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  • Another big weekend is in tap in college hoops, including a top-10 Gonzaga-Tennessee showdown and regional rivalry games like Indiana-Louisville, Wisconsin-Marquette and Xavier-Cincinnati.
By Michael Beller
December 07, 2018

This weekend’s college basketball slate is highlighted by a couple of top-25 matchups, including one on Sunday between two teams ranked in the top 10, and a few in-state rivalry games that always turn up the intensity. Add in a couple of power-conference teams that are already in need of a big win at this early stage of the season, and we get another exciting weekend of college hoops to wrap up the first week of December.

All times Eastern.

TCU vs. USC (at the Staples Center)

Friday, 9:30 p.m. FS1

TCU and USC play the middle game of the Hall of Fame Classic on Friday, to be followed by Arizona State and Nevada. The Trojans are off to a rough start this season, having lost to the three quality teams—Vanderbilt, Texas Tech and Nevada—they have played. The Horned Frogs haven’t really been tested yet this season, and their loss to Lipscomb comes with an asterisk. Jaylen Fisher made his season debut in that game after a meniscus tear cut short his 2017–18 season last January. Fisher played just seven minutes that game, but rounded into form his next time out, scoring 12 points and dishing out five assists while playing 31 minutes in an 87–69 win over Eastern Michigan. With Fisher and Kouat Noi back and fully healthy, the Horned Frogs can truly start building on last year’s NCAA tournament berth.

TCU 81, USC 72

No. 6 Nevada vs. No. 20 Arizona State (at the Staples Center)

Friday, 11:59 p.m., ESPN2

The nightcap of the Hall of Fame Classic should be one of the highlights of the weekend, with the sixth-ranked Wolf Pack taking on the 20th-ranked Sun Devils. Nevada has looked every bit the Final Four contender in the early going this season, beating the three quality opponents it's faced—BYU, Loyola-Chicago and USC—by an average of 14 points. The Sun Devils, meanwhile, are 6–0 with impressive victories over No. 22 Mississippi State and Utah State, both on neutral floors. Nevada’s offense is so dynamic with scorers like Cody Martin, Caleb Martin and Jordan Carolina all at 6’7” or taller. Few teams have the size and athleticism to match up with that trio.

Nevada 86, Arizona State 76

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No. 10 Michigan State at Florida

Saturday, noon, CBS

The Spartans bounced back from their loss to Louisville with easy wins over Rutgers and Iowa. The Gators, too, are on a two-game winning streak, including a big, neutral-floor victory over West Virginia earlier this week. The Spartans got huge scoring efforts from Cassius Winston and Kenny Goins in those first two conference games, but it’s still Nick Ward at the center of everything. He scored 20 points in the win over Rutgers and 26 against Iowa on a combined 17-of-22 from the floor. The Gators can throw bodies at him with Kevarrius Hayes and Keith Stone, but that doesn’t mean they can slow him down. They’ve mostly gotten by with defense thus far this season, but they’ll likely need 70-plus points to win this one.

Michigan State 74, Florida 68

No. 9 Kentucky vs. Seton Hall (at Madison Square Garden)

Saturday, noon, FOX

This game is being played at Madison Square Garden as this season’s Citi Hoops Classic. Kentucky has ripped off seven straight wins after losing its season-opener to Duke, though the best team it has defeated in that stretch is UNC-Greensboro. Seton Hall, meanwhile, is still trying to figure itself out after losing Khadeen Carrington, Angel Delgado and Desi Rodriguez to graduation after last season. Myles Powell has stepped up as the go-to scorer on the offense, but he isn’t getting enough from his supporting cast, resulting in a 5–3 record thus far. The Wildcats are also in a bit of an identity crisis, with Keldon Johnson the only player on the team playing more than 70% of the minutes. We’ve seen Kentucky teams like this in the past figure it out and turn it on after the turn of the new year, and it will be good to see them back on the floor against a power-conference opponent.

Kentucky 79, Seton Hall 70

Xavier at Cincinnati

Saturday, 2 p.m., ESPN2

This year’s Queen City showdown lacks the intrigue of recent meetings, with neither the Musketeers nor Bearcats ranked, but it should still be one of the most intense games of the weekend. Xavier has been absolutely dreadful guarding the three this season, ranking 323rd in the country in defensive three-point percentage. That means it’ll have its hands full with Jarron Cumberland, who has connected on 19 of his 44 attempts from distance, good for 43.2%. Both of these teams have lost some big names over the last few years, but Cincinnati has done a better job reloading to this point, with Cumberland and Cane Broome at the forefront of that effort.

Cincinnati 69, Xavier 62

Louisville at Indiana

Saturday, 2:30 p.m., FOX

Indiana started off its Big Ten season right, with wins over Northwestern and Penn State, the latter of which came on the road. Louisville followed up its huge win over Michigan State with another impressive showing in a win at Seton Hall, and an expected romp over Central Arkansas. In other words, both teams enter this rivalry game on a bit of a hot streak. Romeo Langford and Jordan Nwora may not be matched up exactly with one another in this game, but you’re not going to want to miss this pair sharing the floor. The upset certainly feels possible for a team that already beat Michigan State, but the areas where Indiana has been weak this season—turnover rate and offensive three-point percentage—aren’t really spots where Louisville is equipped to take advantage.

