Vanderbilt-Baylor and Arizona-Gonzaga highlight some of the best games in college hoops this weekend.
Friday, 11 p.m., ESPN2
People across the country might not know much about UNLV sophomore swingman Patrick McCaw, but they will soon. McCaw leads the Rebels in points (19.0) and steals (3.3) per game, as well as three-point shooting (46.7%), and he is second in assists (4.4). This will be Oregon’s first game away from home, but it won't be held at the Thomas & Mack Center, which is hosting the National Finals Rodeo, forcing this game to be played at the MGM Grand instead.
UNLV 74, Oregon 70
It’s hard to decide which is more eyebrow-raising, that Butler won at Cincinnati on Wednesday night or that the Bulldogs scored 50 second-half points to do it. Roosevelt Jones, naturally, was the one who hit the game winner with four seconds to play. Butler will have to avoid a letdown, but I’m guessing the Bulldogs will be fired up to face their in-state rival.
Butler 74, Indiana State 60
Saturday, 12:30 p.m., CBS
I’m not gonna lie. I was shocked that Wisconsin, which had just gotten blitzed at Oklahoma by 17 points on Sunday, managed to win a road game at Syracuse three days later. Freshman forward Ethan Happ played his best game in a Badgers uniform, going for 18 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks against the Orange. I say that Happ and his mates keep this thing going.
Wisconsin 70, Temple 65
Saturday, 1 p.m.
Was Syracuse’s 66-58 loss to Wisconsin a one-time hiccup, or a harbinger of trouble to come? I lean toward the latter. The Orange showed that when they don’t make threes (7-for-24), they can lose to just about anyone. Now they are about to play nine games without their head coach, Jim Boeheim, who will begin his NCAA-mandated suspension with this game. Georgetown started off losing at home to Radford and dropped three of its first four overall, but I still think this is a good team, and the Hoyas really need a decent win. And you all know how much I love desperate home teams.
Georgetown 71, Syracuse 67
Saturday, 2:15 p.m.
Matt Painter calls his freshman guard, Ryan Cline, the best shooter he has ever been around. Cline looked like it while scoring 12 second-half points in the Boilermakers’ win at Pitt on Tuesday. Given how strong and deep Purdue is in the paint, if Cline and his perimeter partners are able to keep dropping in long-range bombs, the Boilermakers are going to be nearly impossible to guard. Meanwhile, New Mexico guard Cullen Neal is coming off a career-high 29 points in the Lobos’ win over Oral Roberts.
Purdue 78, New Mexico 68
Saturday, 3:15 p.m., ESPN
As I wrote in my Twitterbag this week, Arizona was going to have its challenges this season even before senior center Kaleb Tarczewski broke his left foot. That will only make it easier for Gonzaga’s vaunted front line, including 7'1" senior center Przemek Karnowski and 6'11" sophomore forward Domantas Sabonis to get its work done.
Gonzaga 80, Arizona 73
Saturday, 7 p.m., ESPNU
Rhode Island suffered a major setback in the preseason when its best player, 6'5" junior guard E.C. Matthews, suffered a season-ending right knee injury. Providence will obviously have the best player on the floor in Kris Dunn, but this is an intense rivalry, and the Rams have a lot on the line. I say they find a way to scrape out a win.
Rhode Island 70, Providence 69
Saturday, 10:30 p.m., ESPN2
The Sun Devils dug out a two-point win at Creighton on Wednesday thanks to a last-second goaltending call, but I don’t believe they’ll be ready to beat a deep and veteran Texas A&M squad. Billy Kennedy is playing with his lineup a bit, but he still has two matchup nightmares in the frontcourt in Danuel House and Jalen Jones, as well as a deft table setter in point guard Anthony Collins.
Texas A&M 75, Arizona State 64
Sunday, 2 p.m., ESPNU (in Atlanta)
Don’t look now, but VCU is pretty good in Year 1 A.S. (After Shaka). Senior guard Melvin Johnson is a dynamic scorer who is averaging 17.6 points on 45.5% three-point shooting. It’s going to be fun watching him match buckets with Seminoles guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes, but VCU’s defense should be the difference.
VCU 76, Florida State 71
Sunday, 8 p.m., ESPNU
This is a terrific December matchup between teams that can really score. The Commodores have an extremely tall and skilled froncourt, but its their point guard, Wade Baldwin IV, who is leading them in scoring at 14.4 points per game. Baylor has had four straight easy games at home, so the Bears should be rested and ready to bounce.
Baylor 85, Vanderbilt 82