Men's Basketball Games of the Week 12/2 - 12/4

Men's Basketball Butler at Indiana

Men’s Games of the Week 12/2 – 12/4


If you were one of those people who didn’t like looking for your top games of the week, your high-major games of the week and your mid-major games in three different places, welcome to a new and simpler format. From here on out, your top games – regardless of conferences – will be in one place. Of course, you really won’t notice this until January when league play gets underway, but this is a great example of one-stop shopping. Some great games are on the weekend calendar, including a little game between North Carolina and Kentucky on Saturday.


No. 9 FLORIDA AT No. 3 SYRACUSE (7 p.m. Friday at Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York)

This game would already be a great one if there weren’t so much drama surrounding it off the court. The firing of Jim Boeheim’s longtime assistant, Bernie Fine, has dwarfed the Orange’s hot start this season but hasn’t caused them to lose a game. That will be tested Friday when the Gators come to New York for a strong non-conference matchup. Florida (5-1) is on a four-game winning streak that includes a recent 96-70 win over Stetson. Kenny Boynton averages 18.5 points a game and Bradley Beal is at 17 points per game, leading Florida to a third-best 90.8 points per game and a sixth-best 42.7 rebounds per contest. Syracuse (7-0), one of the leaders of the Big East, will not take its Southeastern Conference opponent lightly. The Orange are 18th best in the nation (83.1 points) in scoring and 13th in assists (18 per game). Syracuse has a 2-1 edge in the all-time series, which is played as part of the Big East/SEC Challenge this season.


No. 17 VANDERBILT AT No. 6 LOUISVILLE (9 p.m. Friday at KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky)

The second of two big games Friday night in the Big East/SEC Challenge pits the Commodores of the SEC against an unbeaten Louisville squad that will be one of the Big East heavyweights once again. The Commodores just had their four-game winning streak snapped Nov. 28 when Xavier beat them 82-70 in overtime. Vanderbilt (5-2) will want to do well here because the team has one game after this against Davidson (Dec. 7) before a 10-day break. John Jenkins is Vanderbilt’s leading scorer at 20.2 points per game, which includes a 42.9 percent mark from the perimeter. Louisville has a 6-0 mark despite a middle-of-the-pack 68.7 points per game. The Wildcats topped Long Beach State 79-66 in their last game as Chris Smith scored 18 points and Chane Benahan contributed 13 points and seven rebounds. Louisville leads the series 8-7, but the teams haven’t met since a 78-62 Louisville win in February 1994.


No. 4 NORTH CAROLINA AT No. 1 KENTUCKY (12 p.m. Saturday at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky)

Hardcore basketball fans in the state of Kentucky are going to have a great time this weekend. If only North Carolina hadn’t lost to UNLV in the Rebels’ tournament, this could have been a battle of 1 vs. 2 and two unbeaten squads. Instead, the Tar Heels (6-1) go up against Kentucky (7-0) in a huge non-conference clash between ACC and SEC programs. This is the first time the teams have seen each other since the East Regional finals of last year’s NCAA tournament, won 76-69 by Kentucky. Otherwise, North Carolina holds a 22-12 edge in this series. North Carolina is ranked in the top 20 in points, rebounds, assists and shooting percentage, with a high of ninth in assists per game (19.1). Kentucky’s 43.7 rebounds ranks second in the nation, and North Carolina and Kentucky are 13th and 14th in scoring, respectively (84.2 and 84.0). This nationally-televised contest could be a classic.


VALPARAISO AT BUTLER (2 p.m. Saturday at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana)

Horizon League play gets underway this weekend with the latest installment of the I-65 series (actually part of I-94 through northwest Indiana is included, but you get the idea), and this should be a good contest to open up. Valparaiso (5-2) rode a five-game winning streak before being hammered 80-47 by Ohio State. Beware of Kevin VanWijk , who has a 14.8 scoring average and a shooting mark of 63.8 percent, and Ryan Broekhoff nearly has a double-double average of 14.3 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. Butler (4-3) would like nothing more than to win this game with a tough test ahead against Xavier four days afterward. Chrishawn Hopkins leads the way at 12.9 points per game.


