By Seth Davis
December 20, 2013
The Weekend Forecast
Saturday, Dec. 21
7:30 p.m., ESPN2 Notre Dame vs. No. 3 Ohio State at Madison Square Garden
The Buckeyes have played yet another disappointingly weak nonconference schedule, so facing a Notre Dame squad fresh off a win over Indiana qualifies as a major upgrade. The way LaQuinton Ross has been playing lately, I expect Ohio State to prevail, but a team can very easily get rusty while playing weak competition at home.
4 p.m., CBS No. 5 Michigan State at Texas
You had to feel good for Rick Barnes as Texas somehow closed out a win at North Carolina Wednesday night. Coming into the season, most of us "experts" assumed he was a dead man walking, but the Longhorns, despite having just two juniors and no seniors on their roster, are off to a fabulous start. Michigan State guard Gary Harris has been dealing with a lingering ankle injury and sat out three of the last four games, but it sounds like he'll play in this one.
11:30 p.m., ESPN2 No. 7 Oklahoma State vs. No. 20 Colorado in Las Vegas
This is going to feel like a Sweet Sixteen game. It features two entertaining, athletic teams who are led by big, savvy, All-America-caliber point guards. You know about Marcus Smart, but Colorado's 6-foot-6 junior Spencer Dinwiddie is quickly reaching that stature. In the end, I think the Cowboys will win the game because of their length and speed on the wings (I'm ready to talk more about Le'Bryan Nash if you are), but the Pokes better be ready to play.
10:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network BYU at No. 13 Oregon
Dana Altman has a high-class problem managing the return of point guard Dominic Artis from a nine-game NCAA suspension. Senior Johnathan Loyd has played well as the starter, but there's no question the Ducks are better with Artis in the fold. One problem Altman won't have in this game is the challenge of facing a tough defensive team. The Cougars can put up points with the best of them (Tyler Hawks is 12th in the country in scoring), but they haven't shown any interest in playing D, which is why they've lost four of their last eight games.
Noon, ESPN Georgetown at No. 18 Kansas
The Jayhawks have arguably the best frontcourt in the country, but their guard play has been woeful thus far. They are ranked 298th in the U.S. in turnover margin (-2.2) and 250th in three-point percentage (31.8). Still, this team does not lose at home very often, and I don't expect it to lose against a Georgetown team that has been feasting on weak opponents the last three weeks.
Noon, ESPNU Belmont at No. 19 Kentucky
I think Kentucky fans now realize this Wildcats squad is not as good as the group that won the NCAA championship two years ago. But neither are they as bad as the group that lost to Robert Morris in the NIT last year. UK had a bad stretch in losing two out of three, but after a week in the Lexington Lab to work out the kinks, I expect the Kiddy Cats to come out firing against a Belmont squad that just got ripped by 28 points at Denver.
2 p.m. No. 22 UMass vs. Florida State in Sunrise, Fla.
UMass has played a terrific nonconference schedule, which is a reflection of just how highly Derek Kellogg thought of his team coming into the season. The Minutemen have stayed undefeated to this point, but they're due to get clipped. The area where UMass struggles the most is interior defense (317th in blocks percentage), which means that Okaro White, the Seminoles' 6-8 senior forward, should have a field day. White is averaging 14.2 points per game on 55 percent shooting, and he is making 83 percent of his foul shots.
5:30 p.m., ESPN2 Illinois vs. No. 23 Missouri in St. Louis
The annual Braggin' Rights game is always one of the most intense and colorful affairs of the nonconference season. Illinois has really benefited from the addition of Drake transfer Ray Rice, who is ranked in the top six of the Big Ten in scoring average (17.7) and field goal percentage (49.7). But Mizzou has dipped even deeper into the transfer well. The backcourt of Jordan Clarkson (who transferred from Tulsa) and Jabari Brown (Oregon) is as big, strong and quick a tandem as you'll find anywhere.
8:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1 Stanford vs. Michigan in Brooklyn
Stanford picked up a huge win at UConn on Wednesday night, so I expect the Cardinal to revert to the mean in this one, especially considering that the Wolverines have had a full week to rebound from the near-miss against Arizona. The top priority for Michigan is to get more production from freshman point guard Derrick Walton, who played just 14 minutes and did not score a field goal against 'Zona.
Sunday, Dec. 22
3:30 p.m., ESPNU No. 10 UConn at Washington
At this point, we can say that both these Huskies are who we thought they were. UConn is always going to be deficient in the frontcourt. Washington can't stop anybody. I might have been inclined to go with the home team in an upset, but since UConn is coming off a disappointing home loss to Stanford on Wednesday, they're not likely to fall into this trap game.
Last Week: 6-4
Season Record: 19-11

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