Xavier Thames

Weekend Preview: Sunday’s big, and not just on gridiron

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GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 21 San Diego State at No. 16 Kansas, Sun. 4:30 p.m.

This is a huge game not only for San Diego State, but for the Mountain West as well. The Aztecs have been one of the more surprising teams in the country this season, but they don’t exactly have a ton of great wins. They beat Creighton and Marquette, who both could end up in the tournament, and knocked off Washington as well, but that’s it. But here’s the thing: even that mediocre non-conference schedule places SDSU near the top of the MWC in terms of performance outside the league. The Mountain West as a whole needs this win.

Can they get it? Well, it’s not going to be easy. Andrew Wiggins was the talk of Lawrence entering the season, but over the course of the last month, the Jayhawks have become a team that pounds the ball into the paint. Joel Embiid, Perry Ellis, Tarik Black. Those are the guys that have shined for Kansas in recent games, and I’m not sure the Aztecs have the front court to deal with them. It will be interesting to see what happens when Wiggins guards Winston Shepard as well. Shepard has been sensational the last three games.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 10 Oregon at No. 20 Colorado, Sun. 5:00 p.m.

Oregon barely hung on to beat Utah on the road on Thursday night, meaning that the Ducks will head into Sunday’s visit to Colorado without a loss on their record and with a chance to sweep what is the most difficult road trip in the Pac-12 this season. These two teams are Arizona’s two biggest challengers in the conference.


  • No. 22 Iowa at No. 4 Wisconsin, Sun. 8:00 p.m.: The Jarrod Uthoff bowl! Wisconsin has been one of the most impressive teams nationally this season, but Iowa is a couple of ugly possessions away from being undefeated with wins over Villanova and Iowa State.
  • No. 5 Michigan State at Indiana, Sat. 2:00 p.m.: Indiana really needs to start piling up quality wins, and what better place to start than knocking off Michigan State. The Spartans are starting to hit their stride, however. Once they get healthy, this team will be scary-good.
  • No. 7 Duke at Notre Dame, Sat. 4:00 p.m.: Two interesting story lines here: Notre Dame will be getting their first real test post-Jerian Grant, and they’ll be doing so as Mike Brey takes on his former boss, Mike Krzyzewski, in the first ACC game for the Irish.
  • Virginia at Florida State, Sat. 4:00 p.m.: Does anyone have any idea how the ACC is going to play out once you get past Syracuse, Duke and North Carolina? Both FSU and UVA have to pieces for finish fourth in the league.
  • Oklahoma at Texas, Sat. 8:00 p.m.: The Red River Shootout! The Sooners are one of the more underrated teams in the Big 12, but Texas has been arguably the most surprising team in the country.
  • Cincinnati at No. 18 Memphis, Sat. 12:00 p.m.: It seems like everyone is talking about UConn and Louisville in the American, but Memphis and Cincinnati are both good enough to make some noise in league play. This will be a good gauge for a Bearcat team that has had some trouble scoring.


  • No. 13 Iowa State at Texas Tech, Sat. 1:30 p.m.: There are few teams in the country that have a bigger difference between home and road performance than the Cyclones.
  • No. 17 UConn at SMU, Sat. 2:00 p.m.: UConn is overrated. It’s that simple. On nights where Shabazz Napier doesn’t go crazy, they are very, very beatable. Ask Houston, who picked the Huskies off on New Year’s Eve.
  • No. 6 Oklahoma State at Kansas State, Sat. 4:00 p.m.: Oklahoma State will be adjusting to life without Michael Cobbins — or Stevie Clark? — and will be doing so against a Kansas State team that has come on strong in the last month.
  • Northern Iowa at No. 8 Wichita State, Sun. 2:00 p.m.: The Shockers are going to be a tough team to beat at home, but if anyone is going to do it, it’s going to be Northern Iowa or Indiana State.


1) Yale heads to St. Louis to square off with the Billikens at 5:30 p.m. on the NBC Sports Network. You can stream the game online on the NBC Sports Live Extra App.

2) Pacific will pay a visit to No. 24 Gonzaga at 8:00 p.m. on Saturday. The Tigers have been the biggest surprise in the WCC this year.

3) Both of the top two teams in the country will be playing at home at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday. Washington will visits No. 1 Arizona after whipping Arizona State and Miami will head up to No. 2 Syracuse.

4) A couple of good games in the Big East this weekend. Butler visits Xavier at 2:00 p.m. Saturday while St. John’s pays a visit to Georgetown at 1:00 p.m.

5) In the ‘Are either of these teams for real?’ bowl, Pitt will head down to Raleigh in their ACC opener to take on N.C. State at noon Saturday.

Marcus Paige, Joel Berry lead No. 9 North Carolina past No. 2 Maryland

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — He’s back.

For the first time this season — and for the first time in more than a year that he hasn’t been hampered with some kind of foot or ankle injury — Marcus Paige donned a North Carolina jersey, and it didn’t take him long to find the form that made him the NBCSports.com Preseason National Player of the Year.

On the first Tar Heel possession, Paige came off of a ball-screen, drove the lane and found Kennedy Meeks at the rim for a layup. Not 30 seconds later, he came off of a down screen and buried a three. Paige would finish with 20 points and five assists as No. 9 North Carolina put together a fairly resounding win over No. 2 Maryland in the Dean Dome on Tuesday night, winning 89-81.

Paige finished 7-for-12 from the floor and 4-for-5 from beyond the arc, hitting a number of threes in the second half that helped hold off a Maryland push sparked by their own all-american point guard, Melo Trimble.

Trimble was erratic early on, committing three turnovers in the first six minutes and eight on the night, but it was his play at the end of the first half and early second half that kept North Carolina from blowing their doors. At one point, Maryland was down 32-19 and in danger of getting run out of Tobacco Road.

In total, Trimble finished with 23 points and 12 assists, hitting four big threes during that stretch. He either scored or assisted on 11 of Maryland’s first 12 second half field goals.

As good as Paige was, the bigger story may actually be Joel Berry II. He took two dumb threes in the first half — which played a role in Maryland being able to make this a game — and he missed a few free throws late, but overall he was terrific. He finished with 14 points and five assists, making 3-of-5 threes and turning the ball over just twice. He’s clearly beat Nate Britt out at the point guard spot, and his ability to take pressure off of Paige as a secondary ball-handler and playmaker is huge.

(More to come from Chapel Hill…)

VIDEO: Melo Trimble drops Nate Britt with a crossover

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North Carolina is hosting No. 2 Maryland in a heated contest in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Terps sophomore guard Melo Trimble is playing very well and part of his performance was dropping North Carolina’s Nate Britt with a crossover in the second half.

(H/T: The Cauldron)