College Basketball’s Best Games of the Weekend

Photo: AP
Photo: AP
Photo: AP

All times are listed in EST.

Top 10 Games

1. No. 23 Iowa @ No. 17 Iowa State, Friday at 9:30 p.m. on ESPNU

Iowa has lived up to its preseason expectation so far. The Hawkeyes, at 10-1, have lost only to Villanova in overtime, and they have a good win against Notre Dame. Still, this will be their first true road game of the season, and Hilton Coliseum is a hellacious venue.

Iowa State, which boasts a perfect record at 7-0, has already racked up wins against Michigan and Brigham Young. Marshall transfer DeAndre Kane and junior college transfer Dustin Hogue have been crucial additions, and senior Melvin Ejim has emerged as one of the best players in the Big 12.

This game will undoubtedly be fun to watch as both teams have explosive offensives and like to play at a fast pace.

In a very even matchup, though, it’s hard to imagine the Hawkeyes being able to overcome Hilton Magic. The Cyclones’ last home loss came Feb. 25 last season only because of a blown call, and the last defeat before that was Jan. 11 2012 to No. 9 Missouri.

Prediction: Iowa State 88, Iowa 85

 

2. No. 1 Arizona @ Michigan, Saturday at 12 p.m. on CBS

Arizona enters this matchup as the undefeated, top-ranked team, while Michigan is still trying to find its identity. The Wolverines, who began the season ranked No. 7 in the AP Top 25, have lost to Iowa State, Charlotte, and Duke, but this is their first chance for a quality win at home.

Michigan sophomores Nik Stauskas and Caris LeVert are two of the most improved players in the country.

Stauskas, who was almost exclusively an outside shooter last season, has rounded out his offensive game. In addition to still being the team’s best three-point shooter, he leads them in points and assists.

LeVert, who played only 10.8 minutes per game last year, has exploded in his increased role. He is now averaging 13.9 points and 2.4 assists, and he imposes a mismatch as a 6’6″ combo-guard.

Prediction: Arizona 68, Michigan 64

 

3. No. 11 Kentucky @ No. 18 North Carolina, Saturday at 5:15 p.m. on ESPN

North Carolina has played to its level of competition this season. The Tar Heels lost to Belmont and UAB, and their wins over Holy Cross and Richmond were close. Meanwhile, they have victories away from home against Louisville and Michigan State.

Kentucky is coming off a strong win against Boise State, where it led nearly the entire game.

Julius Randle has continued his dominance, averaging 17.8 points, 12 rebounds, and 2.2 assists.

James Young is beginning to become the scorer we expected him to be with 17.7 points per game in his last three outings. He is also shooting 50% from beyond the arc during that stretch.

Willie Cauley-Stein has been a defensive menace averaging 4.3 blocks per game. In his last four games, he is averaging seven blocks per game.

Kentucky is only 1-2 away from home, and this will be their first true road game. But, with things starting to click for the Wildcats, this is a chance for their first marquee win of the season.

Prediction: Kentucky 75, North Carolina 72

 

4. New Mexico vs. No. 13 Kansas, Saturday at 7 p.m. on ESPN2

Bill Self has put his Kansas Jayhawks in a blender this season with games against Duke, Villanova, Colorado, and Florida — and the Jayhawks still have to play New Mexico, Georgetown, Toledo, and San Diego State before the start of Big 12 play.

New Mexico has been challenged, but not to the extend Kansas has been. The Lobos’ only loss is to Massachusetts, and their best wins are UAB, New Mexico State, and Cincinnati.

Kendall Williams, Alex Kirk, and Cameron Bairstow have been phenomenal for the Lobos this season.

Although they do not match up to Andrew Wiggins, Perry Ellis, Joel Embiid, and Wayne Selden in terms of raw talent, their experience should at least keep them close in what is essentially a home game for Kansas.

Prediction: Kansas 75, New Mexico 67

 

5. St. Mary’s @ Boise State, Saturday at 6:05 p.m. on ROOT

St. Mary’s enters this game undefeated while Boise State picked up its first loss of the season at Kentucky earlier in the week. Both teams are offensive-minded, but the difference is the Gaels like a slow pace while the Broncos want to push the tempo.

Boise State sports two of the best players in the Mountain West in Anthony Drmic and Derrick Marks.

Drmic leads the Broncos in points (20.1 ppg), rebounds (5.0 rpg), and steals (2.4 spg), and Marks averages 17.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 2.1 steals.

The Broncos also have arguably the nation’s best three-point shooter in Jeff Elorriaga, who nails three-pointers at a 58.7% clip.

For St. Mary’s, Stephen Holt and Brad Waldow have emerged as major forces, as expected. Holt, who had always been a good scorer and rebounder from the off-ball guard position, is averaging 5.7 assists per game. With eight more assists, he will have already passed his total assist mark for lsat season.

Waldow is averaging 18.6 points on 68% shooting, 7.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and two blocks.

Prediction: Boise State 84, St. Mary’s 78

 

6. Tennessee @ No. 12 Wichita State, Saturday at 2 p.m. on ESPN2

In this matchup, an unbeaten Wichita State team faces a Tennessee team looking to get back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011.

