GAME OF THE DAY: North Carolina at No. 1 Michigan State, 9:00 p.m. ET
So which North Carolina team shows up tonight? Will it be the one that beat Louisville handily at Mohegan Sun earlier this season, or is it the group that lost to Belmont at home and UAB on the road? The Tar Heels have no depth in their back court and are young at key spots — point guard and center.
Michigan State is going to give the Heels all they can handle at those two spots. Keith Appling and Adreian Payne are both seniors having great seasons that are going to be matchup programs for the Heels. Can UNC’s slow-footed big men chase Adreian Payne off the three-point line? Can the small-ish Nate Britt handle a bigger, more physical Keith Appling? It will be interesting to see what happens in the matchup between James Michael McAdoo and Branden Dawson as well. Dawson is the same kind of physical specimen that McAdoo is, but he’s a lot tougher.
WHO’S GETTING UPSET?: No. 8 Wisconsin at Virginia, 7:00 p.m. ET
Virginia will be getting their second real test of the season after having lost to VCU at home earlier this year. Both the Badgers and the Cavaliers play similar styles: pack-line defense, methodical offense, keying on offensive execution and controlling pace. Where the ‘Hoos have a bit of a size advantage, especially along the perimeter, Wisconsin has three guards and can really spread the floor with their perimeter shooting. Sam Dekker and Joe Harris are both all-american candidates, but I’d expect either Justin Anderson or Akil Mitchell to start out guarding Dekker.
MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE DAY: Louisiana-Lafayette at Louisiana Tech, 7:30 p.m. ET
Louisiana-Lafayette has two of the best mid-major players in the country in Shawn Long and Elfrid Payton, but Louisiana Tech is a tough team to play against with their ability to pressure the ball defensively. Payton is the only player in the country averaging 20 points, five boards, five assists and 2.5 steals.
FIVE THINGS TO KNOW
1) Maryland heads to Columbus to take on No. 5 Ohio State tonight in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The Buckeyes have the best defensive back court in the country and Maryland is playing without their starting point guard.
2) We’re really going to know a lot about New Mexico after their next five games. At New Mexico State tonight, followed by Cincinnati, Kansas, NMSU again and Marquette.
3) Some Big 5 action tonight, as No. 14 Villanova takes on Penn and St. Joseph’s squares off with Temple.
4) Chris Collins will make his triumphant return to North Carolina as Northwestern heads to Raleigh to take on N.C. State in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
5) If you like tough, veteran mid-major programs built around defensive execution, than Cleveland State vs. Drexel may be your Christmas.
THE REST OF THE TOP 25:
- UMKC at No. 7 Louisville, 7:00 p.m. ET
- Delaware State at No. 25 Dayton, 7:00 p.m. ET
- Rutgers at George Washington, 7:00 p.m. ET
- Davidson at Charlotte, 7:00 p.m. ET
- Harvard at Northeastern, 7:00 p.m. ET