Men's Basketball Games of the Weekend 12/16 - 12/18

Men's Basketball Butler at Indiana

Men’s Basketball Games of the Weekend 12/16 – 12/18


This weekend’s action resembles that of a thick sandwich, the type you might see Dagwood eating in the Blondie comic strip. The pieces of bread are the games on Friday and Sunday, one Friday and two on Sunday. The meat in the middle is 10 Saturday games, including some strong top-25 matchups and a couple of contests between winning teams that might prove interesting. Some of these could potentially be NCAA tournament matchups, but three months sits between here and the Big Dance.


WEBER STATE AT No. 25 CALIFORNIA (10:30 p.m. Friday at Haas Pavilion in Berkeley, California)

The standout play of Damian Lillard, who averages 26.9 points, 9.0 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game, has driven Weber State so far. The Wildcats (6-2), the only team in the Big Sky Conference that has two overall losses, is the No. 22 scoring team in Division I at 80.3 points per game thanks in part to Lillard’s strong shooting. Weber State has lost games to St. Mary and Brigham Young but beat Southern Utah 84-66 in its last contest. California (8-2) is strong at assists (17th, 16.6) and shooting (44th, 47.6 percent), and that has helped the Golden Bears do well. California was thumped by Missouri earlier this season and lost by one point to San Diego State, but its two-game win streak includes victories over San Jose State and Jackson State. Allen Crabbe leads California at 15.8 points and 5.8 rebounds a game.


No. 13 BAYLOR AT BRIGHAM YOUNG (2 p.m. Saturday at Marriott Center in Provo, Utah)

A big West-Southwest matchup takes place earlier in the day as Big 12 unbeaten Baylor travels to Utah to face a West Coast Conference opponent also having a good season. Baylor is off to an 8-0 start and ranks top 50 in scoring, rebounds, assists and shooting percentage (19th, 49.1 percent), but the level of competition has not been the best. Baylor has beaten Prairie View, Northwestern and Bethune-Cookman in its last three games, helped along by Perry Jones III’s 15.7 scoring average. Including this game, Baylor has three games left before it hits a rough three-game stretch that includes West Virginia, Mississippi State and Texas A&M. As for Brigham Young (8-2), its 18.2 assists per game ranks 10th in the nation as Anson Wilder and Charles Abouo combined for 6.3 per game. Brigham Young has losses to Utah State and Wisconsin but is on a four-game winning streak, including victories against Northern Arizona, Oregon, Weber State and Utah. Saint Mary’s, BYU and Gonzaga have been top WCC teams to watch in the early stretch.


BUTLER VS. PURDUE (2 p.m. Saturday at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana)

The first of two games in the 2011 Crossroads Classic pits Butler against a strong Boilermaker squad that could be among the favorites in the Big Ten when all is said and done. Much has already been written about Butler (4-6) and how the program finally appears to be heading down after two strong years, and a 38.4 percent shooting mark that ranks toward the bottom of the Division I pack is solid evidence. Butler has lost three straight games to Valparaiso, Xavier and Ball State, and that could very well reach four games on Saturday. Gonzaga and Stanford follow so it doesn’t get any easier. Khyle Marshall’s 10.5 points a game leads the Bulldogs. As for Purdue (9-2), its losses have been against Alabama and Xavier and both were by single digits. Purdue’s current two-game winning streak is against Western Carolina and Eastern Michigan, but things will get a little testier for the Boilermakers once Big Ten play begins. 


No. 16 TEXAS A&M VS. No. 12 FLORIDA (2:30 p.m. Saturday at Bank Atlantic Center in Sunrise, Florida)

This game is part of the annual MetroPCS Orange Bowl Classic held each year, which accounts for the trip to Sunrise. These teams have not faced each other since the 1992-93 season, when they played the second of a home-and-home series (each team split a game in that series, by the way). Texas A&M (8-1) lost to Mississippi State in the third game of the season but has a six-game win streak since then, but victories over Stephen Austin, Sam Houston State and Louisiana-Monroe don’t exactly light the world on fire. Khris Middleton averages 15 points a game and Ray Turner averages 13 points and 6.3 rebounds, so he is the team’s top threat. Florida (7-2) has a third-best 86.8 scoring average and an eighth-best 18.3 assists per game, and its losses were to two highly-ranked teams in Ohio State and Syracuse. Florida has beaten Arizona and Rider in its last two games; Kenny Boynton’s 18.7 points and 3.1 assists lead the way for the Gators.