Wichita State’s backcourt easily trumps Tennessee’s, but the Volunteers have the potential to decimate the Shockers in the frontcourt.

Jarnell Stokes (14.9 ppg, 10.0 rpg) and Jeronne Maymon (10.0 ppg, 7.6 rpg) are off to great starts, and the Shockers have only two true big men in Chadrack Lufile and Kadeem Coleby. Both play fewer than 20 minutes on average, but they will need to step up to stop the Volunteers.

Prediction: Wichita State 65, Tennessee 62

 

7. No. 7 Oklahoma State @ Louisiana Tech, Saturday at 2 p.m. on ESPNU

Louisiana Tech is one of the favorites in Conference USA this season, but the Bulldogs have not been anything too special in non-conference play. Although they stand tall at 8-2, their best win is Saint Bonaventure and they have a home loss against Louisiana-Lafayette.

With this game at Louisiana Tech, the Bulldogs could give the Cowboys some trouble.

Louisiana Tech has a pair of talented scorers in Raheem Appleby and Alex Hamilton, an effective point guard in Kenneth Smith, and a great defensive big man in Michale Kyser.

Still, it won’t be enough to stop Marcus Smart and Co.

Prediction: Oklahoma State 88, Louisiana Tech 77

 

8. Notre Dame vs. Indiana, Saturday at 3:15 p.m. on ESPN

Both Notre Dame and Indiana are in need of a marquee non-conference win. For the Hoosiers, this is their last chance, but the Fighting Irish do have a date with Ohio State next week.

So far, Notre Dame has been among the most disappointing teams in college basketball. The Fighting Irish have lost twice at home to mid-majors (Indiana State and North Dakota State), and in their one game against a BCS opponent, they lost at Iowa.

With two phenomenal guards in Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins, Notre Dame should be a Top 20 team right now.

Indiana is a young group that took Connecticut to the wire in a loss and was then completely overmatched by Syracuse.

Prediction: Indiana 74, Notre Dame 72

 

9. Eastern Kentucky @ No. 4 Wisconsin, Saturday at 1 p.m.  on ESPN3

Eastern Kentucky is one of the nation’s top mid-majors and one of the favorites in the Ohio Valley Conference. Although the chances of them upsetting Wisconsin are slim, the Colonels could keep close with the Badgers.

Glenn Cosey is one of the favorites for OVC Player of the Year, averaging 19.3 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 4.9 assists.

Against tough competition, the Colonels were overmatched by NC State, but they took Virginia Commonwealth into overtime and nearly defeated the Rams.

Eastern Kentucky’s frontcourt is thin, though, and that could open things up for Wisconsin’s 7-foot Frank Kaminsky, who scored 43 points against North Dakota earlier in the year.

Prediction: Wisconsin 70, Eastern Kentucky 59

 

10. La Salle @ No. 10 Villanova, Sunday at 2:30 p.m. on Fox Sports 1

La Salle was supposed to be a NCAA Tournament team and even a possible Top 25 team in the preseason, but the Explorers lost their footing early and still have not found it. Entering Sunday, they have a mediocre 5-4 record, and they will likely be back at .500 thanks to this tough matchup with undefeated Villanova.

After a great first game against Manhattan, Tyrone Garland has struggled to fill the shoes of Ramon Galloway, last year’s leading scorer.

If La Salle wants any chance at upsetting Villanova, Garland will have to step up and have a monster game.

Prediction: Villanova 78, La Salle 74

 

5 Other Games to Keep an Eye on

Sam Houston State @ Toledo, Saturday at 1 p.m.

Toledo puts its perfect record on the line against a hot Sam Houston State team.

North Dakota State @ No. 3 Ohio State, Saturday at 8:15 p.m. on BTN

North Dakota State, the Summit League favorite which just won at Notre Dame on Wednesday, has the pieces to give Ohio State a bit of trouble. The likelihood of an upset remains small, but it is there.

Illinois @ No. 15 Oregon, Saturday at 9 p.m. on ESPN2

Oregon was tested in an overtime victory at Ole Miss last week, and Illinois’ is not the easiest matchup. Although the Ducks are the clear favorite, Drake transfer Rayvonte Rice will be a handful to contain.

No. 20 Gonzaga vs. South Alabama, Saturday at 10 p.m. on ROOT

Gonzaga is, as always, one of the nation’s best mid-majors and the favorite in the WCC. South Alabama could win the Sun Belt this year, and senior forward Augustine Rubit, who averages 16.7 points and 10 rebounds, is worth watching.

No. 2 Syracuse @ St. John’s, Saturday at 12 p.m. on Fox Sports 1

St. John’s struggled in November, but its last three halves of basketball have been fantastic. The Red Storm came from behind on Nov. 30 to beat Georgia Tech, and then they ran over Fordham, 104-58, last week. Syracuse is playing as well as anyone so far this season, but if St. John’s is gelling again on Sunday it could be a tough battle.

 

All advanced statistics are courtesy of KenPom.

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