The schedule this weekend is a little lighter. We made it through an exciting ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The Jimmy V Classic is ahead next week. But the weekend has some exciting games, brought to you by the SEC/Big East Challenge. Then there’s the Wooden Classic, featuring UCLA, of course. The Bruins could start their own reality show but a game against San Diego State is on the weekend schedule.
Here are five games you don’t want to miss (all times ET):
No. 6 Syracuse (4-0) at Arkansas (3-2) (Friday, 8:30 p.m, ESPN)
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim always prefers the friendly and enthusiastic confines of the Carrier Dome in November and December but this will be the second trip out of New York State for the Orange this year. Syracuse opened with that aircraft carrier victory over San Diego State and it's a journey into Razorback country for this SEC/Big East Challenge game at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville. Arkansas has its own history of home court advantage, so the Orange know they’ve got to be focused. "They're very tough playing at home," Syracuse’s Brandon Triche told the Associated Prss. "They're a transition team and they're going to press us the whole game, but I think we're ready for it. We've got guys that can handle pressure.” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson is a disciple of Nolan Richardson and that’s where the pressure philosophy stems from. The Razorbacks forced an average of 23 turnovers on the way to three wins t home. Now Arkansas will be trying to bounce back from consecutive losses to Arizona State and Wisconsin.
Saint Joseph’s (4-1) at No. 11 Creighton (6-1) (Saturday, 3 p.m., ESPN3)
The season’s terrific start for Doug McDermott and the Creighton Bluejays ended Wednesday night with a stunning 83-70 loss to Boise State in Omaha. Derrick Marks of the Broncos scored 28 of his career-high 35 points in the second half as Boise State handed Creighton its first regular-season November home game loss since 1989. Creighton had won its first six games by double figures and the Bluejays were coming victories over Wisconsin and Arizona State. Creighton coach Greg McDermott said his team didn’t play poorly offensively. It was just a matter of not having a defensive answer for Marks and getting outhustled. Saint Joseph’s is one of the top teams in the Atlantic-10 and the Hawks have a win over Notre Dame but a loss to Florida State. Langston Galloway moved past the 1,000-point mark for his career during the Hawks’ 74-55 victory over American Wednesday.
No. 15 Oklahoma State (5-0) at Virginia Tech (6-0) (Saturday, 2 p.m. , ESPN3)
Big 12 vs. ACC, both teams undefeated, Saturday afternoon at a noisy Cassell Coliseum. You can’t beat that for a college basketball atmosphere. And here’s the funny thing: These two teams are familiar with each other. Virginia Tech beat the Cowboys twice last season. The first game ended 59-57 at the NIT Season Tip-Off. About a month later, the Hokies went to Stillwater and beat a shorthanded Oklahoma State team 67-61. Both teams are off to tremendous starts. Tech is 6-0 for the first time since winning its first seven games in 1982-83. Oklahoma State is 5-0 for the first time since a 6-0 start three seasons ago. Erick Green averages 24.3 points for the Hokies. Freshman guards Marcus Smart and Phil Forte, high school teammates last season, have made a smooth and successful transition to college ball for the Cowboys.
No. 23 San Diego State (4-1) vs. UCLA (5-2) (Saturday, 10 p.m. ESPNU)
In the preseason, this appeared to be a Top 25 matchup. Who could have known that UCLA would be the participant in this John Wooden Classic game to already have fallen from the rankings? The Bruins need to restore their image with a win over a Top 25 team. Since Nov. 19, UCLA has lost to Georgetown and Cal Poly. Center Joshua Smith and guard Tyler Lamb have left the program and coach Ben Howland is under fire. Meanwhile, Steve Fisher’s Aztecs are cruising along and have won 25 straight games against teams from California. Since the two programs haven’t met in almost 21 years, San Diego State wouldn’t mind kicking some more sand in the faces of the Bruins. Still, Fisher offered his support to Howland. "When you are UCLA and you have 11 national championship banners there, that's pressure," Fisher said. "They have the No. 1 recruiting class in the country. So there are immense expectations. And yet, Ben's been there, done that, took them to three straight Final Fours. He knows what he's doing."
George Mason (5-2) vs. Maryland (5-1) (Sunday, 2:30 p.m., Fox Sports Net National)
Maryland’s only loss came to Kentucky 72-69 in the season opener on Nov. 9. After an impressive win over Northwestern 77-57 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, the Terps will likely gain points in the polls with a good performance in the BB&T Classic at Washington. Dez Wells scored a career-high 23 points as Maryland destroyed Northwestern in the second half. Coach Mark Turgeon has Maryland rebound, averaging 46.5, which ranks third in the nation. The Terps share the ball too, with 18.7 assists (ranked sixth in the nation) and are shooting 48 percent from the field. That’s a pretty good combination. George Mason has lost to Bucknell on the road and New Mexico (in the Paradise Jam). But all eyes will be on the Terps in this game.