Sun. 2:00 pm: No. 12 Villanova @ La Salle: No city in the country does rivalries quite like Philly. Known as the Big 5, Villanova, Temple, La Salle, Penn, and St. Joseph’s play a yearly round robin, with the winner getting city bragging rights for the whole year. While the tradition and the rivalry today may not be what it was in its heyday, these games are still intense and hold much more meaning than your average non-conference game.
Villanova has not looked as good as many people expected them to be this season, and a huge reason for that has been the struggles of the Wildcat’s two best perimeter players. Corey Fisher has not become the leader everyone expected him to be this season. He’s been ice cold shooting the ball (32.7% from the field, 21.1% from three) and was even benched for the beginning of Villanova’s game against Penn on Wednesday because he talked back to Jay Wright at practice. Maalik Wayns hasn’t been much better. He came into the season being hyped as a potential first round pick, but he’s shot worse from three than Fisher (15.6%) and has lost his scoring touch since Villanova’s win over UCLA. Throw in JayVaughn Pinkston’s suspension and injuries to Maurice Sutton and Isaiah Armwood, and the Wildcats are playing at far from 100%.
La Salle, on the other hand, has been impressive this year. They are 6-3 on the season, and all three losses have been in close games to major conference opponents. Aaric Murray has been terrific, averaging 16.6 ppg, 8.9 rpg, and 3.1 bpg, while Reuben Guillandeaux has become a capable secondary option, scoring 15.9 ppg and hitting 46.9% from three. Villanova needed a 34 point effort from Corey Stokes to beat Penn by 12. If the Wildcats play like that on Sunday, they will take a loss.
Sat. 12:30 pm: No. 8 Michigan State vs. Oakland: Michigan State has been struggling this season, especially in the paint, where the Spartans are usually rock solid. The best big man on the floor in this one will be Oakland center Keith Benson, a 6'11" center putting up 18.2 ppg, 11.7 rpg, and 3.3 bpg early this season. How will the Spartans bounce back from the whooping that Syracuse put on them?
Sat. 6:30 pm: Colorado State vs. No. 4 Kansas: I hate to use the term, but its fits perfectly here. The Rams are the quintessential trap game for the Jayhawks. Kansas is coming off of a big, nationally televised win over Memphis and the Jayhawks are one game away from getting Josh Selby back in the lineup. Colorado State is the team everyone forgets about in the MWC, but they were the consensus sleeper in the conference coming into the season. Travis Franklin and Andy Ogide are quality forwards and could give the Morrii some trouble. Another potential issue -- will there be players gunning to try and prove themselves worthy of minutes when Selby gets thrown into the mix?
Sat. 7:00 pm: Wofford @ South Carolina: Bruce Ellington has turned out to be the real deal for South Carolina as a freshman, leading the Gamecocks to a 6-1 start to the season. Wofford, however, is a tough defensive team that really needs a win. The Terriers were picked to win their conference -- the SoCon -- in the preseason.
Sat. 12:00 pm: No. 19 UNLV @ Louisville: Louisville gets their biggest test of the season as the Runnin’ Rebels come to town. UNLV has looked very good early in the season, as they like to press, play an uptempo game, and spread the floor, allowing their talented perimeter players room to operate and create. Replace UNLV with Louisville at the start of the last sentence, and the same thing is true. This one should be a lot of fun for those that get to watch it. There are few teams in the country that consistently get better shots that UNLV. Will they be able to do it against Louisville’s press?
Sat. 2:30 pm: Wisconsin @ Marquette: Let’s put aside the fact that Marquette is in Wisconsin. Let’s also put aside the fact that these two teams are natural born enemies. Think Louisville-Kentucky, only with cheese, not bourbon. Finally, let’s put aside seeing whether Marquette can slow down Badger big man Jon Leuer or Wisconsin has the perimeter quickness to handle Marquette’s back court. The most interesting part of this game is that Vander Blue, a Madison native, originally committed to Wisconsin when he was 15, but backed off of that commitment later on in the process. Wisconsin fans let him have it online. Blue didn’t like that, and eventually committed to Marquette. Too bad this game isn’t in the Kohl Center. That would have been interesting.
