Final exams are almost over. The last few days of non-conference play are ahead of us and then the real fun begins. College basketball is about to kick into high gear. And to get us in the mood, there are some intriguing matchups this weekend. Florida meets Arizona in a Top 10 showdown. That’s at the top of our list.
Here are five games you don’t want to miss (all times ET):
No. 5 Florida (7-0) at No. 8 Arizona (7-0) (Saturday, 10 p.m., ESPN)
With such a light schedule of games nationally because of semester exams, this game has been getting a lot of attention all week. And deservedly so, because these are two undefeated teams that have been rising in all the rankings and polls – yet we don’t know too much about either squad at this early stage of the season. Arizona features three freshmen thriving in the low post – Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley and Grant Jerrett. Tarczewski, Ashley, Nick Johnson, and Kevin Parrom are all shooting over 50 percent from the field. The Wildcats have balanced scoring, led by Johnson, Mark Lyons and Solomon Hill. Florida has its share of physical, strong men inside with Patric Young, Will Yeguete and Erik Murphy, so keep your eyes in the lane, where this game might be decided. Foul trouble could play a huge role.
No. 1 Indiana (9-0) vs. Butler (7-2) (Saturday, 2 p.m., CBS)
Indianapolis will feel like the center of the college basketball universe Saturday. The event is called the Close The Gap Crossroads Classic. The doubleheader features Indiana vs. Butler and Purdue vs. Notre Dame. Nothing against Game Two of the twinbill but the focus will be on the nation’s top team and the nation’s ultimate underdog. Indiana is an offensive machine with so many ways to score. Butler has coach Brad Stevens and we’ve come to know him as perhaps the best preparation coach in college basketball. Check out Reid Forgrave’s column on FoxSports.com. The headline is “Never count out Butler Bulldogs.” Butler has its hands full, but Indiana better pay close attention to Butler guard Rotnei Clarke, who is averaging 17.3 points and hitting 45 percent from three-point range. Expect Indiana to be challenged.
|Memphis guard Joe Jackson has been playing well|
No. 6 Louisville (8-1) at Memphis (6-2) (Saturday, 2:30 p.m., Fox Sports Net National)
After Memphis opened the season 2-2, coach Josh Pastner swapped his guards. Joe Jackson and Chris Crawford switched positions. With Crawford at the point and Jackson at shooting guard, the Tigers have won four straight games, including victories over Northern Iowa and Ohio. “I felt Joe and Chris weren’t playing with the confidence level, mentality or swagger I needed them to play with,” Pastner told The Memphis Commercial Appeal. “So we made a little adjustment and what it’s done is allowed them to get back to the level I expected them to be at.” Now Jackson and Crawford can test themselves at another level and that would be against the best backcourt in the nation. Peyton Siva and Russ Smith are having great seasons. And the Cardinals are relentless with their defensive pressure.
Kansas State (7-1) vs. No. 14 Gonzaga (9-1) (Saturday, 9 p.m., ESPN2)
People have been wondering how good Bruce Weber’s team really is after eight games. Weber, the Wildcats and the rest of us will find out during this game at Seattle. K-State doesn’t have to go into The Kennel to play Gonzaga but the Wildcats will definitely be in enemy territory. Weber, in his first year in Manhattan after coaching Illinois, has led the Wildcats to a win over Notre Dame. K-State’s only loss came to Michigan. Senior guard Rodney McGruder has scored 16, 22 and 15 in his last three games. K-State slipped past George Washington 65-62 last Saturday. Gonzaga has been idle since that 85-74 loss to Illinois last Saturday. This is a good test for both teams but a win might lift K-State into the rankings.
West Virginia (4-4) vs. No. 3 Michigan (10-0) (Saturday, 8 p.m., ESPN)
John Beilein coached at West Virginia from 2002-07 and now he faces the Mountaineers in the Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival. Oh yeah, Beilein now has the No. 3 team in the nation at Michigan. It is unlikely West Virginia will find the event too festive. The Wolverines are led by the outstanding guard combination of Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. and West Virginia has struggled against good guards this season. Burke is in the running for national player of the year honors, averaging 17.1 points and 6.9 assists. Hardaway is second in scoring on the team at 14.8 points per game and grabbing 5.5 rebounds. Michigan is the clear favorite here but the connection with Beilein makes the matchup intriguing. Can Bob Huggins find a way to upset the Wolverines?