TEMPLE AT TEXAS (2:30 p.m. Saturday at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas)

A strong Atlantic-10 squad goes up against Big 12 muscle in a Saturday afternoon contest. The Owls (6-2) are on a three-game roll with victories over Central Michigan, Toledo and Villanova, and Temple could be a match for the Longhorns. Temple’s losses are to Purdue and Bowling Green, two very respectable teams that could cause problems in their own conferences. Micheal Eric averages 11.3 rebounds per game, which is pretty good considering the team as a whole ranks around the middle in boarding. Temple’s main strength is dishing the ball, with 16 assists a game (31st overall). Texas (8-2) has an 18th-best 80.8 points per game and a big contest against North Carolina coming up on Wednesday, so it might be easy to look ahead. After November losses to Oregon State and North Carolina State, Texas is on a six-game winning streak and has beaten Texas State and Nicholls State in recent games.


ARIZONA VS. GONZAGA (4 p.m. Saturday at Key Arena in Seattle, Washington)

Billed as the “State Farm Battle in Seattle”, one of the Pac-12’s toughest teams goes up against the West Coast Conference’s elite. Arizona (7-3) ranks around the middle in most every offensive category, but its losses have been against decent programs like Mississippi State, San Diego State and Florida (the latter game in overtime). Arizona beat Clemson 63-47 in its last contest, as Solomon Hill contributed 13 points, seven rebounds and six assists in the victory. Gonzaga (6-2) is on a downward swing at the moment, having dropped two of its last three games. The Bulldogs lost to Illinois and Michigan State before recovering for a win over Oral Roberts. Elias Harris led Gonzaga in this game with 12 points and 10 rebounds.


No. 24 MEMPHIS AT No. 2 LOUISVILLE (4 p.m. Saturday at KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky)

This is not the strong Memphis club that John Calipari used to coach, but the Tigers could make things tough for Louisville in a potential “trap game” before the holidays. Louisville (10-0) has an average of 40.9 rebounds per game, good for 18th in Division I, behind Gorgui Dieng’s 9.0 average and the 8.1 rebounds a game Chane Benahan pulls down. The only ranked team the Cardinals have beaten is Vanderbilt, and that was in overtime; Louisville has wins over Indiana Purdue-Indianapolis and Fairleigh Dickinson in its last two games. Louisville would like nothing more than a 13-0 start before a pair of year-end games against Georgetown and Kentucky. Memphis has an 81.1 scoring average, 15th among Division I programs. Despite that, Memphis had its three-game win streak broken in a 76-72 loss to Murray State, which is currently 10-0. Will Barton and Joe Jackson combined for 47 points in the loss.


NOTRE DAME AT INDIANA (4:30 p.m. Saturday at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana)

This is a weekend where larger city arenas are hosting big college basketball games, and for the first time in a long while this is a game that has meaning. The Hoosiers are flush from last weekend’s thrilling 73-72 win over then top-ranked Kentucky and carry an unbeaten record against a decent Notre Dame squad. The Fighting Irish (7-4) has lost their games in groups, with a pair of two-game losing streaks against Missouri and Georgia and then Gonzaga and Maryland. Notre Dame is on a two-game winning streak with victories over Maine and Dartmouth, with Jack Cooley accounting for 22 points and nine boards in the Dartmouth win. Indiana (9-0) has 83.7 points per game and a 51.2 percent shooting mark, both good for eighth in Division I. The Hoosiers have games against Howard and UMBC after this before they embark on a rough stretch against Michigan State, Ohio State and Michigan to open up the Big Ten.


