GAME OF THE DAY: No. 4 Arizona vs. No. 6 Duke (6:00 p.m., ESPN)
This one’s an easy choice, as two teams with hopes of winning a national title face off at Madison Square Garden. One thing to watch: how both teams defend on the perimeter. Duke’s issues have been well-publicized to this point in the season, and while Arizona has improved defensively the Blue Devils represent their biggest test to date (by far). The freshmen, Arizona’s Aaron Gordon and Duke’s Jabari Parker, will receive a lot of the pregame hype but the veterans for each team will be key as well.
THE OTHER GAME OF THE DAY: No. 20 Creighton vs. San Diego State (9:30 p.m., ESPN2)
Both teams advanced to the semifinals of the Wooden Legacy with impressive efforts on Thursday night, as Creighton whipped Arizona State and SDSU took care of the College of Charleston. To borrow an old boxing saying, “styles make fights,” and in this one there’s are two questions to consider. One, how will Creighton deal with San Diego State’s length? And two, will SDSU be able to knock down enough shots to keep up with one of the nation’s best offenses? Creighton’s Doug McDermott will be a difficult matchup for San Diego State, but don’t ignore junior guard Devin Brooks either. SDSU will counter with versatile forwards J.J. O’Brien and Winston Shepard III.
WHO’S GETTING UPSET?: No. 15 Florida (vs. Florida State, 7:30 p.m. ESPN2)
The powers that be have moved this rivalry back to the day before the two football programs meet, with the two prior meetings taking place in December. Florida’s won the last four meetings in the series, but the combination of Gator injuries and Seminole interior depth make an upset possible. Scottie Wilbekin is back, which is a positive for Florida, but FSU has the big men (led by Okaro White and Robert Gilchrist) to give the Florida front court trouble. Five Seminoles are averaging at least 10.5 points per game, and leading scorer Ian Miller should bounce back after scoring just two points in their win over Northeastern.
MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE DAY: Green Bay vs. Harvard, Midnight (CBS SN)
If capable it would be wise to stay up for this one, as the Crimson will be tested by the Phoenix. Green Bay has four players averaging double figures with high-scoring guard Keifer Sykes (21.5 ppg) leading the way, and in Alec Brown they’ve got one of the Horizon League’s best big men. Harvard certainly doesn’t lack for depth, and forward Steve Moundou-Missi has been much-improved. Given their non-conference schedule Harvard may need to win the Great Alaska Shootout from a resume standpoint, but it won’t be an easy feat to pull off.
FIVE THINGS TO KNOW:
1) Villanova is off to a 5-0 start and Jay Wright’s team will have the opportunity to show just how much they’ve improved in their matchup with No. 2 Kansas. The question for the Wildcats is a simple one: can they keep the Jayhawk big men from dominating the glass? If so, Villanova has a shot at the upset?
2) Another team off to a good start is 5-1 SMU, and the Mustangs take on Virginia in the Corpus Christi Challenge. Junior college transfer Yanick Moreira has received high praise for his play thus far, but the task of slowing down Virginia’s Joe Harris will be a difficult one for the SMU perimeter players.
3) No. 1 Michigan State is back in action, as they host a struggling Mount St. Mary’s squad. So what’s there to watch? Michigan State’s approach. Elite teams take care of overmatched opponents quickly and efficiently, and after the Spartans’ struggles with Columbia and Portland it will be interesting to see if they show improved focus against the Mountaineers.
4) Butler’s game against No. 5 Oklahoma State will be an interesting one given the Bulldogs’ ability to frustrate opponents with their defense. Kellen Dunham and Khyle Marshall combined to score 62 points on Thursday, and a similar effort may be needed to knock off Marcus Smart and co.
5) Memphis may not be facing a ranked team in LSU tonight, but the Bayou Bengals have the size needed to test the young Memphis big men. Memphis may have dominated an overmatched Siena team on Thursday but they were inconsistent on the glass, and a similar effort will get them beat by LSU.
THE TOP 25:
- Mount St. Mary’s at No. 1 Michigan State, 1:00 p.m. (BTN)
- Villanova vs. No. 2 Kansas, 9:30 p.m. (NBC SN)
- No. 6 Duke vs. No. 4 Arizona, 6:00 p.m. (ESPN)
- Butler vs. No. 5 Oklahoma State, 1:30 p.m. (ESPN)
- North Florida at No. 7 Ohio State, 5:00 p.m. (BTN)
- Southern Miss at No. 9 Louisville, 7:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
- Pacific at No. 14 Oregon, 3:00 p.m. (Pac-12 Network)
- Florida State at No. 15 Florida, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
- Northwestern vs. No. 19 UCLA, 11:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
- San Diego State vs. No. 20 Creighton, 9:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
- LSU vs. No. 21 Memphis, 5:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
- Coppin State at No. 22 Michigan, 3:00 p.m. (BTN)
- UTEP vs. No. 23 Iowa, 7:00 p.m. (NBC SN)
- George Washington vs. No. 25 Marquette, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN)
- Xavier vs. Tennessee, 1:00 p.m. (AXS)
- Alabama vs. Drexel, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
- USC vs. Wake Forest, 3:30 p.m. (AXS)
- Georgia Tech vs. Ole Miss, 4:30 p.m. (NBC SN)
- Northeastern at VCU, 7:00 p.m.
- Penn State vs. St. John’s, 7:00 p.m.
- SMU vs. Virginia, 7:30 p.m. (CBS SN)
- IPFW at Illinois, 8:00 p.m. (ESPN3)