GAME OF THE DAY: No. 9 Oklahoma State at No. 15 Kansas (4 p.m., CBS)
CBT’s own Rob Dauster broke down both of our day’s top games yesterday:
This is going to be a doozy. Let’s start with the obvious: Oklahoma State and Kansas are the two best teams in the Big 12. And while the preseason luster of Marcus Smart vs. Andrew Wiggins (who, at the time, were considered the two favorites to win National Player of the Year) has faded a bit, there is still a bit of animosity there. Marcus Smart called out this year’s freshmen class in the preseason. He also infamously did a back-flip after the Pokes knocked off Kansas in Stillwater last year. Add in the intrigue of Bill Self being a graduate of Oklahoma State and, well, you have your pick of storylines heading into this one.
The basketball should be just as intriguing, although I think that Oklahoma State is going to have some trouble with Kansas for one reason: Joel Embiid. He may actually have the highest ceiling of any prospect in this draft class, and as a 7-footer with a low-post game, he is going to give an Oklahoma State team lacking in post front court depth problems. Travis Ford is really going to feel the loss of Michael Cobbins on Saturday.
THE OTHER GAME OF THE DAY: No. 22 Pittsburgh at No. 2 Syracuse (4 p.m., ESPN)
Since having one intriguing game on the docket at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday isn’t enough, why don’t we just go ahead and have the two best teams in the ACC square off at the same time as well. That’s right, I said the “two best teams in the ACC”. Pitt and Syracuse, longtime Big East rivals, are now taking over Tobacco Road. Part of me loves this, part of it breaks my Big East-born-and-raised heart, but what I know for certain is that this matchup doesn’t have any shortage of storylines, either.
As far as the actual game is concerned, I think Pitt actually matches up fairly well with the Orange. Lamar Patterson is the prototype for high-post zone busters given his size and skill, James Robinson isn’t going to be flustered by Syracuse’s length and ability to force turnovers, and the Panthers can get to the offensive glass against the zone. But playing without Durand Johnson, one of their better perimeter shooters, is going to hurt.
WHO’S GETTING UPSET? No. 8 Iowa State at Texas (4 p.m., ESPN3)
The Cyclones have lost two straight games after running off 14 straight to begin the season and on Saturday they’ll face a 13-4 Texas team that should be a tough out at home. This would be a great win for the Longhorns and their tournament profile, and Iowa State has been mediocre on the road in Big 12 play the last few seasons. Will there still be hangover from the Kansas loss for Iowa State? How is the health of DeAndre Kane, even with him playing on Monday night?
MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE DAY: Indiana State at No. 5 Wichita State (4 p.m., ESPN2)
Indiana State is 14-3 and winners of seven straight as they travel to face the Shockers on the road in this MVC thriller. Jake Odum is a solid and experienced mid-major guard and the Sycamores have already faced Saint Louis and knocked off Notre Dame this season, so they won’t be intimidated by the Shockers. Wichita State knows its the hunted in the Missouri Valley conference; can they get through the league unscathed?
FIVE THINGS TO KNOW
1) There are going to be two good games on the NBC Sports Network on Saturday. There will be a double-header, with George Mason heading to Rhode Island (12:30 p.m.) and Fordham visiting No. 24 Saint Louis (2:30 p.m.).
2) Casey Prather will return for the No. 7 Florida Gators, as they travel to Auburn. Prather has missed the last two games for the Gators with swelling in his left knee and is the team’s leading scorer.
3) Chris Jones is expected to miss No. 18 Louisville’s game at Connecticut on Saturday with an oblique injury as the junior college transfer also missed the Houston win on Thursday with the same injury. UConn is coming off a huge AAC win over Memphis and will look to build on that momentum.
4) The No. 16 UMass Minutemen have struggled playing consistently — if it doesn’t involve a furious second-half comeback — and they’ll be tested in a non-conference clash with SoCon leaders Elon. Both of these teams can put up points, but will UMass come out with more focus?
5) Tennessee and No. 13 Kentucky will be an interesting clash for both teams looking for good wins in a struggling SEC. Kentucky really needs to bounce back after its loss on the road to Arkansas and Tennessee and use all of the resume-boosting opportunities it can grab at this point in the season.
THE REST OF THE TOP 25:
- Michigan at No. 3 Wisconsin, 6:00 p.m., ESPN
- No. 4 Michigan State at Illinois, 8:00 p.m., BTN
- DePaul at No. 6 Villanova, 4:00 p.m., FSN
- UNLV at No. 10 San Diego State, 6:05 p.m., CBSSN
- Le Moyne-Owen at No. 17 Memphis, 2:00 p.m., ESPN3
- No. 19 Cincinnati at South Florida, 5:00 p.m., ESPNU
- No. 20 Creighton at Providence, 8:00 p.m., FS1
- USC at No. 21 Colorado, 2:00 p.m., FS1
- North Carolina State at No. 23 Duke, 2:00 p.m., CBS
- No. 25 UCLA at Utah, 4:00 p.m., FS1
- Florida State at Virginia, 12:00 p.m., ESPN3
- Seton Hall at Georgetown, 12:00 p.m., FS1/li>
- West Virginia at Kansas State, 1:30 p.m., ESPN3
- Alabama at Missouri, 2:00 p.m., ESPN
- Wake Forest at Clemson, 4:00 p.m., ESPN3
- Gonzaga at Loyola Marymount, 4:00 p.m., Root Sports
- New Mexico at Fresno State, 7:00 p.m., ESPN3
- Washington at Stanford, 11:00 p.m., ESPNU