Pregame Shootaround: Over 130 games on the Saturday college hoops schedule, led by some great ranked matchups
GAME OF THE DAY: No. 6 Villanova at No. 18 Butler, 6:00 p.m.
It feels like a weekly occurrence that we try to figure out who the second best team is in the Big East, and this week, with Georgetown and Providence losing, it looks like it is Butler. The Bulldogs have won five in a row and seven of their last eight and now sit a full two games in front of the Hoyas in second place in the league. A win and Butler will be tied for first place in the conference in February with the No. 6 team in the country, which is incredible when you think about everything that the program has been through in the last two years.
THE OTHER GAME OF THE DAY: No. 16 Baylor at No. 8 Kansas, 1:00 p.m.
Baylor is one of a handful of teams that I feel like I can’t figure out. I know they’re good, but just how good are they? Is this truly one of the top 15 or 20 teams in the country, or are they a team that’s closer to being a team destined for a first weekend exit from the NCAA tournament? I’m not sure, but I do know this: the Bears probably should have beaten Kansas in Waco earlier this season. I’m sure they’ll have revenge on their minds, but winning in Phog Allen Fieldhouse is much easier said than done.
UPSET ALERT: No. 12 North Carolina at Pitt, 12:00 p.m.
The Panthers have not had a great season in 2014-2015, but they have proven that they are capable of competing with — and beating, right Notre Dame? — the best in the ACC, particularly on their home floor. North Carolina bounced back from back-to-back losses to Virginia and Louisville with a win at Boston College, but the next game on their schedule is a trip to Duke on Wednesday. This is a classic trap game.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:
1. Start off your Saturday by watching Ohio State freshman D’Angelo Russell, one of the nation’s best player, as the No. 23 Buckeyes travel to Michigan State. This hasn’t been a dominant year by the Spartans by any stretch, but they’re still tough at home.
2. Another matchup between ranked teams in the Big 12 as No. 21 West Virginia travels to No. 14 Iowa State. The Big 12 keeps beating up on each other and both of these teams sit at 7-4, so this might be a pivotal conference game as we get towards the stretch run.
3. An easy Saturday for No. 1 Kentucky and No. 2 Virginia? It sure looks that way. The top two teams in the country host South Carolina and Wake Forest, respectively, and both are favored by over 17 points. Let’s see if these elite teams put these away early, especially Virginia without Justin Anderson.
4. A test in the American for SMU as they get one of the conference’s more talented teams in UConn. The No. 25 Mustangs are tied with Tulsa atop the American standings and could use a good home win here. Nic Moore and Ryan Boatright battling should be a fun matchup.
5. Rematch of one of college basketball’s games from last season as No. 4 Duke goes to Syracuse. The Orange don’t have anything to play for except pride, but the interior matchup between Syracuse senior Rakeem Christmas and Duke freshman Jahlil Okafor should be one of Okafor’s better tests of the season.
PROGRAMMING NOTE: There will be two games on NBCSN and streaming on Live Extra this weekend:
- St. Bonaventure at Dayton, 12:30 p.m.
- Delaware at William & Mary, 2:30 p.m.
THE REST OF THE TOP 25
- No. 20 VCU at George Washington, 2:00 p.m.
- N.C. State at No. 9 Louisville, 4:00 p.m.
- No. 21 Oklahoma State at TCU, 6:00 p.m.
- No. 15 Wichita State at Illinois State, 6:00 p.m.
- No. 17 Oklahoma at Kansas State, 8:00 p.m.
- Pepperdine at No. 3 Gonzaga, 8:00 p.m.
- No. 19 Maryland at Penn State 8:30 p.m.
- No. 24 Arkansas at Ole Miss, 9:00 p.m.
OTHER GAMES TO WATCH
- Virginia Tech at Clemson, 12:00 p.m.
- St. John’s at Xavier, 12:30 p.m.
- East Carolina at Temple, 2:00 p.m.
- Tulane at Cincinnati, 2:00 p.m.
- Auburn at Georgia, 2:00 p.m.
- Oregon at UCLA, 3:00 p.m.
- Seton Hall at Providence, 4:00 p.m.
- LSU at Tennessee, 4:00 p.m.
- Florida at Texas A&M, 6:30 p.m.
- Colorado State at San Diego State, 8:00 p.m.
- Old Dominion at UTEP, 9:00 p.m.