Previewing a Sneaky Good Saturday of Basketball on TapPosted by Bennet Hayes on December 21st, 2013
This Saturday’s schedule may not shimmer like last week’s did – the face-off between Oklahoma State and Colorado stands as the only game featuring two ranked teams – but dig a little bit and you may like what you find. Or better yet, let us do the digging: Here are four storylines to keep an eye on during this sneaky-good Saturday of college hoops.
Two Storied Programs Meet In Rare Clash
Kansas and Georgetown may have both inhabited the upper reaches of college basketball’s hierarchy for quite some time now, but that doesn’t mean the two programs know each other especially well. Saturday’s meeting at Phog Allen Fieldhouse (12 PM EST, ESPN) will be just the third time the two schools have faced off, although the latest Hoya-Jayhawk matchup was quite recent, coming just two seasons ago at the Maui Invitational. Needless to say, the cast of characters (on both sides) has seen a massive overhaul since that game. While this one is worth watching for the pure novelty of the Hoyas’ maiden voyage to Allen Fieldhouse, there’s more at stake here than just a new twist on history. Kansas seeks to maintain the momentum gained in last weekend’s win over New Mexico, while the Hoyas, firmly off the national radar for the past month, find themselves with a nice opportunity to quell some doubts after a shaky first month. Rock Chalk meets Hoya Saxa – quite a way to kick off the weekend.
Quintet Of Unbeatens To Be Tested
We’ll begin this weekend with twelve unbeaten teams, but keep an eye out perfection-chasers: the rest of the nation is coming for you. No less than five unbeatens face stern Saturday tests, beginning with UMass taking on Florida State in Sunrise, FL (2 PM EST). The Minutemen may be the most vulnerable unbeaten on this Saturday, but capable opponents await Missouri (Illinois, 5:30 PM EST, ESPN2), Ohio State (Notre Dame, 7:30 PM EST, ESPN2) and Oregon (BYU, 10:30 PM EST, PAC12) as well. Save for the BYU-Oregon affair, neutral courts will house all of these match-ups. My lone Christmas wish is for neutral-court games to disappear until March (won’t get it quite yet!), but for those three underdogs, the nonpartisan surroundings can only assist the upset bid. Finally, you will have a hard finding my personal favorite unbeaten on your television today, but Toledo will hope to keep the impossible dream alive (at least for another nine days) when they take on a capable Cleveland State squad at home(2PM EST).
More Cooling Off For Two Once-Hot Coaching Seats?
Two of the country’s hottest coaching seats took a turn for the cooler this week, as both Texas and Stanford picked up massive road victories – at UNC and UConn, respectively. It would be extremely premature to say that Rick Barnes and Johnny Dawkins have already earned themselves another season behind the bench, but Saturday presents each with another massive opportunity towards that end. Coincidentally, opportunity knocks in the form of a titan from the Great Lakes State for both. Texas hosts Michigan State (4 PM EST, CBS), while Stanford faces off against the Michigan (8:30 PM EST) in Brooklyn. Dawkins and the Cardinal hope that their second trip to Brooklyn ends more victoriously than their first, while the Spartans arrival in Austin should jolt the long-lifeless Erwin Center back to life. It’s been a minute since Horns fans have been able to celebrate a gigantic victory in Austin – whether it be on the hardwood or the gridiron. Watch out Sixth Street –that dry spell could end today.
Sin City Doubleheader
Pace yourselves, hoop fans, because this Saturday is saving its best for last. Las Vegas and the MGM Grand will play host to a tantalizing doubleheader, with Marquette and New Mexico (9:00 PM, ESPNU) facing off in an opening act worthy of a Las Vegas show. Both are perennially solid programs off to so-so starts, so make no mistake about it — this game matters. I’d still think it’s unlikely that either misses the Tournament, but with the New Year approaching and each still seeking an identity, it’s probably time to get the ship headed in the right direction. No such shift of in course is necessary for the two teams that will wrap up this doubleheader. Former Big 12 rivals Colorado and Oklahoma State are both off to 10-1 starts, and they will meet in this weekend’s only matchup of ranked teams (11:30 PM EST, ESPN2). If you are looking for an All-American sleeper, I can’t think of a better one than Colorado’s Spencer Dinwiddie, and if you are looking for a showcase opportunity for an All-American sleeper, I can’t think of a better one than an individual matchup with Marcus Smart. Point guard duels don’t come any better than this one, but which star will receive heftier contributions from his supporting cast?
With the games to watch literally spanning the entire face of the clock Saturday afternoon/evening, here’s hoping you brought your marathon shoes – and maybe a little caffeine – to your viewing venue of choice. A sneaky-good Saturday awaits…