'd expect a much more focused Jayhawks team this time around. For Tennessee, it's all about how they respond to the distractions of their off court troubles (former starting forward Tyler Smith has now been kicked off the team). They seemed to respond well enough on Wednesday night against Charlotte, but this is Kansas. I expect Tennessee to play well in an emotionally charged Thompson Boling Arena, but their current depth issues (the other three accused players remain suspended) should give Kansas the edge.
Virginia Tech at North Carolina (College Basketball on Fox Sports, 7:45) - Defending National Champions North Carolina have gotten off to a roller coaster start this season.with a bevy of impressive wins and tough losses, capped by the shocker against the College of Charleston on Monday. Basically, it's the kind of season you'd expect from such a young, but talented team. UNC will once again be without star Marcus Ginyard for the visit of Virginia Tech. The Hokies come with a lot of unknowns. They have compiled a 13-1 record to start the season, but that's against an RPI strength of schedule ranking of 293. This is what the conference season does. It separates the contenders from the pretenders.
* As always. All times Eastern.