Pregame shootaround: Monster doubleheader dominates Saturday’s action
GAME OF THE DAY: No. 8 Villanova at No. 2 Syracuse (2 p.m., CBS)
I mean no disrespect to one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports, but when you have a matchup of two unbeaten, top-10 teams on December 28th, it takes precedence. It should be a good one as No. 8 Villanova (11-0) travels to the Carrier Dome to face No. 2 Syracuse (11-0) in a matchup of old Big East foes. This is a big non-conference tilt that will test each team before conference season and Syracuse is in for its biggest game of the season -- so far -- after winning the Maui Invitational while Villanova won the Battle 4 Atlantis earlier this season. How will Syracuse’s young backcourt of freshman Tyler Ennis and Trevor Cooney handle a big game and a big test against Villanova?
THE OTHER GAME OF THE DAY: No. 6 Louisville at No. 18 Kentucky (4 p.m., CBS)
If you’re up for more college hoops after the matchup of unbeatens -- and of course you are -- then you’ll want to stick around for one of the best rivalries in sports. Although No. 6 Louisville (11-1) and No. 18 Kentucky (9-3) aren’t both in the top ten, they’re still the last two national champions and this is a rivalry game unlike many others. Can Kentucky finally get over the hump and earn a marquee victory heading into SEC play? The young Wildcats have fallen in their previous tests against Michigan State, Baylor and North Carolina, but this time, they’ll have Rupp Arena and Big Blue Nation behind them. And how will Louisville handle its most talented opponent so far this season in a big rivalry game on the road? Louisville’s only test this season was against North Carolina, and, like Kentucky, they fell to the Tar Heels as well.
WHO’S GETTING UPSET? No. 25 Missouri at North Carolina State (8 p.m., ESPN2)
North Carolina State (9-2) is playing very well after a bit of a rocky start and sophomore T.J. Warren is playing at an All-American level for the Wolfpack. Today the Wolfpack will host No. 25 Missouri (10-1) after the Tigers are fresh off their loss in the Braggin’ Rights game against Illinois and Missouri could be in for a letdown. Warren is averaging a team-leading 23.9 points and 7.3 rebounds -- on 55 percent shooting -- and poses a major challenge for Missouri’s defense. The Wolfpack have won seven straight games since the return of 7-foot-1 center Jordan Vandenburg and freshman point guard Anthony “Cat” Barber has also played better much better since the 2-2 start, as he’s registered at least four assists in all seven of those wins. One thing to monitor in this one: How will Missouri handle its first true road game of the season?
MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE DAY: Belmont at Indiana State, (1:05 p.m., ESPN3)
This is an interesting match-up between Ohio Valley contender Belmont (8-5) and Missouri Valley contender Indiana State (8-3), in-part because they already played earlier this season and Belmont won 96-95 at home on November 14th. Since then, Belmont has won at North Carolina, but has lost four of five games and they’ll look to right the ship against a good Indiana State team. The Sycamores have won five of six games entering this rematch and are trending in the opposite direction.
FIVE THINGS TO KNOW
1) How about the matchup between senior guards Chaz Williams and Bryce Cotton in the matchup between No. 23 UMass and Providence? That should be a fun one as Providence (10-2) will look to hand UMass (10-1) its second loss of the season.
2) Duke (9-2) will be in for an interesting non-conference matchup at Cameron Indoor Stadium with 7-3 Eastern Michigan. The Eagles have already traveled to Rupp Arena and faced No. 21 UMass this season and own sold mid-major wins over Green Bay and Cleveland State and won’t be scared to face No. 9 Duke.
3) Wake Forest is off to a solid 10-2 start, but how will they react to their first true road game of the season at Xavier? The Demon Deacons went 1-2 at the Battle 4 Atlantis and would love to pick up a quality road win before ACC play. Xavier, meanwhile, has rebounded nicely with four straight wins after an 0-3 trip to the Battle 4 Atlantis. Although both teams played in the Battle 4 Atlantis, they have yet to play each other.
4) An interesting doubleheader at the Brooklyn Winter Hoops Festival kicks off today as Tulane (7-6) faces Kansas State (8-3) and Boston College (4-8) takes on VCU (10-3). Tulane has lost six of seven and will look for an upset against red-hot Kansas State and their six straight wins, while Boston College hasn’t beaten a Division I opponent in the month of December and will look to rebound against the Rams.
5) Although Michigan lost Mitch McGary indefinitely due to back surgery, they can’t hang their head for too long, as they’ll face Holy Cross and senior center Dave Dudzinski. Dudzinski is one of the top mid-major big men in the country so far this season as he’s averaging 17.1 points and 7.6 rebounds per game on 50 percent shooting from the field and 45 percent shooting from three-point range.
THE REST OF THE TOP 25:
- Prairie View A&M at No. 4 Wisconsin, 2:00 p.m., ESPNU
- New Orleans at No. 5 Michigan State, 4:15 p.m., BTN
- Eastern Washington at No. 15 UConn, 1:00 p.m., ESPN3
- Jackson State at No. 17 Memphis, 12:00 p.m., ESPNU
- Georgia at No. 21 Colorado, 10:00 p.m., Pac 12
- Santa Clara at No. 24 Gonzaga, 8:00 p.m., ESPNU
- Nebraska at Cincinnati, 12:00 p.m., ESPN2
- Florida International at Georgetown, 12:00 p.m., Fox Sports 1
- UIC vs Illinois, 2:00 p.m., BTN
- Samford at Marquette, 2:00 p.m., Fox Sports Net
- Columbia at St. John’s, 2:30 p.m.
- Harvard at Fordham, 4:00 p.m.
- Akron at South Carolina, 4:00 p.m., ESPNU
- BYU at Loyola Marymount, 4:00 p.m.
- Old Dominion at Richmond, 6:30 p.m., NBCSN
- Alabama at UCLA, 10:00 p.m., ESPN2