After what could best be described as a "boring" night of college hoops Tuesday brings the Jimmy V Classic in New York as well as a few non-conference games that could also have an impact come March. Butler and Georgetown play in the opener at MSG and with both teams running versatile offensive systems with some skilled players it should be a close battle. The Hoyas' stiffest test came against Temple and they needed a basket late in regulation to knock off the Owls.
While much of the nation will focus on some big college football games on Saturday, there's also a number of attractive basketball games to check out as well. And the fun starts early, with Kentucky receiving their first major test of the season when North Carolina visits Rupp Arena. These are the two winningest programs in the history of college basketball with the Wildcats holding a slight edge, but these are also two very young teams who are still finding their way.
Thursday is a light evening in regards to the schedule with just two ranked teams playing. #2 Texas played a USC team that was gutted by scandal and the departure of Tim Floyd; Kevin O'Neill is now the man running the show at the Galen Center. North Carolina transfer Alex Stepheson and returning starter Dwight Lewis will likely have to play the games of their lives offensively for the Trojans to have any chance at the upset in Austin. A trickier matchup awaits #10 Washington in Lubbock, where Pat Knight's Red Raiders are 7-0 but in need of a headline victory.
Wednesday marks the final night of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and the two leagues go into the evening tied at three victories apiece. So which game could this come down to? Many are pointing towards Minnesota visiting Miami in a game that on paper before the season began looked to be a Golden Gophers victory. But it's a likely candidate for a tight finish provided the Hurricanes can keep big man Dwayne Collins out of foul trouble. Ralph Sampson III and Colton Iverson are solid young bigs but are they physical enough to hand with the senior?
The ACC/Big Ten Challenge, which the ACC has never lost, takes center stage for the next two days with Michigan State visiting North Carolina in the event's showcase game. The Tar Heels won both meetings last season by double-digit margins, at Ford Field in December and right back on that same floor for the national title in April. But many of the faces in Carolina blue have changed and the young Heels will be tested by a seasoned group of Spartans. The individual matchup to watch: North Carolina's Larry Drew going up against the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year in Kalin Lucas.
Monday's a quiet day on the schedule with many sports fans paying attention to the Patriots/Saints game in New Orleans. But there's also the first game of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge with Penn State visiting Virginia in what should be an even contest. Two of the better players in college basketball who aren't talked about often, PSU's Talor Battle and Virginia's Sylven Landesburg, will face off in Charlottesville with the Big Ten needing a good start in this event.
Sunday signals the end of the Thanksgiving tournament schedule with title games in both Orlando and Anaheim. West Virginia, who welcomed back Devin Ebanks in their win over Texas A&M, will take on a Portland team that's looked every bit the challenger to Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference in wins over UCLA and Minnesota. But they're going to have their hands full with the Mountaineers, who are more versatile offensively than either of the two teams the Pilots have beaten in Anaheim.
A lot of attention has been sent the way of Friday's NIT Season Tip-Off final, which matches Connecticut and Duke in their ninth all-time meeting. The Huskies have won the last four in the series and are coming off of their most impressive showing of the season. The small forward matchup of Kyle Singler (Duke) and Stanley Robinson (UConn) should be worth the price of admission but there are also issues that both teams would like answers to both now as well as down the line.
There are just eleven games on the Thanksgiving Day schedule with tournaments beginning in both Orlando (Old Spice Classic) and Anaheim (76 Classic) while play continues at the Great Alaska Shootout. The showcase game: #16 Minnesota taking on #10 Butler in the third quarterfinal of the day. This is going to be the first test of the season for Tubby Smith's team, who hasn't won any of their three games by less than 25 points. Four Golden Gophers are averaging in double figures, led by guard Lawrence Westbrook's 18.5 ppg.
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