There really aren't any headline games on the college basketball schedule Monday but there are some games that may be able to hold one's interest for a little while. First off, Rutgers heads south to take on North Carolina in Chapel Hill. To say the least it would be a serious disappointment if Fred Hill's team were pasted like they were in last season's meeting (97-75). North Carolina won the battle on the boards 40-26 and shot 51.5% from the field, but that was a far more seasoned outfit than the one the Scarlet Knights will face on Monday.
The final big day of games before Chrismas will offer up a couple of games in which ranked teams should be wary of the upset. Georgetown, looking to recover from their disappointing loss to Old Dominion over the weekend, will host an equally dangerous team in Harvard at noon. One big reason why the Crimson have a shot: senior guard Jeremy Lin, who's already scored thirty in a loss at Connecticut and led Harvard to their second consecutive win over Boston College. The Palo Alto native can get his own shot as well as set up his teammates, which will make him a tough matchup for the Hoyas.
The second-to-last day of college basketball before Christmas brings a loaded schedule of games: ninety-one to be exact, a number you rarely see reached outside of Saturdays. The biggest matchup nationally: Michigan State taking on Texas in Austin. The Longhorns' 103-90 win over North Carolina showed one important thing to future opponents: if you aren't physically strong inside you're in for a long day. That's due to the presence of center Dexter Pittman, who's in the best shape of his collegiate career and has an improved skill set as a result.
With Christmas Day rapidly approaching the nation gets its first look at UTEP forward Derrick Caracter. Of course he's already played in three games for the Miners (two double-doubles) but there will be questions regarding the Louisville transfer's level of commitment. But head coach Tony Barbee has given Caracter a ringing endorsement and if on his game he could give Oklahoma all they want and then some in Oklahoma City at the All-College Classic.
Sunday will likely be anti-climactic when compared to an eventful Saturday but there are some important games on the schedule. Two ACC games are on the docket with Florida State's trip to Atlanta likely having more national appeal. Two of the better big men in the ACC will be on display in Florida State's Solomon Alabi and Georgia Tech's Gani Lawal. The Yellow Jackets also have one of the nation's best freshmen in Derrick Favors and the other Seminole big men will have a battle on their hands with he and Zachary Peacock.
With finals week over Saturday can be seen almost as a celebration of that fact with a number of games on the schedule with national ramifications. Tops on the list would be North Carolina taking on Texas in Jerry Jones' new palace in front of a possible attendance of about 70,000. Outside of their win over Pittsburgh Rick Barnes' Longhorns haven't been tested thus far so it will be interesting to see how his freshmen handle the atmosphere.
To say the least Saturday is a big day for both the Butler Bulldogs and the Pac-10. Butler hosts Ohio State and given the fact that Brad Stevens' team lacks a marquee win the Buckeyes represent one of their last two chances (Xavier) at a solid win before tackling Horizon League play. Ohio State is without the services of the injured Evan Turner, which will be a definite advantage for the Bulldogs.
If you're looking at Thursday's schedule from a national perspective there really isn't a reason to miss out on Syracuse taking on Florida in the SEC/Big East Invitational in Tampa. The two leagues split on Wednesday night in New York and the same could occur on Thursday with DePaul/Mississippi State being the opener. The Blue Demons have become a far more efficient club on offense and the departure of Dar Tucker (went pro but wasn't drafted), who dominated the ball last season, likely had something to do with the improvement.
For the second consecutive night Madison Square Garden will be the center of attention in college basketball with the occasion on Wednesday being the first night of the SEC/Big East Invitational. St. John's will be playing at home in the event but the fact that they aren't the showcase game shows how far Norm Roberts' program has to go. But they are improving, a fact that should help them out against Georgia in the first game of the doubleheader. D.J. Kennedy had an outstanding second half in the Red Storm's loss at Duke, a game in which they were able to remain competitive.
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