SI.com's Seth Davis weighs in on the five hottest topics in college hoops.
Saturday, Dec. 17
6:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
No. 1 Syracuse (10-0) at North Carolina State (6-3) The last time the Orange reached the top of the AP poll, they lasted one week. I'm guessing this time their reign at the top will last longer, but not because the Wolfpack will be a walkover. Syracuse will be playing its first road game of the season, and all of N.C. State's losses have come against good teams (Vanderbilt, Indiana and at Stanford). It will be interesting to see Scott Wood, N.C. State's 6-foot-6 junior sharpshooter, go up against that 2-3 zone, but Syracuse has too much firepower. Keep your eye on sophomore guard Dion Waiters, who had career highs in points (19) and steals (six) in a rout of George Washington last weekend.
4 p.m. (CBS)
Memphis (5-3) at No. 4 Louisville (9-0) Louisville is slowly crawling its way back to health. Freshmen Kevin Ware, a 6-4 guard, is now academically eligible. The Cardinal's best rebounder, 6-7 forward Rakeem Buckles, made his season debut last week against IUPUI and rested against Fairleigh Dickinson last weekend, though he's expected to suit up Saturday. With so many injuries, Rick Pitino has once again had to do more with less. Meanwhile, Josh Pastner's group is a bit on the ropes following Sunday's loss at home to a good Murray State team. The Tigers have some talent, but they need more senior leadership from Wesley Witherspoon, and the KFC Yum! Center is not the place to get well.
2 p.m. (BYUtv)
No. 6 Baylor (7-0) at BYU (8-2) This game is being billed as Baylor's first big test. I'm not so sure. Yes, the Cougars are traditionally tough to beat in Provo, but this is not a particularly strong BYU team. Baylor, however, is strong, and it'll be a little stronger now that point guard Gary Franklin, a mid-semester transfer from Cal, is on the roster. The Bears are still figuring out their identity on the perimeter, but they are as long and athletic up front as any team in the country.
2:30 p.m. (Sun Sports)
No. 22 Texas A&M (8-1) vs. No. 13 Florida (7-2) at Sunrise, Fla. Texas A&M has been in the witness protection program since we last saw it squeaking out a one-point win over St. John's in Madison Square Garden on Nov. 18. The Aggies, who just got their best player, junior swingman Khris Middleton, back from injury, have been in College Station toying with low-level opponents since then. The Gators will obviously present a stiffer challenge. Kenny Boyton was terrific in Florida's rout of Rider, scoring 26 points on 5-of-9 three-point shooting, but against a stronger defensive team the Gators will need to make sure they establish Patric Young inside.
Noon (Fox Sports Detroit)
No. 17 Mississippi State (9-1) at Detroit (5-7) Detroit has been one of the bigger disappointments this season. I thought they'd be well-positioned to make a run at the Horizon League title, but losses to the likes of George Washington, Bowling Green and Youngstown State have put them under .500. Yes, 6-10 senior forward Eli Holman returned from suspension last week, but that won't help much against the Bulldogs' inside duo of Arnett Moultrie and Renardo Sidney. Moultrie has been battling tendinitis in his knee and did not play in the Bulldogs' most recent game against Florida Atlantic, but MSU coach Rick Stansbury told me he expects Moultrie to play on Saturday.
5 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
UNLV (9-2) at No. 19 Illinois (10-0) UNLV has lost two of the four games it has played since upsetting then-No. 1 North Carolina, but they both came on the road against good teams, Wichita State and Wisconsin. Problem is, now the Runnin' Rebels are playing another good team in a de facto road game at the United Center. Sophomore forward Mike Moser has drifted back to Earth the last two weeks, having scored in the single digits in his last three games. He's going to be facing a budding superstar in Meyers Leonard, Illinois' gifted 7-1 sophomore center.
4:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Notre Dame (7-4) at No. 18 Indiana (9-0) If this were a stronger Fighting Irish team, I'd be inclined to pick the upset. Indiana is a young team riding high from an epic win over Kentucky, and the Hoosiers did not have a midweek game because of final exams. However, Notre Dame has been reeling ever since it lost its best player, Tim Abromaitis, to a season-ending knee injury. Christian Watford has been a hero in Bloomington since nailing that dramatic three-pointer, but the straw that stirs Indiana's drink is Victor Oladipo, an attacking, high-energy, 6-5 sophomore guard who is averaging 12 points and five rebounds per game.
2 p.m. (CBS)
Butler (4-6) vs. Purdue (9-2) Remember how Butler missed every possible shot, every possible way during the NCAA championship game? Well, the Bulldogs haven't made many since. They're currently ranked 315th in the country in field goal shooting (38.4 percent) and 305th in three-point shooting (27.8). That's bad news against a Purdue team that, as usual, plays tough defense (14th nationally in defensive efficiency) and takes care of the ball (fourth in turnover percentage).
2:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Temple (6-2) at Texas (8-2) This is a tough game to handicap. On the one hand, Temple's half-court, slug-it-out style presents a tough matchup for a young Texas team that likes to get out and go. On the other hand, if you can't beat a good-but-not-great team like Temple at home, you're probably not an NCAA tournament team. Well, I think Texas is a tournament team. The Longhorns also have to be heartened that 6-7 freshman forward Jaylen Bond just had his best game of the season, going for 18 points and 12 rebounds in an easy win over Nicholls State.
4 p.m. (CBS)
Arizona (7-3) vs Gonzaga (6-2) Seattle, Wash. The Zags are not going anywhere this season unless they tighten up the D. They're ranked 239th in the country in defensive field goal percentage (44.4) and they're 311th in three-point percentage (38.8). They also let Michigan State's Draymond Green hang a career-high 34 points on them last Saturday. If this were late February instead of mid-December, I might go with Arizona in a mild upset, but the young Wildcats are still working their own issues right now, especially in the backcourt. Arizona's players are too fast and athletic for this team to be ranked 269th in the country in tempo.
Last Pickoff: 4-6 Overall: 22-8
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