Sat. 3:15 pm: No. 13 Tennessee @ No. 3 Pitt: The Panthers are a physical defensive team that have been absolute monsters on the offensive glass. As a team, they lead the country by grabbing 48.5% of the available offensive rebounds, which is a ridiculous number. More impressive, however, is that every one of their front court players has a offensive rebound percentage over 10, meaning that every player in Pitt’s front court gets at least 10% of the available offensive rebounds when they are on the floor, led by Dante Taylor, whose 25.4 OR% is out of this world. The Vol’s bread and butter this season is tough perimeter defense. Guys like Melvin Goins, Cameron Tatum, and Scotty Hopson are all excellent defenders that will have their work cut out for them with Ashton Gibbs and Brad Wanamaker.
Sat. 4:30 pm: No. 22 Washington @ Texas A&M: You will struggle to find a better contrast of styles than Washington and Texas A&M. The Huskies love to get out and run the floor, allowing their talented guards and athletes to create in the open floor. Texas A&M is a grind it out team, relying on their toughness on the defensive end to keep them close. Which style wins out?
Sat. 6:00 pm: Arizona @ No. 21 BYU: Last year, Jimmer Fredette went into Tucson and set a McKale Center record by putting 49 points (and 9 assists and 7 boards) on the Wildcats. This year, the Wildcats appear to be much improved, however, and boast one of the best big men in the country in sophomore Derrick Williams. How good is Williams? Kenpom ranks him as No. 1 in the country in terms of offensive rating. Fredette is 9th. It is possible the best big man and the best guard in the country will be sharing a court?
Sat. 7:00 pm: VCU @ Richmond: We talked about intra-city rivalries with Villanova and La Salle. This is an intense intra-city rivalry as well, as VCU is also located in Richmond. Making things even better is that these two teams are both expected to be in the running for a tournament spot come March. Two key matchups are going to be between Joey Rodriguez (VCU) and Kevin Anderson (Richmond), and Jamie Skeen (VCU) and Justin Harper (Richmond). I have a feeling this result will be relevant again when the bracket gets released.
Sat. 8:30 pm: Gonzaga @ No. 23 Notre Dame: The Zags really need to get a win, and it just so happens that they matchup pretty well with the Irish. In terms of roster makeup, the Zags are fairly similar to Kentucky. They have a big goof at center, a talented and athletic power forward, and a guard that can really fill it up. That said, Gonzaga has defended anyone this season, especially three point shooters. Notre Dame just so happens to have a number of very good three point shooters, led by Ben Hansbrough and Tim Abromaitis.
- 8:30 pm: Iowa State @ Iowa: Is there a major conference, in-state rivalry with as little fanfare on a national level as a battle of the Iowas?
- 12:00 pm: St. Louis @ No. 1 Duke: Duke continues to play with Kyrie Irving’s status up in the air. Will Mike Krzyzewski drop anymore hints in the post game about his point guard’s status?
- 12:30 pm: Auburn vs. Rutgers: I thoroughly disagree with you there, Coach Rice.
- 4:00 pm: No. 4 Kansas State @ Loyola (IL): Jacob Pullen gets a home game back in Chicago. Also of note -- only one team in the country shoots free throws worse than Kansas State at 54%.
- 4:00 pm: Florida Atlantic @ Hofstra: FAU is coming off of wins over Mississippi State and South Florida. Can Hofstra’s Charles Jenkins change that path?
- 4:30 pm: Cleveland State @ Sam Houston State: Cleveland State is still undefeated.
- 5:00 pm: San Diego @ No. 15 San Diego State: Discovered by the Germans in 1904, they named it San Dee-ah-go...
- 5:15 pm: Indiana at No. 16 Kentucky: This is one of the more underrated rivalries in college hoops. Christian Watford going up against Terrence Jones will be fun.
- 7:00 pm: Dayton @ Old Dominion: Dayton’s been downright bad this season, while ODU has taken a bit of a step back in the last week. Both of these teams are big and athletic.
- 8:15 pm: Morehead State @ Northern Iowa: If you haven’t see Kenneth Faried play yet, you need to.
- 9:00 pm: New Mexico State @ New Mexico: The Lobos host the second leg of this rivalry.
- 1:00 pm: Penn State @ Virginia Tech: Two of the best back court players in the country square off. Both could end up with 40+ the way they defend.
- 4:00 pm: Boston College @ Maryland: ACC play is starting.
- 5:00 pm: Southern Miss @ Cal: USM desperately needs this win with their weak non-conference schedule.
- 6:15 pm: Clemson @ Florida State: Florida State is the nation’s best defensive team, but rank 165th in the nation in offensive efficiency. That has to be the biggest gap in the country.