GAME OF THE DAY: No. 5 Michigan State at Texas (4 p.m., CBS)
A banged-up Spartans team travels to Austin for its first true road game of the season on Saturday as Rick Barnes and Texas hope to continue to surpass preseason expectations. Texas has a big chance at home to capitalize on an already strong week after the Longhorns won on the road at No. 14 North Carolina earlier in the week.
The Spartans lone loss on the season is to that same North Carolina team — at the Breslin Center — that Texas outplayed earlier this week, but Michigan State should be more concerned with the health of its own roster over anything else.
Gary Harris (ankle), Matt Costello (mononucleosis) and Travis Trice (foot blister) all missed Tuesday’s win against North Florida and seniors Adreian Payne (plantar fasciitis) and Keith Appling (hip pointer) both played but have missed practice time as they deal with injuries of their own.
One thing to monitor in this one: The battle on the glass.
Texas crashed the glass hard against North Carolina and it led to 21 second-chance points for the No. 7 rebounding team in the country, while Michigan State teams under Tom Izzo are traditionally strong rebounding the ball and the Spartans are also top 50 (No. 41) in rebounding despite all of their injuries.
THE OTHER GAME OF THE DAY: No. 7 Oklahoma State vs. No. 20 Colorado (11:30 p.m., ESPN2)
If you’re up late on the east coast, you’ll want to flip this on to see the matchup of former Big 12 foes in Las Vegas that is led by a strong matchup at guard between All-American candidates Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State) and Spencer Dinwiddie (Colorado).
The second game of a doubleheader in Las Vegas that follows Marquette and New Mexico, this matchup of top-25 teams will mean something for both teams.
Oklahoma State is off to a strong 10-1 start this season, but after a loss to Memphis on December 1st at the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, the Cowboys have now lost three straight games to ranked opponents on neutral floors. If Travis Ford’s bunch wants to make it to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament this year, that will be a trend that will have to change.
Colorado, meanwhile, also sits at 10-1 and is riding the program’s first 10-game win streak since the 1961-62 season after losing its opener this season to Baylor. After a win over Kansas at home earlier this season, the Buffaloes would also love another top-ten victory to add to their resume.
Although Smart leads Oklahoma State in scoring at 18 points a game, he has played more of a facilitating role since the Memphis loss as LeBryan Nash has stepped up in that time to average 17.9 points a game in the Cowboys’ three wins while shooting 57 percent from the field.
CBT’s own Raphielle Johnson will be at this doubleheader and will have more on it later.
WHO’S GETTING UPSET? No. 22 UMass at Florida State (2 p.m.)
Unbeaten UMass (10-0) travels to Tallahassee for a tough Saturday afternoon tilt with the Seminoles. Chaz Williams is one of the most dynamic point guards in the country for UMass and the 5-foot-9 senior is averaging 16.3 points and 7.9 assists (second in the nation) a game but Williams and the Minutemen will face a Florida State team that has played pretty well against ranked opponents this season.
The Seminoles (7-3) thrashed VCU earlier in the year when the Rams were highly ranked and Florida State also lost to Michigan and Florida by a combined total of three points.
Florida State is also coming off of a strong overall effort against Charlotte earlier in the week, as they beat the 49ers 106-62 in a game that the Seminoles dominated in nearly every facet.
This will also be the first major road test for UMass, as they’ve only faced Eastern Michigan and Ohio on the road this season.
MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE DAY: USC Upstate at Charlotte, (7 p.m.)
I just mentioned Charlotte’s 106-62 loss to Florida State from earlier in the week, and the 49ers have an interesting home game against USC Upstate on Saturday as they try to improve upon Tuesday’s effort.
Charlotte (7-3) will host the Spartans (6-5) as USC Upstate is fresh off of a big road win at South Carolina on Thursday and USC Upstate has three players that can really score for them.
