SI.com's Seth Davis weighs in on the five hottest topics in college hoops.
Saturday, Dec. 31
No. 4 Louisville (12-1) at No. 3 Kentucky (12-1) This game is worth watching if only for the pre- and postgame coaches' handshakes. It's always fun when a couple of millionaires have to pretend that they like each other. Once the action begins, though, the game will be decided by two questions. The first is how well UK freshman point guard Marquis Teague will handle one of the best pressure defenses in the country. The second is whether Louisville can do some work inside against the best shot blocking team in the country. Teague will make some mistakes, but he'll also make some plays. Anthony Davis and friends will take care of that second question more emphatically. Louisville won't go down without a fight, but it'll go down.
6 p.m. (ESPN2)
No. 2 Ohio State (13-1) at No. 13 Indiana (12-1) Indiana's game with Michigan State was one of the wildest you'll see all season. The Hoosiers trailed by 18 points in the first half, used a 25-2 run to seize a nine-point lead and then allowed the Spartans to score 20 unanswered points to win going away. That tells me this talented but inexperienced team is still forging an identity. Obviously, Indiana will need Cody Zeller to stay out of foul trouble against Jared Sullinger (Zeller had just four points against the Spartans), but I don't think even that will be enough for the Hoosiers to avoid their second straight loss.
3 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
No. 16 Michigan State (12-2) at Nebraska (8-4) This would have all the makings of a trap game if Michigan State were playing a stronger team. The Spartans just won an emotionally draining game over Indiana, and travel to Madison to play Wisconsin on Tuesday. Nebraska, however, has been decimated by injuries, so I'll resist the urge to predict an upset. Michigan State sophomore point guard Keith Appling is coming off of the best game of his life, a 25-point, seven-assist performance in the win over IU. If he's going to play that kind of basketball from here on out, the Spartans will mount a legitimate challenge to Ohio State for the Big Ten title.
6 p.m. (ESPNU)
No. 21 Creighton (10-2) at Wichita State (10-2) Thanks to Creighton's home loss to Missouri State, this will probably be the Bluejays' last game as a ranked team for a while. Unfortunately, I think they're headed for another loss. Doug McDermott was merely very good against Missouri State -- scoring 19 points to go along with 12 rebounds -- but he only shot three free throws. As a whole, Creighton has been playing uninspiring defense this season. The Bluejays rank ninth in the Missouri Valley Conference in defensive field goal percentage (44.3) and eighth in three-point defense (35.6). The Shockers can put points on the board, but they're also ranked third and first in the conference in those defensive categories, respectively, and they're first in blocks.
St. Joseph's (10-3) at No. 24 Harvard (10-1) I doubt many Saint Joseph's fans circled this game in the preseason as a chance to get ranked, but that's exactly what it's become. I've been more bullish on Harvard than most (I ranked the Crimson on my preseason AP Top 25 ballot), but I think this is a good matchup for the Hawks. Harvard's strength lies in its undersized but experienced frontcourt tandem of Kyle Casey and Keith Wright. Saint Joseph's, however, is second in the nation with 8.8 blocks per game. C.J. Aiken, a 6-foot-9 sophomore, leads the way with a 4.3 average, third in the nation.
4 p.m. (Fox Sports Network)
UCLA (7-5) vs. California (10-3) The Bruins had 13 chances to take the lead at Stanford on Thursday night. They failed every time. Still, the fact that they had so many opportunities is a sign of the progress they've made since Ben Howland jettisoned Reeves Nelson three weeks ago. UCLA will have more chances in Haas Pavilion against a team that was fortunate to get by USC at home. In the end, however, the Cal guards will make shots and the UCLA guards won't. That, plus uber-Glue Guy Jorge Gutierrez, will be the difference.
6 p.m. (The Mtn.)
Saint Louis (12-1) at New Mexico (11-2) If not for a toe stub on the road at Loyola Marymount on Nov. 29, we'd be talking about Rick Majerus coaching a ranked, unbeaten team. That aside, the Billikens' best wins came at home against Washington and on neutral courts against Villanova and Oklahoma. Not exactly murderer's row. New Mexico hasn't been much in scoring a couple of decent wins (Washington State and Oklahoma State on neutral courts, Missouri State at home), but I like the way Drew Gordon has come into his own (he's averaging 11.2 rebounds, 11th in the country). It's also hard to pick against the Lobos in the Pit.
8 p.m. (ESPN2)
Gonzaga (10-2) at Xavier (9-3) This may sound odd, but I think it's a good sign that Xavier went on a three-game losing streak after its brawl with Cincinnati. Since Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons returned for the last of those losses (at Hawaii), that means the fight had a profound impact on this team's psyche -- as well it should have. During adversity, a team can either come apart or come together. I think it's the latter in this case. An exciting New Years Eve game at home against a good team is just what the doctor ordered to get the Musketeers back on track.
Sunday, Jan. 1
4 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
Minnesota (12-2) at Michigan (10-2) The Gophers finally suffered their first defeat since losing Trevor Mbakwe to a season-ending knee injury in late November, but fought a good fight before bowing in double overtime at Illinois. From a physical standpoint, Minnesota matches up well with Michigan, but I think the task of having to start the Big Ten schedule with back-to-back road games will wear on the Gophers. The Wolverines also have a blossoming star in sophomore guard Tim Hardaway Jr., who scored a season-high 26 points in Thursday's win over Penn State.
7 p.m. (ESPN Regional)
Cincinnati (9-3) at No. 22 Pittsburgh (11-3) I don't think Pittsburgh is as good as some other people think (I didn't have the Panthers on my AP ballot last week), but I also don't think it's as bad as it has played the last two games in losses to Wagner (at home!) and Notre Dame. Pitt's best three-point threat, junior point guard Tray Woodall, returned to the lineup against the Irish after missing the last month because of an abdominal strain. That's a tough injury to come back from because it's hard to maintain conditioning, so Woodall should really benefit from six more days of practice. With the Bearcats forced to play small because of lingering suspensions after the Xavier fight, Pitt should be in good position to regain its footing.
Last Pickoff: 8-2 Overall: 30-10
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