CENTRAL MICHIGAN AT TEMPLE (4 p.m. Saturday at Liacouras Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

The oddity of this matchup is the teams are in the same conference (Mid-American) when it comes to football, but come basketball season Central Michigan (4-2) stays in the MAC and Temple (3-2) heads back to the Atlantic-10 Conference. The Chippewas are 24th in the nation in Division I (41.3 rebounds per game), which masks a somewhat-weak 67.2 offensive points average. Trey Ziegler’s 17.2 points and 9.3 rebounds pace a CMU team that is on a two-game winning streak following victories against UC-Irvine and Dartmouth. This is the second of three straight MAC crossover games for Temple. The Owls lost 67-64 to Bowling Green and play CMU before a contest against Toledo. Ramone Moore leads Temple with an average of 18 points per game.


No. 12 MARQUETTE AT No. 7 WISCONSIN (4:30 p.m. Saturday at Kohl Center in Madison, Wisconsin)

A Big East/Big Ten non-conference matchup, this is the second game with top-25 implications to be played on Saturday. Marquette is off to a 6-0 start and has top-five marks in scoring (fifth, 88.0), assists (third, 20.5) and shooting percentage (fourth, 53.1) driving that red-hot beginning. Marquette hasn’t played a ranked opponent yet and nearly coughed up a loss in a 59-57 win over Norfolk State, but you can’t ignore a six-game winning streak to start the year. Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder have scoring averages of 19.8 and 19.3 points, respectively. Wisconsin (6-1) nearly took down North Carolina on Wednesday but lost, 60-57, to end the team’s six-game winning streak. Jared Berggren’s 12.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per game are impressive, but Marquette may have better scoring.


OREGON AT BRIGHAM YOUNG (5 p.m. Saturday at Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah)

A non-league matchup between Pac-12 and West Coast Conference foes, this could be an interesting contest to watch. The Ducks (4-1) are on a four-game winning streak following a season-opening loss to ranked Vanderbilt. Look for the Ducks to center their game around E.J. Singler and his 12 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. Oregon’s rebounding attack is rather weak (34.6 per game) and that could hinder the Ducks if Brigham Young (5-2) gets red hot. The Cougars are 10th in Division I at 18.4 assists per game and their shooting percentage of 51.2 is good enough for 13th. Noah Hartsock’s 16 points per game lead the way for BYU, which rebounded from a 17-point loss to Wisconsin to pound Northern Arizona in its last contest. Brigham Young has three games in eight days beginning with the Oregon contest.


PENN AT VILLANOVA (7 p.m. Saturday at The Pavilion in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

The second of two Philadelphia-based games to be played Saturday, this is a true Philly showdown between two city ballclubs. The Quakers (4-4), who play in the Ivy League, have a hot scorer in Zack Rosen (21.4 points per game) but have struggled to find footing in the early stages of the season. Penn barely beat Manhattan 75-72 in its last outing, but it broke a losing streak that included defeats against Wagner, Pittsburgh and James Madison. Villanova (4-2) gets a workout in the Big East, but the Wildcats’ 4-0 start was derailed by first St. Louis and then Santa Clara. Maalik Wayns is Villanova’s hot scorer at 20 points per game, and a 39.8-32.5 edge on the boards could tip this game heavily in favor of Villanova.


NEBRASKA AT CREIGHTON (5:05 p.m. Sunday at Century Link Center in Omaha, Nebraska)

Omaha and Lincoln aren’t that far anyway on Interstate 80, so if the weather holds up Cornhusker fans still licking their wounds that football didn’t play in the Big Ten title game can settle in and watch some basketball of a rivalry nature. Nebraska (4-2) is nine points away from a 6-0 record, with losses by seven against Oregon and two against Wake Forest. Bo Spencer’s 15.5 points and 4.0 assists are tops on a Nebraska team that is middle of the pack in the four top offensive categories. Creighton is off to a 6-0 start and could dominate the Missouri Valley Conference this year. The Bluejays are second in assists per game (22.3), fourth in scoring (88.8) and fifth in field goal percentage (52.9). Creighton beat San Diego State 85-83 in its last outing.


KANSAS STATE AT VIRGINIA TECH (5:30 p.m. Sunday at Cassell Coliseum in Blacksburg, Virginia)

Kansas State is one of three teams remaining in the Big 12 that has not lost yet, as the Wildcats ran their record to 4-0 with a 69-56 victory over George Washington. Rodney McGruder is Kansas State’s leading scorer at 14.3 points, and he also has 5.7 rebounds per game. The Hokies (5-2) just lost 58-55 to Minnesota, meaning Syracuse and the Gophers are the teams to have beaten Virginia Tech this season. The next six games are against lesser opponents, meaning the Hokies could have an impressive record entering Atlantic Coast Conference play. Erick Green has 16.5 points and 2.7 assists to lead V-Tech.



Big East / SEC Invitational

Mountain West / Missouri Valley Challenge