UNLV AT No. 23 ILLINOIS (5 p.m. Saturday at United Center in Chicago, Illinois)

Not since Jerry Tarkanian’s early-1990s Runnin Rebels squads has UNLV been this dangerous. Since they knocked off North Carolina in late November, UNLV has been sneaking around the perimeter as a sleeper team to watch. Illinois knows it could be in for a fight against a team led by Chace Stanback’s 14.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. UNLV (10-2) has lost to Wichita State and Wisconsin but beat Texas-El Paso 65-54 in its last game. Illinois (10-0) has a 46.9 percent shooting effectiveness, which is good for 66th overall in Division I, but the Fighting Illini are out of the top 100 in every other category. Still, Illinois has pulled off wins against teams like Maryland and Gonzaga, but the majority of its victories are against underperforming schools like Coppin State. Meyers Leonard had 18 points and 11 rebounds in that game. This is a potential upset for UNLV.


No. 1 SYRACUSE AT NORTH CAROLINA STATE (6:30 p.m. Saturday at RBC Center in Raleigh, North Carolina)

The top team in the Big East and the nation makes a trip to Raleigh to face a foe that could be formidable on paper. Syracuse (10-0) has done well to stay undefeated despite all the controversy surrounding sexual allegations with former assistant coach Bernie Fine, and the Orange average 80.1 points and 17.2 assists per game (23rd and 14th, respectively). Kris Joseph averages 13.7 points and 6.1 rebounds per game for Syracuse, which has victories this month against Florida, Marshall and George Washington. Assists per game (34th, 15.9) are NC State’s strongest suit, but the Wolfpack have suffered in losses to Vanderbilt, Indiana and Stanford. NC State just beat North Carolina Central 65-60 in its last contest; obviously, it is not the strongest test for the Wolfpack, but the team is at least on an even keel.


KANSAS STATE VS. No. 20 ALABAMA (10 p.m. Saturday at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri)

The Wildcats can score points, as evidenced by their 76.4 average, but it is their rebounding that has helped Kansas State to a strong start. Kansas State (6-1) is sixth in the nation with a 42.6 average. The Wildcats have only lost to West Virginia, and that game was in double overtime, but Kansas State’s woes lingered over to its last game against North Florida and K-State needed overtime for a 79-68 victory. Thomas Gipson scored 23 points and pulled down 12 rebounds in the win. Alabama (8-2) hasn’t been very effective in the major categories, but the Crimson Tide have been effective enough to post a strong start. Following a 7-0 start Alabama lost to Georgetown and Dayton and then recovered for a 62-54 win over Detroit. JaMychal Green’s 21 points and six rebounds helped Alabama win.


ORAL ROBERTS AT No. 9 XAVIER (1 p.m. Sunday at Cintas Center in Cincinnati, Ohio)

Speaking of Oral Roberts, the Summit League faces off against an Atlantic-10 power in an early-Sunday game in Ohio. The Golden Eagles (7-4) got off to an 0-2 start before a six-game winning streak, but Oral Roberts has hit a rough patch once again. The last three games have seen a loss to Oklahoma, a win over Arkansas-Little Rock and a loss to Gonzaga. Dominique Morrison leads Oral Roberts at 15.9 points per game. Xavier (8-0) has a 17th-best 41 rebounds per game that has the Musketeers off to an unbeaten start. Recent wins against Vanderbilt, Purdue and Cincinnati have been good for the team’s RPI and record. With Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons averaging 35 points per game, things have been solid.


LOYOLA MARYMOUNT AT FLORIDA STATE (3 p.m. Sunday at Donald Tucker Center in Tallahassee, Florida)

A potential sleeper game has one of the West Coast Conference’s better-known schools going into ACC territory to take on Florida State. Loyola Marymount hasn’t made much noise since the 1990 squad that became nationally known, but this team is off to a 6-4 start. Losses this month to Columbia and North Texas have dulled Marymount’s record slightly, but Loyola Marymount did beat Idaho State 80-72 in overtime in its last contest. Ashley Hamilton’s 15.3 points lead the Lions. As for Florida State (7-3), the Seminoles have a 31st-best 39.8 rebounds per game and a two-game winning streak over Charleston Southern and UNC-Greensboro. The Seminoles lost three straight earlier this season against Harvard, Connecticut and Michigan State, all solid schools.