Indiana 74, Louisville 66

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No. 22 Mississippi State vs. Clemson (in New Jersey)

Saturday, 4 p.m., ESPN

The meeting between Mississippi State and Clemson in New Jersey is part of the Never Forget Tribute Classic, an annual doubleheader that also features Connecticut and Florida State this year. Clemson has been one of the more disappointing teams in the country over the season’s first four weeks, losing to the two best teams it has played, Creighton and Nebraska. Despite returning three key players—Marcquise Reed, Elijah Thomas and Shelton Mitchell—from a team that earned a No. 5 seed and advanced to the Sweet 16 last year, the Tigers seem on the hunt for an identity this season. This is a great test for both teams, which will be facing arguably their toughest opponent of the season. The Tigers have a few different options for dealing with Quinndary Weatherspoon on defense, and it’s likely that Mitchell and David Skara will both spend time dealing with the Bulldogs’ most dangerous scorer. This should be one of the tightest games of the weekend.

Mississippi State 66, Clemson 65

No. 12 Wisconsin at Marquette

Saturday, 5 p.m., FOX

The Badgers are back after last year’s debacle of a season, starting the year 8–1 with their only loss coming on a neutral floor to No. 4 Virginia. They’re one of seven teams in the top-16 in both of kenpom.com’s adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency, joining Gonzaga, Duke, Kansas, Virginia, Auburn and Tennessee, a true measure of how well they’ve played on both sides of the ball. Marquette can score with anyone in the country and showed how dangerous it is at home when it knocked off No. 16 Kansas State in Milwaukee last weekend. Ethan Happ has been an absolute monster this season, averaging 17.7 points, 10.8 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game. If the Golden Eagles can’t find an answer for him, it might not matter what they do on the offensive end.

Wisconsin 73, Marquette 70

Creighton at No. 24 Nebraska

Saturday, 6 p.m., Big Ten Network

Creighton is coming off a tough loss to No. 1 Gonzaga in which it scored 92 points, its fifth straight game with at least 87 points. Nebraska also lost its last game, a contest against Minnesota in which it was in command for most of the evening before being outscored 25–9 in the final seven minutes of the game. In other words, both teams will be looking for a little redemption in this intrastate clash. Creighton gets up and down while Nebraska slows the tempo, but both teams have been efficient offensively, ranking 11th and 26th, respectively, in kenpom.com’s adjusted offensive efficiency. The Blue Jays get more than 40% of their scoring from outside the arc, and the Cornhuskers rank 11th in the country in defensive three-point percentage. That’s where this game will be won, and we’re trusting Ty-Shon Alexander, Mitch Ballock and the visitors.

Creighton 83, Nebraska 77

Notre Dame at UCLA

Saturday, 10:30 p.m., ESPN2

This is a big game for both of these teams. They’ve taken care of business thus far against the teams they should beat, but have fallen against the best teams they’ve faced. UCLA dropped games to Michigan State and North Carolina by 20 and 16 points, respectively, while Notre Dame lost to Oklahoma earlier this week, and dropped a game before Thanksgiving to Radford in South Bend. Whoever wins on Saturday will be getting their best win of the season by a long shot. This game should feature a fun perimeter battle, with Prentiss Hubb, T.J. Gibbs and Rex Pflueger on one side, and Jaylen Hands, Prince Ali and Kris Wilkes on the other.

UCLA 79, Notre Dame 72

Sunday

No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 7 Tennessee (in Phoenix)

Sunday, 3 p.m., ESPN

This is the opening game of the Jerry Colangelo Classic in Phoenix this weekend, and not only is it the headliner out in the desert, but it’s the best game of the weekend. The top-ranked Bulldogs are undefeated this year, including that glittering win over Duke, while the Volunteers’ only loss came at the hands of Kansas on a neutral floor. With Rui Hachimura on one side and Grant Williams on the other, all eyes will be on the frontcourts in this game. Gonzaga has the top offense in the country by adjusted efficiency, scoring 121.9 points per 100 possessions. Tennessee, meanwhile, is in the top 15 in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency, and its balance, combined with its star power in Williams and Admiral Schofield, could be a problem for the Bulldogs. Having said that, the Volunteers haven’t seen an offense quite like Gonzaga’s this season.

Gonzaga 84, Tennessee 80

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Purdue at Texas

Sunday, 6 p.m., ESPN2

Purdue got back on track on Thursday, beating Maryland at home after losing two straight games to Florida State and Michigan. The Boilermakers have three losses on the season, though they’ve all been to quality teams, with Virginia Tech the other team that dealt them a blow. Texas is reeling, losers of three straight including bad home losses to Radford and VCU. They’re now about as desperate as a high-major could be for a home win at this point of the season, and it won’t come easily against a Purdue team that is better than its record suggests. Keep your eye on the point guard battle between Carsen Edwards and Kerwin Roach.

Purdue 74, Texas 72

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