Senior 6-foot-6 forward Torrey Craig (17.7 points, seven rebounds per game) leads the Spartans in scoring and rebounding and the Atlantic Sun Player of the Year candidate is joined by junior guard Ty Greene (14.5 points per game) and senior 6-foot-8 forward Ricardo Glenn (12.5 points per game) as double-digit scoring threats. All three players averaged double-digits in scoring this season and last.
Charlotte will look to bounce back, led by a balanced group that features five players currently averaging 11 or more points per game.
Perimeter shooting could be a factor in this one as well. USC Upstate is shooting a dreadful 30 percent from beyond the are this season and Charlotte has struggled in that area at times as well, including going cold during the second half of the Florida State loss.
FIVE THINGS TO KNOW
1) When Rick Byrd’s Belmont squad plays at Rupp Arena today against No. 19 Kentucky, they certainly won’t be scared of the talented Wildcats and Big Blue Nation. Belmont already owns a road victory at North Carolina this season and won’t be afraid of the big-time atmosphere as a smaller conference team.
2) A tremendous matchup in the backcourt is the focus of Notre Dame vs. No. 3 Ohio State as the two teams face in New York at the Gotham Classic. Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott might be the best defensive backcourt in the country early this season and they’ll have their hands full with Irish guards Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant.
3) Start the college hoops day off right with the 12:00 p.m. clash of traditional college basketball powers Georgetown and Kansas. The Hoyas visit Phog Allen Fieldhouse unranked, but still pose a major threat thanks to their talent and experience. The No. 18 Jayhawks continue their demanding non-conference schedule and it’ll be interesting to see how their point guards play against the experienced backcourt of Georgetown.
4) The Braggin’ Rights between Illinois and Missouri is one of the top rivalries in the Midwest in college hoops and this year Illinois (9-2) and No. 23 Missouri (10-0) clash in St. Louis in what should be a fun contest. Missouri has won four straight games in the series as the two teams will play in front of a sold-out crowd that will be split between the two fan bases.
5) Oregon will be an interesting team to track today in a home game against BYU as the No. 13 Ducks still work Dominic Artis and Ben Carter back in the lineup following their nine-game suspensions for selling University-issued apparel earlier in the season. Artis and Carter made their season debuts in a Tuesday win over UC Irvine and Artis saw 26 minutes of action as head coach Dana Altman looks to work those two into an already deep rotation. Also, if BYU’s offense gets back on track from a recent mini-slide, this game could turn into a shootout very quickly.
THE REST OF THE TOP 25:
- No. 6 Louisville at Florida International, 6:00 p.m.
- Rider at No. 8 Villanova, 4:00 p.m., Fox Sports 1
- Davidson at No. 14 North Carolina, 5:00 p.m., ESPNU
- Southeast Louisiana State at No. 15 Memphis, 8:00 p.m., ESPN3
- Fresno State at No. 16 Florida, 4:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1
- No. 21 Gonzaga at Kansas State, 3:30 p.m., ESPN2
- McNeese State at No. 24 San Diego State, 10:00 p.m.
- East Carolina at North Carolina State, 12:00 p.m., ESPN3
- Middle Tennessee at Cincinnati, 2:00 p.m., ESPN3
- Youngstown State at St. John’s, 2:00 p.m., Fox Sports 1
- Butler at Evansville, 3:05 p.m.
- Northern Iowa at Virginia, 4:00 p.m., ESPN3
- Georgia Tech at Vanderbilt, 4:00 p.m., ESPN3
- UAB at LSU, 5:00 p.m., ESPN3
- VCU vs. Virginia Tech, 5:30 p.m., NBCSN
- Texas Tech at Arizona State, 6:30 p.m., PAC12
- Oklahoma vs. Texas A&M, 7:00 p.m., ESPNU
- Xavier at Alabama, 7:00 p.m., ESPN3
- UTEP at Washington State, 8:30 p.m., PAC12
- Stanford vs. Michigan, 8:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1
- Marquette vs. New Mexico, 9:00 p.m., ESPNU